Thursday, July 27, 2006
When the season began I expected great things from Aaron Rowand. He seemed to be the ideal centerfielder for the Phillies: a tough, blue-collar kind of guy who’d dive through walls to make a catch. John Dewan’s The Fielding Bible rated Rowand the best defensive centerfielder in baseball in 2005. To me the addition of Rowand was picture perfect: the Phillies were strengthening the weakest part of their defense, the outfield.
As I write this, Aaron Rowand ranks tenth of twelve regular NL centerfielders in Zone Rating* at .865. There are nine other centerfielders who rank better than Rowand, including the aging Steve Finley. For being the top-ranked CF in 2005, this is a massive fall from grace for Rowand. Forget his terrific play at the wall against the Braves: Rowand has played terrible defensive baseball.
* Zone Rating: A stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Offensively, Rowand has been poison to the Phillies lineup. Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton were hardly fearsome hitters, but they were tough outs and very dependable. They could be counted to hit .350 or better in their OBP, steal a few bases and occasionally hit a home run or two. Here is how the Phillies Michaels-Lofton platoon fared in 2005 vs. Rowand in 2006:
* Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Pretty bad. The simple problem that Aaron Rowand has is that he has no discipline at the plate. Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell are two of the most selective hitters in baseball and their success is due to their ability to wait on the pitcher and force him to throw strikes or draw a walk. Rowand swings too often and at bad pitches. As a result, Rowand is dead-last on the team in terms of pitches per plate appearance and walks per plate appearance:
P / PA:
BB / PA:
Rowand has drawn just 14 walks this season and has struck out 57 times. Rowand hardly makes up for his inability to get on base by his power at the plate: he’s hit just nine home runs in 2006 and while his isolated power (ISO)* is a robust .174, it isn’t enough to detract from his struggles at the plate. In fact, out of all of the Phillies, Rowand contributes the least to the Phillies offense:
* Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
Runs Created per 27 Outs:
Runs Created per 27 outs is essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game. Runs Created is stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula ESPN (where I get it from) uses: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times (Total bases + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). ESPN’s version is out-of-date, however, I’d note. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended. Just take a player’s Runs Created, divide by his number of outs and multiply by 27.
My solution to the Rowand problem is simple. As of this morning the White Sox have gone into free fall, having lost eight of their last ten games and watched as the Minnesota Twins roared past them by winning twelve of their last thirteen games and jumped into the wildcard. What would be better to the Sox and to the Phillies than sending Rowand back to Chicago as part of a deal for some pitchers and prospects? The White Sox would get a key player from last year’s World Series run, a sparkplug they need; while the Phillies would get to remove a clog in their offensive machine and a player who has been a colossal disappointment on defense. Win-win.
Does last night’s Phillies win over the D-backs change my pronouncement that the Phillies season is over? No. I stand by the statement. The Phillies season is over, all that this team can do is prepare for 2007.
Look at all of the trade rumors since this off season involving Abreu, Burrell, Lieber, Lidle, Gordon, Rowand, etc. There's a reason that Pat Gillick hasn't made a trade - it's because the Phillies are not being offered equal value.
We're all sounding a bit too much like talk radio callers who suggest ridiculous, one-sided trades. It's probably because the product on the field has been so bad the last two months that we have nothing else to give us our Phillies fix.
I have no problem if Rowand goes and Victorino gets a chance to play center every day, but we all need to be realistic about the value the Phillies might get in return. Or if it's a salary dump we want, which few people seem to be calling for, we should just say it outright (in which case, Rowand isn't a huge salary to dump).