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What's Wrong with Aaron Rowand?

Aaron Rowand.

You just clenched your fists, didn’t you? Nice guy. Plays hard. Dives a lot. Now he’s the proud winner of the Benitez/Feliz Award (or, as the kids say, a Beneezie) for his current role as an organizational scapegoat. Where Benitez represented a misjudgment of character, and where Feliz represented a dismissal of the importance of on-base percentage, Rowand represents the “long-term deal to a 30-year-old player” gag of which management used to be so fond.

The Problem

He’s swinging like he needs glasses, and that isn’t hyperbole or a serious attempt at a diagnosis – it’s just the best way to describe a guy who’s swinging like he isn’t seeing pitches. He’s chasing breaking balls all over the strike zone, and he can’t catch up to fastballs. But he isn’t striking out a lot more than usual, even compared to his good years. It’s likely that this is just how he hits when he isn’t having one of his 20+ homer seasons.

Could it be a string of bad luck?

He’s been bad for almost a year now, but the company line was that Rowand was fighting through injuries last year. If that was the case, then we’re trying to extrapolate data from just over 100 at-bats, which is never a good idea. So maybe he’s just been unlucky, right? Probably not, unfortunately. His batting average on balls put in play is a little lower than his career average, but not by a crazy amount. Rowand’s hitting fewer line drives than normal, too.


Uh, beats me. One thing that does stand out, though, is his infield fly ball percentage. Over 27% of the balls he hits in the air don’t leave the infield. That number is insane, and far above where it usually is for Rowand. While it’s tempting to write that off as a fluke, it might be more indicative of a problem with his swing.

Moises Alou’s swing, which relied on crazy-quick wrists, is the kind of swing that would allow Alou to hit until he’s 50 if he weren’t so dinged up. His legs might have ached, and his body might have been aging, but the wrists were helping him crank out productive seasons. I wonder if Rowand is the exact opposite – his bizarre stance can’t help him get to the ball quicker, and maybe it’s the kind of thing that would actually hasten his decline. Playing the outfield like the Kool-Aid pitcher on meth probably hasn’t helped his body, either.

There are three years and $36M left on Aaron Rowand’s contract. Good grief. He’s still one of the only hitters on the 40-man-roster who’s less than five years removed from being a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter, but it’s silly to expect that kind of return to form. We’ll have to treat him with Zito gloves, praying he returns to being a useful player instead of an All-Star. I’ll hold out some hope for “useful,” which would mean that he hits a little bit more than he has so far this year while playing a fantastic center field. That fantastic defense didn’t show up last year, and the nnumbers are even worse this year so far. And when we ask "what's wrong," it's worth noting that he isn't that far off of his career pace, which is kind of a terrifying thought.

So we're worrying about Aaron Rowand’s contract more than Barry Zito’s now. This is like tasting human flesh – there’s no going back from this one. Go Giants?