MoreSplashHits decided it was about time a Giants blogger gave Aaron Rowand a hug. He’s earned one.
Rowand has been the target of all sorts of rants from many folks who call themselves part of the Giants faithful. He’s even been booed by fans at AT&T Park … in a PRESEASON GAME for crying out loud!!
MoreSplashHits decided we should dispell some of the myth that have been passed around as facts by some Rowand-haters.
MYTH: Rowand has been terrible from the day he arrived in San Francisco.
TRUTH: Rowand was not terrible in his first two season with the Giants. He was an average player, maybe slightly below average. In 2008 and 2009, Rowand averaged 14 HRs, 67 RBI, .266 AVG. He had an average offensive winning percentage (the winning percentage a team of nine Aaron Rowands might expect to have with average pitching and defense) of .471 in those two years. That may not sound like much. But consider that the Giants team OWP in 2010 was .486.
But what drove Giants fans nuts is that’s not the production they expected to get when the Giants signed Rowand for $12 million a year. It also didn’t match his OWP of .638 he had with the Phillies in 2007 (but it was better than the OWPs of .459 and .437 he posted in 2005 and 2006).
And, of course, his OWP of .336 in 2010 was completely awful. However, if Rowand can return to his 2008 and 2009 production, he could be a servicable No. 8 hitter in the lineup or fourth outfielder.
MYTH: Rowand won’t play anywhere but center field
TRUTH: Rowand will play anywhere Bruce Bochy tells him to play.
This myth grew out of story during spring training when Rowand wasn’t happy talking about playing other outfield positions than center. Big surprise! He’s played CF his entire career. Here’s another surprise! Ready? He’s not happy about being a bench player. But that’s exactly what he’s become. Still, Rowand has been a professional and stayed ready to contribute when counted on. And what we have seen so far this season, Rowand in left field, Rowand in right field.
MYTH: Nate Schierholtz is clearly a better player than Aaron Rowand.
TRUTH: They’re really about the same player. In fact, Rowand may be a bit better.
Over the past three seasons, Rowand has had a wins over replacement player of 0.9, 1.0 and -0.2.
Schierholtz over the the last three seasons were 0.2, 0.0, -0.4.
In other words, Schierholtz plays like a replacement player.
Schierholtz’s offensive win percentage was .444 in 2009 and .400 in 2010.
In short, Schiertholtz has been given a chance to show what he can do as a big leaguer. And what we’ve learned it that he’s a really good fielder, but he has little power as a hitter and doesn’t hit for a high enough average to offset his lack of power.
MYTH: Rowand’s salary shouldn’t be factor when trying to decide the best 25 players for the roster.
TRUTH: What world do people who think this live in? Do they have mortgages? Jobs? Would these people, after buying a car that turned out to be a lemon and drained their wallets with repair, simply decide to send that car to the junkyard even though it still runs and they still had two years of payments to make on it? The Giants are going to keep Rowand because of salary, because that’s the smart thing to do.
MYTH: The Giants should just cut their losses and release Rowand, similar to what the Cubs did with Carlos Silva or the Mets did with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.
TRUTH: Silva had one year left on his contract for $11.5 million. Perez had one year left at $10 million. Castillo had one year left at $6 million. Rowand has two years left at $24 million. Do the math. It’s not the same. The best move for the Giants is to keep Rowand, hopes he turns it around and become productive enough to attract trade partners after this season, even if that means trading bad contract for bad contract. That’s what the Mets and Cubs did. And when it didn’t work out, they cut the players lose with a year to go on their contracts. The Giants may follow a similar path next season, but not this season.
THE BOTTOM LINE: MoreSplashHits is rooting for Aaron Rowand, just as every Giants fan should be doing. The better Rowand plays, the better it is for the Giants.
MoreSplashHits was actually hoping that the Cardinals would walk Freddy Sanchez in the 12th inning on Friday in hopes it would provide Rowand a chance to be the hero and quiet all those Rowand-haters.
Rowand’s had a nice approach at the plate this season. He isn’t trying to do too much, hitting to all fields. He’s 6 for 10 with five singles and a home runs (although Friday’s 12th-inning single would have been a three-run double if it didn’t end the game).
All three of his at-bats Friday were solid at-bats. He had a two-out single to center in the ninth that started the Giants game-tying rally. He had a sharply hit grounder to third that would have won the game in the 11th if not for a nice play by Allen Craig, an outfielder playing third base in Tony LaRussa’s five-infielder alignment. And then there was his game-winner.
Hey Bochy! Let’s give Aaron Rowand a start Saturday night against the Cardinals!
Think about it. It’s makes sense.
The Cardinals are starting a tough lefty in Jaime Garcia, who shut out the Giants on three hits last August.
So start the right-handed Rowand in right field, move Aubrey Huff to first base and give left-handed hitting Brandon Belt a day off to regroup and recharge. Plus, Huff can use a breather at first base with a day game on Sunday.
So what do you say, Boch? Give Rowand a start. He’s earned it.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy discussed the battle for the starting left field job during the team’s first full-team workout on Saturday.
Bochy called left field an open competition. Up to this point, we figured the competitors were Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa, Nate Schierholtz, Aaron Rowand, and maybe Aubrey Huff if Brandon Belt makes the club.
But here are some details that Bochy revealed:
Mark DeRosa will get most of spring training innings in the infield. This doesn’t take DeRosa out of the mix in left field. But Bochy said previously that DeRosa “would be using all his gloves” this season. Getting ready to play third base or second base takes more preparation than the outfield. And since DeRosa hasn’t played since last May, the Giants want to make sure he’s ready to play the infield.
MoreSplashHits’ take: We see DeRosa as the ultimate utility player – relieving Freddy Sanchez at 2B and Pablo Sandoval at 3B, as well as playing the outfield.
Aaron Rowand will play exclusively in center. Bochy said this is where Rowand prefers to play and where he’s most comfortable. And Rowand hasn’t play LF or RF since 2004. This doesn’t mean he won’t factor in the LF decision. It’s just that if the Giants decide to start Rowand, he’ll be in CF, with Andres Torres sliding over LF.
MoreSplashHits’ take: Rowand is making $12 million, possibly to be a backup outfield. So why is Bochy so concerned with his comfort. We think $12 million should make anyone nice and comfy. And what about Giants fans’ comfort? What about the pitchers’ comfort? Torres is a better fielder. He has more range (6.6 to 1.6 RngR) and his UZR150 (ultimate zone rating for 150 games) is much better than Rowand’s — 12.4 to 3.3. Basically that means that Torres saves about 12 runs a season in CF, while Rowand saves 3. Boch, stop coddling players and play your best players, i.e. Torres in center.
Nate Schierholtz will play all three OF positions this spring: Schierholtz was locked into RF most of last season, but the Giants say he’ll play all three OF positions to increase his chances of making the team.
MoreSplashHits: Poppycock. The Giants already know Schierholtz can play all three OF positions. But this job won’t be won with the glove. It will be won with the bat. The Giants just want to show other teams that Schierholtz can play all three OF positions.
Bottom line: Like we just said, this job is won with the bat, not the glove. The player who shows he can produce at the plate will win this job. And that includes Brandon Belt, who presumably would take over at 1B with Huff moving to LF.
The Giants enter 2011 with a rotation that is set, a roster that is almost set, and a lineup that is almost set.
The one daily lineup position that remains in question is the starting job in left field.
Pat Burrell, who handled most of the left-field starts in the latter half of 2010, returned with a one-year, $1 million deal. But that doesn’t guarantee Burrell will win the LF job, particularly if he struggles like he did in the postseason last fall. Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz also are in the mix.
So let’s look at the candidates:
Pat Burrell: If Burrell can recapture the production he had after joining the Giants in June (.266, 18 HR, 51 BI in 289 ABs), the job is his, even with his defensive limitations. But if he struggles like he did in the postseason (.146, 1 HR, 4 BI, 22 Ks in 41 ABs), there could be an opening for someone else.
Mark DeRosa: DeRosa opened 2010 as the starting left fielder, until his wrist wouldn’t allow him to continue. But even DeRosa said the injury was a blessing in disguise, as it made the Giants go out and get Burrell, who could do things that DeRosa could not. Not exactly a rousing endorsement for DeRosa. MoreSplashHits sees DeRosa fillling a more utility role, providing a day off for Freddy Sanchez at 2B, starting at 3B against particularly tough lefties and making an occasional start in left.
Aaron Rowand: With Andres Torres all but set to start in center, Rowand would be the most likely candidate to take the LF job — or play center with Andres Torres moving to left — if Burrell falters. Since joining the Giants, Rowand has been miscast in the lineup, first batting in the No. 5 hole and later at leadoff. But hitting in the No. 7 hole, Rowand could prove to be a productive hitter again. At the very least, we can see Rowand filling the late-inning defensive replacement role for Burrell.
Nate Schierholtz: Schierholtz enters this spring fighting for a spot on the roster. But he does possess assets that the other candidates do not. He’s the best fielder among the four — yes, even better than Rowand. And he’s left-handed. But there are liabilities, too. He doesn’t have power, and he’s failed to hit better than .267 since moving the bigs on a substantial basis in 2009. Out of options, this spring may be his last chance to produce. And, unlike the others, he doesn’t have a guaranteed contract.
Wonder if there has ever been a player who was traded for a player to be named later, and then that player to be named later ended up being the player originally traded?
Actually, it happened in 1962, when Harry Chiti was traded to the Mets for a player to be named, and then traded back to the Indians.
But that took two months to complete. The Giants need Fred Lewis back now.
As it happened, the Giants traded Lewis to Toronto on Thursday. On Friday, Aaron Rowand was beaned in the cheek by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla. On Saturday, Mark DeRosa left the game early with a strained hamstring.
So Lewis was sent off because the Giants were flush with outfielders. Now, they’re short two outfielders.
Rowand was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday and he may be out three weeks. The Giants called up infielder Matt Downs from Fresno to take his place on the roster.
I’ve seen some chatter about why the Giants would bring up an infielder when they’ve got two ailing outfielders.
Well, for one, DeRosa’s injury is not thought to be serious. He’s day-to-day and hopes to play Sunday. For another, with Rowand out, Eugenio Velez figures to see more playing time. And Velez, like DeRosa, acted in ways like backup infielders. So bringing up Downs allows Velez to remain strictly an outfielder.
Velez started for Rowand on Saturday, and Velez did something that Rowand has been unable to do this season in the leadoff spot — draw a game-opening walk. Velez is swinging a hot bat, with two home runs and he’s batting .412. If he can keep that going, the Giants will be fine in Rowand’s absence. Also, with a lefty on the mound Sunday, look for Andres Torres to start in center with Velez in left or right, depending on whether DeRosa can go or not.