That's really the $10 million dollar question in Phillie land right now. Despite getting hits in 5 of the 7 games on the West Coast swing, Ryan Howard takes a .171 batting average into their series tonight against division rival Atlanta. He really has almost no shot at all at reaching his career average of .280 and it will be a mighty climb to get to .250.
Bill Conlin summarizes the sort of speculation that goes on amongst the fanbase in his column in the Daily News today by relaying a story about how Branch Rickey taught Duke Snider what the strike zone looked like.
I wouldn't advocate that sort of approach, because one thing Conlin doesn't mention is that Snider had only 40 games under his belt when Rickey took him aside (I read "Duke of Flatbush" last summer, so the story is fresh in my mind). He hadn't even come close at that stage of his career to acheiving what Ryan Howard has acheived in his time in the Majors. Howard has over 120 homers and has won an NL MVP. The same tricks you teach a rookie wouldn't work with guys who have won the MVP.
No, what Howard needs is to be moved in the batting order. The manager has certain levers at his disposal and at this point, it has to be about what is right for the team, not Ryan Howard. Not when the Phils are 25% of the way through the season. If Howard looks real bad in this series against the Braves, Manual will have no choice but to actively tinker with the lineup in order to put Howard in a position to succeed. While it is still early, the division is too tightly coupled to be giving away series to Atlanta and New York in May.
Drop Howard to the 5 hole. It can't hurt anymore than what we are seeing right now. If he can "figure it out himself" as Mitch Williams believes, he can also certainly figure out and resolve a lineup position move for himself.