Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rowand's Meteoric Demise

When the beat writers start calling you out, you know things aren’t going well. Carl Steward (filling in for Andrew Baggarly):

“Bruce Bochy seemed to indicate before the game…that Rowand would lead off against righties.”


“Aaron Rowand? As sad hitting eighth as he is hitting first (man, when a guy is going that miserably, wouldn’t you think to just ditch that whole goofy pre-AB routine and that absurd lean-back batting stance?)”

For Bruce Bochy to continue to even consider batting Aaron Rowand leadoff is beyond comprehension, it’s downright criminal. There are very many things to like about Bruce Bochy. He appears to have complete control of his clubhouse and the players like playing for him. He also seems to keep everyone on an even keel, not getting too excited when it’s going exceedingly good, or overwhelmingly bad. But the fact that he continues to use Rowand as a leadoff hitter, based on one hot month of hitting in that spot in 2009, is infuriating.

The value of Rowand’s contract is just under half that of Barry Zito’s, and somehow it almost seems worse. At least Zito sometimes has the semblance of a useful player – something that Rowand no longer has any right to say. He’s getting dangerously close to the point that the Giants should consider releasing him and cutting their losses. At least then he’d be out of sight and out of mind. Rowand has two very good full seasons under his belt - both while in his prime - when he had a .388 wOBA and 5.4 WAR for the 2004 White Sox, and a .382 wOBA and 5.6 WAR for the 2007 Phillies. Luckily for Rowand, 2007 was his walk year and prompted Brian Sabean to jump on him like a grenade with 5 year, $60 million dollar deal.
In case you’re wondering if his luck is turning around, it’s not. He’s 1 for his last 27 with zero walks and 5 for his last 49 with 3 walks. That includes only two extra base hits, a double and HR. His wOBA is .285, which is about 15 points lower than horrible. His OBP is a horrendous .282. One could argue that his .267 BABIP, which is a career low for Rowand, indicates he’s run into a bit of bad luck. But when you see that his line drive rate has dropped below 15%, any sympathy fades away. Rowand had been a solid line drive hitter for most of his career, posting rates of 19.5, 20.9, 22, and 19.8 from 2004-2007 prior to coming to San Francisco. His non full seasons of AB’s in 2002 and 2003 were similar. Since then, he held more or less steady in 2008 at 19.2%, but fell to 16% in 2009 and all the way to 14.8% in 2010. His skills are simply dropping off the table. This drop in line drive rate is coinciding with an alarming increase in swinging at pitches out of the zone. From 2004 to 2007 he ranged from 22% to 29%. Since arriving in SF, this figure has increased each year from 31.7%, to 32.1%, to a disastrous 38.5% in 2010 when you compare it to the league average of 25% the last three seasons. He’s never been the type of player to draw walks at an above average rate and that trend has continued, if not gotten worse. He has no approach at the plate whatsoever. He makes Eugenio Velez look like Kevin Youkilis.

So what’s he good for? It wouldn’t be fair to say that he’s completely useless. Rowand is still an average to slightly above average center fielder. The problem is that center fielders that can’t hit at all need to be extraordinary fielders. The only thing Rowand is extraordinary at is burning the eyes out of my skull every single time he steps into the batters box. At age 33, the chances of things improving from here seem unlikely. Many players simply won’t age the way many players had been aging 10 years ago, you know, when they were juicing. If I were Sabean, I’d trade Rowand for a roll of quarters and go do my whites.

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