Word association game. I’ll start.
Okay. Now your response, if you will…
That’s just wrong. I would have accepted "Bowkermania." Maybe even religious studies. But bringing up a busted outfield prospect from the past: not appropriate. It’s apples to oranges. Llamas to alpacas. Just stop. The numbers were totally different:
Todd Linden, age 25, 2005: .324/.441/.690, 30 HR, 77 BB, 95 K, 336 AB
John Bowker, age 26, 2009: .345/.452/.622, 21 HR, 73 BB, 57 K, 325 AB
Totally different. Bowker has 325 at-bats to date, and Linden finished his season with 336. That’s like the difference between Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate: Barstow.
Alright. Maybe the unexpected seasons are a little similar. And Linden burned up upon reentering the atmosphere, settling in as a burned husk somewhere within the bowels of AAA, so why shouldn’t we expect the same from Bowker?
My best answer: Linden’s season was a typical Linden season, it was just more Lindeny. Bowker’s season is the product of a reworked approach and a focus on plate discipline.
Yeah. That’s all I got. That, and a gut feeling. But I’ve written about the Giants for almost seven full years now, and every time I write something in passing like "Boy, Player Q would be a fantastic player if he knew the difference between a strike zone and an Edsel," I never expect the player to actually develop plate discipline. Bowker took some advice from someone who’s probably on a Giants organizational blacklist right now, the advice worked, and now Bowkermania is running wild on AAA.
And, of course, when Bowker got 30+ at-bats to prove his new approach would translate to the major league level, he corkscrewed himself into the ground swinging at awful, awful sliders. We’re not talking about sliders that started just off the plate before breaking out of the strike zone; these were sliders that started at Bowker’s shoes, tilled the soil, and had to be thrown out of play after the umpire inspected the ball. So when we play that word association game, we can only throw out one name in association to Bowker. Great AAA stats + lackluster MLB results + Giants outfield prospect = Todd Linden, from now until the end of time.
I reject that hypothesis. I still believe. This isn’t Lance Niekro, whapping out a .660 slugging percentage to help make up for his six walks , like he did in 2006. This is different. Because I say so. So instead of thinking of Todd Linden, here’s another name to put in your mind:
|2009 - Nelson Cruz||93||342||56||92||18||1||25||58||34||82||17||3||.269||.337||.547|
Much better. Cruz was organizationally yo-yoed with the best of them. He’d crush AAA, and flail in the majors. They’d send him down, and he’d crush AAA. Then he’d flail in the majors. Over and over, until Cruz finally settled in as a pretty nice corner outfielder. He isn’t going to garner any MVP votes, but the Rangers are glad they finally stuck with him.
The only way Bowker helps this year’s team is if he flukes into an 8-for-10 stretch over a couple of games. Then he’ll have to sustain his "hot bat" for a couple more games, and then he’d be starting material. Hooray for the player evaluation process of the Giants! But this post is more a manifesto for the future. I can take or leave Fred Lewis, as I don’t think he’ll ever hit for enough power to be an above-average corner outfielder. Nate Schierholtz might put it all together to become Garret Anderson’s prime, but the odds are against him.
Bowkermania, though, is real. Because I say so. I’m hoping one of the 2010 outfield spots goes to him.