Much as been made during the first month of the season about Ryan Howard's loss of some weight and improved play at first. I wondered if it was true, or a mirage. It seems to be real.
So far, Howard is errorless, which alone is noteworthy given he had 19 errors last year. Using fangraphs.com's rating for the number of runs above or below average a player is per 150 defensive games, Howard is +11.3. Last year he was +2.4, which was his career best.
Looking at Hardball Times' range-zone ratings, Howard is No. 1 among NL first basemen, at .944, although his "out of zone" plays are low (tied for 12th). Last season, Howard's zone rating was .743, which was sixth among NL regulars.