In 2008, Bowkermania hit the Giants like a hurricane. A hurricane with little stubby arms that sprayed line drives and dingers all around the ballpark. And then, poof, it was gone in the blink of an eye and 326 at-bats.
Of course, I’m talking about John Bowker. Bowker entered baseball with a bang — blasting a HR in his first career game and driving in 3 runs. And then, the next day, he did it again. Hitting another HR and this time driving in 4 runs. Bowkermania ran wild. John Bowker was playing first base and, I can’t believe it, could this be our first slugging first basemen since Bizzaro Snow’s 2004? You can imagine that it was pretty easy for Giants fans to hop on board with John Bowker.
But, eventually, things started to sputter for John Bowker. His lack of plate discipline (5.5 BB%) and mounting K’s (22.7 K%) put the breaks on his 2008 season. On August 13th he was sent back to AAA Fresno and wasn’t recalled until the rosters expanded in September. In AAA that year, Bowker hit a combined .237/.304/.355 (.301 wOBA / -6.1 runs below average for hitting) and many began to wonder: Was Bowker just a flash in the pan? Some AAA player who got called up and got really hot before fizzling?
Something strange has been happening with Bowker this season in Fresno. Here’s a picture:
John Bowker has, apparently, decided to turn into Bobby Abreu in AAA. Could Bowker’s struggles in the majors actually have led to him altering his approach at the plate? I honestly don’t know. Watching Bowker become more patient in AAA can only be a good sign. It could all turn out to be a mirage and he could go back to his hacking ways at the MLB level, but I’ll be danged if it isn’t nice to see. Bowker is saying all the right things at least.
It’s not just walking, either. Bowker is a top hitter in the, admittedly hitting-friendly, PCL. His wOBA in AAA is currently sitting at .451, that’s good for 3rd in the league. His hitting has played at +26.3 runs above the average PCL hitter. His line in AAA translates to .294/.374/.464 in the majors. Be warned, AAA stats can be deceiving. If anyone needs a word of caution for judging PCL stats, look no further than 29-year-old Hector Luna. Luna is posting a .461 wOBA in the PCL at the moment. He’s hitting for massive power (.300+ ISO) and he’s got a .400+ OBP. This is the same Hector Luna that owns a career .313 wOBA in 703 major league at-bats.
Still, I can’t ignore Bowker’s walk rate and the apparent (and hopeful) change at the dish. If Bowker has truly made some adjustment at the plate, and if it translates to the majors, the Giants could have found themselves a home-grown corner OF option. But, should the Giants call Bowker up now? I’m not sure. The Giants have a glut of OF’s to play — Lewis, Schierholtz, and Torres all should rotate between the open OF spot when Randy Winn and Aaron Rowand are starting. At the moment the team seems favorable to finding Schierholtz playing time. And, unless the Giants trade one (or both) of Lewis or Schierholtz, Bowker won’t have much of a chance to find at-bats.
I’m warm to the idea of moving Lewis or Schierholtz in a trade package as a 2nd or 3rd piece, and if so, Bowker should be first in line to return to San Francisco. I won’t try and piece together trade scenarios because I don’t like reading them myself.
Hopefully sometime this summer, Bowkermania will return to baseball and return for good.
Tech Side Note: Feel free to follow Bay City Ball on Facebook now.
Comment Starter: What do you make of Bowker’s season in Fresno?