While some members of the media are clamoring for the Giants to trade for a big bat, and Brian Sabean is kicking the tires on every non-impact bat available, the Giants' best trade option is right in front of them: John Bowker.
Bowker’s detractors would say that he’s had his chance and failed to produce, that he’s a AAAA player who feasts off AAA pitching or that he doesn’t fit what the Giants need; but Bowker is a left-handed outfielder with power. This is exactly what the Giants are looking for. Bowker has absolutely raked in Fresno this year, hitting .329, with a .408 OBP, .629 SLG good for a Bondsian 1.037 OPS and 12 home runs in 167 at-bats.
Some people may remember Bowker’s 2008 campaign when he burst on to the scene and had a great first half, but sharply declined in the second half of the season. That year he hit eight HR’s by the end of June in only 198 at-bats, but only hit two more the rest of the year. However, Bowker’s plate discipline was horrible, once pitchers realized he would swing at anything that’s exactly what he saw. His base on balls percentage in 2008 was an anemic 5.4 percent and that was only after a strong August in which he saw his base on balls percentage jump to 11.8.
Bowker spent most of 2009 in Fresno, but unlike so many other players who have poor command of the strike zone, he did something about it and his walk percentage skyrocketed to 16.4. The increased number of walks he drew helped bump his OPS up to an impressive 1.047, and he hit 21 homeruns in 366 at-bats.
Although the Giants planned to give the starting right field job to Nate Schierholtz out of spring training in 2010, Schierholtz didn’t hit, while Bowker did and won the starting spot.
Bowker stumbled out of the gate and then got Bochy’d.
In case you’re not familiar with a player getting Bochy’d it works one of two ways depending on the classification a player falls in to: For younger players, their job is always in jeopardy, go through a slump or see your batting average dip and you will be benched. Also, it is assumed that left handed batters cannot hit left handed pitchers—ever—and vice-versa for right handed batters. For older grizzly gamery veterans, when their production declines they will continue to get starts and at-bats even when said slump continues for months.
In the case of Aaron Rowand years.
It will also be assumed that veterans are always on the up-swing and never on the decline; consequently they will bat higher in the lineup than they should and even the smallest hitting streak will be met with increased starts, at-bats, etc. It started in San Diego and has continued in San Francisco.
Having Bruce Bochy can make it tough on young players, especially those who don’t have ice in their veins or aren’t named Posey. Many young players struggle even when they have their manager’s and club’s support. For example, in his rookie season, Barry Bonds hit a paltry .223, the great Willie Mays hit a very un-Mays like .274. Matt Williams came up in 1987 and hit an anemic .188 and didn’t put it all together for three more years. In fact Williams’ numbers after two seasons in the majors are pretty close to Bowker’s, except worse: .194 avg., 16 HR’s, .241 OBP, .366 SLG, compared to Bowker’s numbers: .238 avg., 15 HR’s, .285 OBP, .394 SLG.
MinorLeagueSplits.com, uses a formula that adjusts for a player’s league, the jump in talent level at the major league level and various other factors to use a AAA players stats to create their Major League Equivalent (MLE) or what they are likely to produce at the big league level. Currently Bowker’s MLE slash line is: .283/.346/.509/.855 with nine HRs over the remainder of the season.
The Giants already went out and spent big dollars on Freddy Sanchez who compares unfavorably to Kevin Frandsen—another player who got Bochy’d—and Fred Lewis is a major contributor in Toronto. The stats for Sanchez, Frandsen and Lewis:
Player AVG / OBP / SLG / OPS / HR / 3B / 2B / SB
Sanchez .275 / .331 / .335 / .666 / 1 / 1 / 9 / 2
Frandsen .288 / .336 / .367 / .702 / 0 / 0 / 11 / 2
Lewis .284 / .347 / .457 / .804 / 6 / 5 / 27 / 11
Even if he doesn’t produce at epic proportions he’s proven to be a good bat off the bench, coming through with a number of big hits earlier this year in pinch-hit roles, including his home run against Francisco Rodriguez. Before Sabean goes out and trades for Shea Hillenbrand, Freddy Sanchez or another non-impact bat that will cost more money, maybe the Giants should find out what they have in John Bowker.