There's been much talk in Philly about Ryan Howard's horrible start. Entering Sunday, he was batting .169/.281/.346 for an OPS of .627 that's about .300 below his career low. Here is a look at some key stats that to me indicate things aren't as bad as they seem. The stats are in order from 2005-2008.
BB%: 9.6, 15.7, 16.8, 13.9
K%: 32.1, 31.2, 37.6, 38.2
BABIP: .358, .363, .336, .208
LD%: 26.6, 21.9, 24.3, 19.8
GB%: 43.9, 41.9, 31.5, 45.3
FB%: 29.4, 36.2, 44.2, 34.9
IFFB%: 0, 3.4, 2.7, 10.0
HR/FB%: 34.9, 39.5, 31.5, 23.3
His K rate is very poor, but not much worse than last year. Note the BABIP difference. He is hitting fewer line drives and more groundballs and infield popups, which is probably contributing to the BABIP, but that might be bad luck, too. His HR per flyball rate is low for him, but high for most humans. Of course, it was ridiculously good in the past.
Here is where it gets even more interesting, I think.
Swings at balls outside strike zone%: 25.15, 25.62, 25.78, 22.37
Swings at balls inside strike zone%: 73.38, 70.18, 69.96, 72.85
Swing%: 49.07, 46.27, 45.39, 47.06
Contact on balls outside strike zone%: 35.88, 35.22, 39.19, 33.82
Contact on balls inside strike zone%: 80.53, 81.14, 76.53, 75.47
Contact%: 69.0, 67.49, 64.73, 65.36
Howard's swing percentage is up a bit, but generally he's swinging at fewer balls outside the strike zone and more balls inside the strike zone than he usually does. This would seem good. Of course, this should be tempered with the fact his contact percentage is well below last year's MLB mark of 80.8%. Maybe he can't sustain his past level of production with such a low contact rate, but since his contact rate this season is in line with his past numbers, I'm willing to hold off on that assumption for now.