Go gently, my sweet prince.
According to CSN Bay Area, the Giants have sent OF John Bowker to AAA Fresno. The Giants, as usual, don’t seem to have the patience to let young hitters just play for an extended period of time. After being proclaimed the starting right fielder, John Bowker played for most of the month of April. He slumped and was hitting .196/.229/.304 by month’s end. From April onward, Bowker was benched and relegated to pinch-hitting duties. Since May 1st, Bowker has appeared in 23 games, starting only 8.
It’s a somewhat disappointing result for a hitter that appeared to have changed his approach last year in AAA. With Andres Torres playing so well this year — and Aaron Rowand chained to the starting CF position — the Giants truthfully didn’t have much of a spot for Bowker in a starter’s role. Especially now that they’ve started the heart-wrenching Aubrey Huff LF Experiment™. Even if you weren’t a believer in John Bowker, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that he represented some upside. Most projection systems had him as a .350 wOBA hitter this season, while not earth shattering, on the Giants it should be enough to start. But, it’s possible that getting consistent at-bats in AAA is better for Bowker than the occasional pinch-hitting opportunity in the majors — even if he doesn’t have anything left to prove in AAA.
All signs point to the Giants replacing Bowker with Pat Burrell. Some numbers on Burrell:
Year BB% K% ISO wRC+ Fld 2005 14.8 28.5 .222 136 -3.1 2006 17.3 28.4 .245 130 -12.2 2007 19.1 25.4 .246 136 -20.6 2008 15.8 25.4 .257 128 -8.9 2009 12.0 28.9 .146 85 +0.1 2010 10.4 33.3 .131 73 -0.3
From 2005-2008 Burrell was incredibly consistent. Each year he was good for a 130-ish wRC+ (meaning that his offensive production was +30% better than your league average hitter), a BB% between 14-19%, and a K% that hovered around 25%. Burrell’s calling card was patience, power, and bad defense. His tenure in the AL was disastrous. He was still walking at an above average clip, even if it wasn’t close to his previous numbers in the NL, but his power took a huge hit. The power dropped all the way from solidly above-average to below-average. As a DH, if you’re only skill left is walking at a better than league average rate, well, you’re not going to be a DH for long.
Burrell’s usefulness boils down to how the Giants are going to use him. If he assumes John Bowker’s role as a pinch-hitter and once-a-week starter, it’s acceptable. The problem is if the Giants want Burrell to take on more of a full-time gig. The ZiPS rest-of-season projection for Burrell has him at a .334 from here on out, making him a league average-ish hitter. That seems appropriate for a pinch-hitter, not so much as a full-time starter with defensive issues. It’ll be interesting to see how Bruce Bochy, a man with tremendous veteran love, is going to utilize Burrell.
And by interesting I mean soul-crushing. Welcome to SF, Pat.