I don’t recall exactly when it happened, but a Giants hitter fouled a ball into the dugout in the early part of the game. It took a bounce off the concrete and hit Rowand between his temple and his left eye.
“I was stretching and was turned to the side, so I never saw it,” Rowand said. “I just heard, `Head’s up!’ Then, thummmmp.’’
Rowand didn’t have a shiner, but it definitely left a mark.
Nice. If Rowand was really a GAMER, he would have gotten up and rubbed some discarded sunflower seeds, old gum, and dirt on it. Baggs then goes on to discuss the disappointing 2nd half of Rowand’s season this year. He points out something that I’ve been thinking about all year long; just how good of a defensive center fielder is Aaron Rowand?
Revised Zone Rating (RZR) loves Rowand, ranking him tied with Chris Young as the 2nd best CF in the National League. RZR has Rowand turning 94.3% of balls hit into his zone — defined as areas on the ball field in which 50% of batted balls are handled for outs — and getting to another 65 balls outside of his zone, defined as OOZ or out of zone. RZR tells us that when Rowand gets to the ball in his zone, he’s been pretty steady, but his OOZ of 65 plays is 8th in the NL among CF’s. Decent glove, average range, both sound like ways to describe Rowand. His foot speed isn’t extraordinary and I wouldn’t ever call his speed or mobility in the field anything other than average.
John Dewan’s +/- system is harder on Rowand. +/- has Rowand at (-5) meaning that he’s made 5 less plays than the average CF in ’08. A full summary of +/- can be found on the Fielding Bible website, but the system adds and subtracts for plays made throughout the year — based on how Rowand’s contemporaries also performed in these same plays — and then tally’s up a score. If you make a play, you earn points, if you miss a play, you lose points. Rowand’s (-5) places him as the 31st best defensive CF in major league baseball.
Top CF’s, by +/-, in the NL this year are: Carlos Gomez (+28), Carlos Beltran (+22), and Chris Young (+20). All three players are fantastic CF’s with speed and range. You might be saying: “Chris, defensive metrics are so wonky and they’ll often vary on different players, maybe +/- just doesn’t like Aaron Rowand for some reason.” And I would say, I agree that defensive metrics are still being fine tuned and some amazing work is being done with them. And that you should look at a few sources before you make your mind up on a player defensively, but I would disagree that +/- is biased against Rowand’s style of defense.
+/- LOVED Rowand in ’05, rating him as a (+34) CF, the best in baseball. In ’06 he dropped to a (-4) and in ’07 he rebounded some back to average at (+1). With Rowand’s penchant for slamming into inanimate objects, it’s very possible that in a couple of more years he won’t be able to handle CF. Dewan’s +/- suggests he’s lost a little something from ’05 to now. With his age and the wear and tear he puts on himself along with the physical demands of playing center, it’s not hard to see a time when he’ll be moved to a corner OF spot. When he can no longer play average defense in CF and when he’s moved to LF/RF is when things get a little scary.
Let me expand on that. Even though this post started on defense, positional ability is also important to Rowand’s value. The average EqA for a CF this year is .268, Rowand is at .264, he’s right around average offensively, slightly under, for his position. The average LF’s EqA is .271 and RF is .274, which places Rowand even further away from average, offensively. Rowand’s sOPS+ in CF is 104, meaning that he’s 4% better than league average for CF’s. Rowand has hit .278/.346/.423 while playing center. EqA has Rowand as slightly under average and sOPS+ has him slightly over, you can split the difference and call him average. But his requirements are raised if he changes position and it’s unsure if his bat will be able to carry over into a corner OF position.
I would say it’s possible that Rowand will be in RF or LF in 2-3 years, maybe even sooner if his body can’t handle playing CF and if the Giants can properly evaluate his defensive contributions. RZR loves Rowand but I think we all know that he’s not the 2nd best CF in the National League. Dewan’s +/- is slightly more critical, calling Rowand a sub-average defender. He’s probably somewhere between the 2nd best and below average and I would place him closer to average. Which is fine for now, but in a couple of years he could be treading into the negative even more.
Wrapping it up, a quick WAR — wins above replacement — calculation for Rowand. Cots Contracts has Rowand’s salary as follows from the years of 2008-2012: $8M, $8M, $12M, $12M, and $12M. I currently have Rowand at 2 wins above replacement. I placed his defense right at average, which might be a slight bump over what he is this year.
Teams pay about $4.4M on the free agent market for wins above replacement. Thus, Rowand’s 2 wins above replacement value out to a little over $9M, making him a +$1M dollar value to the Giants in ’08. He’s fairly compensated for his services. But, keep an eye on two things.
1. His defense. The more it slips the more his value will slip. If Rowand can defend and hit at league average in CF, he should be valued between $8-10M, or close to the terms he signed for.
2. Rowand’s bat has been terrible since April and May. His OPS’s since those first two months: .618, .687, .767, .505. Like his defense, Rowand also needs to hit to stay in CF because his defense isn’t going to be enough to carry him if his bat continues to slip.
The Giants have to hope that because of Rowand’s playing style he won’t fall off a cliff as he proceeds through his early 30′s. It seems he’s always playing through nagging injuries. Not to sound like a broken record, but I’ve got a bad feeling that in 2-3 years Rowand will either be out of CF or be a really bad defender there.
Comment Starter: What’s your take on Rowand’s defense? Great or average? Also, are you worried about his second half dive?