Monday, July 09, 2007

Question on Bowker

Someone commented on one of my old posts, regarding Bowker's nice first half surge this season. The person noted:
Although it is only half way through the season, do you still feel the same
about John Bowker's performance? We all know about Dodd stadium, and with that
in consideration, his numbers so far this season are quite impressive. Do you
still feel the same way as you did in feb, or do you think he could be a
considerable prospect in the upcoming years?

Since that post is almost 5 months old, I thought I would post my answer here - thanks for the comment, Anon.

Wow, Bowker

He is having a great first half for AA Connecticut, batting .303/.347/.523/.870, with 12 homers in 304 AB, or 25 AB/HR. He could even be better right now, at home he's hitting .269/.318/.423/.741 while on the road he's hitting .338/.379/.628/1.007. As I showed in a previous post, power in Dodd Stadium is greatly reduced relative to the overall league. And his power is similarly diminished by Dodd, at home 52.0 AB/HR whereas on the road, 16.4 AB/HR (that is like going from Edgardo Alfonzo power when he was a Giant to Barry Bonds power during the late 1990's); same for ISO, 154 at home, 290 on the road. Plus he has gotten better each month, improving his walks and HRs each month this season. So those are all very encouraging.

His age is a plus and a minus. He just turned 24, so that's still young, he could be in AAA next year at 25 and the majors at 26 in 2009. However, frankly that's a little on the old side for AA, so it could be that is why he's doing so well, because of the age advantage for him over most of the other players.

Why his sudden surge is suspect: his career up to this season has been on a steep dive. He had a really nice professional debut in 2004, but his 2005 and particularly his 2006, where he spent all his time in Advanced A San Jose, really took the bloom off his rose. He struck out too much and walked too little during his time there and his power went down in his second year there and overall his performance there was pretty sad for a hitters league. That's a lot of disappointing results.

So I was surprised that they promoted him to AA; however, looking back at his stats, I suppose he earned it with his nice second half surgette, hitting over .300 with around a .830-.840 OPS and better BB/K ratio. But until this year, he was like a Travis Ishikawa without the homers, walks, or defense; in other words, nothing much to recommend him by.

I will be more encouraged about him when and if he duplicated this (and more) in AAA Fresno. While his overall stats look good, and look even better when viewing his road stats, the negatives are his still low BB/K ratio, you ideally want over 1.0 for that and a minimum of 0.5 but he's at 0.36 for the season and approximately that for both home and away (same as for 2006 as well, which was 0.37). His walk rate is still a bit anemic at 6.3% (7.4% last season) and again basically the same home and away. His strikeout rate is significantly improved, which probably led to his surge, he dropped it from 21.6% to 18.5%. Ideally, you want it under 15%, so he's getting close to the target there, and under 20% is considered good.

But some players are able to play in the majors with poor peripherals like that, and perhaps he can be one of those. However, not only will it be hard for him to make the majors on any team in any regular situation, but with Lewis, Schierholtz, Ortmeier, and EME ahead of him, he has all these similarly young players ahead of him plus Roberts and Winn ahead of him for the next two seasons, 2008 and 2009. If he's making the majors, it is probably not until 2010, though maybe he could be a September call-up in 2009. And by then, there is the possibility that Villalona will have eaten his way off of 3B and into the corner OF (or perhaps 1B), which would be another obstacle for him. And Villalona said that he wants to make the majors in two seasons (which to me means 2009).

The road will be long, and it will be hard, but at least now it seems like it is possible. Before, Bowker didn't have much of a prayer, being stuck in A-ball in San Jose for two years and declining overall. I wish him continued good luck on his performance, particularly since it appears that he will need it, sabermetrically speaking. However, as I noted, not every successful baseball player has to have great peripherals - the odds are just longer when you don't have those qualities.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update and educated opinion. I agree his road will be difficult, but there is a chance if he keeps learning. There is a long list of up and comers, but who knows, the giants could use a little youth to round about their very mature team. Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  2. No problemo.

    There's always a chance, but then there's good odds and bad odds. Bowker has moved from very bad odds to still pretty bad odds. At least there is a glimmer now, whereas before this season, I would not expect him to be in our system after this season if he continued to struggle.

    Plus, you never know when players suddenly develop, when it all clicks for them. The D-backs lucked out a few years ago when Brandon Webb came out of nowhere.

    He's arguably one of the best pitchers in the majors today, but the year he came up, he was so unheralded that he not only wasn't on any top overall prospect list, he wasn't even mentioned by any of the top D-backs prospect list that I researched.

    Based on results from the minors, Jerome Williams, who came up that same year, looked to have a much brighter future than Brandon Wood, but today Wood is among the best in MLB and Williams is struggling to keep a spot anywhere in the MLB (he was starting with the Nats earlier this season but I think he failed again so I think he's back in the minors).

    But players like Wood or Piazza are very rare, like catching lightening in a bottle, so that's the odds facing Bowker.

    ReplyDelete
  3. While we're at it, Martin, what do you think of Horwitz? I've never seen him play, but he has a good OBP, tho he's mostly a singles hitter. I wish he had a few more doubles, as I think ATT calls for doubles hitters, not HR hitters (who become warning track out guys), but, as I said earlier, I think you add a 750 OPS and a 725 OPAS to our line up and I think we are right there

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry allfrank, missed this one.

    Horwitz is nice, but, for example, his performance last year only worked out to a 651 equivalent OPS. I think he's going to be a nice hitter eventually in the majors, but with no power and lack of positions to play him at, he is probably going to be a nice bench player, maybe a pinch hitter extraordinaire like Mark Sweeney.

    It might do him so good to read Ted Williams "Science of Hitting", it teaches you how to be selective in the pitches you swing at and, more importantly, teaches you to do that while hitting with power. Hitting with power does not mean lack of batting average and lots of strikeouts. Williams teaches a slight uppercut to improve your power; if Horwitz could improve his power, then I would have to think he is a sure major leaguer and perhaps a starter, but with no power, he's probably going to be lucky to make the majors, let alone make a career of it.

    ReplyDelete

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