Ryan Howard is the best left-handed batter in baseball against right-handed pitching. There is no one better than him, no one. He hits for average (.319 in 2009, with a .339 BABIP) and power (.372 ISO, with an extra-base hit every six at-bats) and posts an acceptable walk rate (about one UIBB in ten PA) for a very good OBP of .395. The specifics have bounced around a bit from year to year, but his 2009 numbers against northpaws are a good match for his career numbers: .307/.409/.661, .338 BABIP, about a 10 percent UIBB rate. The only hitter you might prefer at the plate with a right-handed pitcher on the mound in Albert Pujols, although the 2009 version of Joe Mauer is in the discussion as well. Howard is simply a devastating force against righties, one of very best in memory at hitting them.
When a left-hander is pitching, Howard is a bad hitter. In 2009, he batted .207 with a .299 BABIP, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. He had an ISO of just .149 and inferior walk and extra-base hit rates. It was the worst full-season performance of his career against left-handers, but not that out of line with his 2007 and 2008 lines. (In 2006, Howard posted a .368 BABIP against lefties, which boosted his overall line against them to .279/.364/.558. That stands out as a fluke.) For the three-year period covering 763 plate appearances, Howard has batted .219/.308/.379. Whereas his comps are singular—Albert Pujols—when a righty is on the mound, it's a different story when a lefty pitches. In terms of his overall effectiveness against lefties, he hits a bit like Pedro Feliz and Cristian Guzman did this year, or Jack Wilson before his trade to the AL.
At around 7:45 p.m. Mountain Time last night, Jim Tracy needed one out to get his team a second win in the Division Series, to push them to a deciding fifth game. He had Albert Pujols, more or less, at the plate, and he had the option to turn Pujols into Pedro Feliz just by walking to the mound and tapping his left arm. With one move, he could have dramatically increased his team's chance of getting an out, winning the game, flying back to Philadelphia on the heels of a dramatic comeback victory.
And as we know, he didn't do it. Jim Tracy chose to face a batter with an 1100 OPS instead of one with a 700 OPS. That, more than anything else that happened, is why the Rockies lost.
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