Did Phillies bring back Howard too soon?

Crashburn Alley's Bill Baer on the savior who hasn't been doing much saviorizing:

Since returning from the disabled list, Ryan Howard is batting .111 with a .246 OPS. He has no extra-base hits and no multi-hit games. Even worse, Howard struck out 16 times in 36 at-bats, a rate of nearly 45 percent — much higher than his career average 32 percent.

Howard missed about three weeks’ worth of time dealing with a left ankle sprain. Since coming back, he has been wearing a brace, something he admits limits his mobility and flexibility.


Howard was the Phillies’ second-most valuable hitter in terms of VORP. He is currently setting career lows in on-base percentage (tied with 2008 at .339), slugging percentage, ISO, and wOBA. Additionally, his pace for 1.6 WAR would be by far his lowest since becoming a regular in 2005. While you can’t pin all or even most of the team’s offensive woes on Howard, he is a big part of any success they have on that end. Getting him 100% healthy and mechanically sound is vital as they fight for a playoff berth. It may be necessary to put Howard back on the disabled list to give him more time to rest his ankle. If that’s the case, so be it. Mike Sweeney at 85% health can out-produce Howard at 60%.

As Bill notes, we're talking about just 36 at-bats. But if the Phillies fall short of paydirt because they brought Howard back too soon, somebody's going to have some explaining to do in October.