Wednesday, May 02, 2007
So why didn’t I like Aaron Rowand in 2006? Two reasons:
1. Rowand turned out to be a poor hitter. After a career season in 2004 where he hit 24 home runs and scored 97 runs, Rowand slumped off to what Phillies fans hoped was a fluke in 2005, a season where Rowand hit thirteen home runs and saw his On-Base Percentage drop thirty points. When he joined the Phillies Rowand didn’t improve much. He hit just twelve home runs and his OBP was a paltry .321. Rowand’s presence was a drag on the Phillies offense …
2. But the Phillies didn’t get him for offense. They got him for defense. Aaron Rowand was probably the finest defensive outfielder in 2005, amassing a +30 rating utilizing John Dewan’s Plus / Minus system. Rowand was terrible defensively in 2006, posting a negative Plus / Minus and was generally outplayed by his replacement, Shane Victorino.
So why is this season different? I haven’t a clue. What I do know is that Rowand has been a force thus far. He had a sixteen game hitting streak earlier in the season and looks like he’s hitting the ball well. His batting average is .368. He’s hit five home runs and his slugging percentage is .617, right up there with his 2004 season (.544).
What impresses me is that he’s drawing walks. Check out his walks per plate appearance:
That is a substantial change from the recent past. How is he doing it? I haven’t a clue because he’s basically seeing the same number of pitches at the plate (his 3.6 pitches per plate appearance is virtually unchanged). Rowand must be showing extra discipline at the plate and I am very impressed. Naturally Rowand’s torrid offensive pace will slow down – his .429 batting average with balls put into play is going to regress – but he’s done very, very well at the plate thus far this season.
Defensively there is reason to believe that Rowand has dramatically improved Unfortunately stats like Zone Rating aren’t available for the 2007 season so far, but we do know that Rowand is leading the N.L. in assists by centerfielders with three. Given that Rowand has three assists in 231 innings while needing 900 innings to get six in 2006, I think we can safely say that Rowand’s defensive skills have returned.
Keep this up, Aaron Rowand, and we can all forget 2006 ever happened.