(Constructing a preseason scenario in which the 2009 Giants make the playoffs) still requires some imagination, but you don't need to break laws of nature to get there. Let's see, Matt Cain takes a huge step forward (25% chance of happening), Aaron Rowand rebounds substantially (25%), Pablo Sandoval hits .320 with power (25%), and Barry Zito is a league-average pitcher (25%), and the Giants are contenders! That sure reads nice, but 25%4 comes out to about .4%. All four of those happening at the same time? Not bloody likely. But there are an infinite number of permutations that would lead, however unlikely, to a playoff berth.
Right around August, this out-o’-the-nether-regions hypothetical scenario really began to bug me. Cain was allowing fewer runs, even if he wasn’t necessarily pitching differently. Pablo Sandoval was hitting .330 with power, and, by gum, Barry Zito was a league average pitcher. The Giants were close, however unlikely, to a playoff berth. I was so, so close to having something to put on the dust jacket of the hardbound version of The McCovey Chronicles Companion.
But Aaron Rowand did not rebound substantially. Actually, it was kind of disingenuous to suggest that by hitting well, he would have rebounded to what we should expect. Rowand had an Aaron Rowand season. Get used to it. He hacks, he flails, he occasionally hits one 415 feet, and he does okay in center. This is how it will be until he enters his decline phase. Which, of course, could have already started, and could move quickly from the first quarter of a slow decline to a waxing gibbous decline over the next six months. But that’s just too horrific to think about. I prefer to think that this streaky, imperfect, yet somewhat useful player is the least the Giants are going to receive for their money. Thinking anything worse leads to night tremors.
There’s another possibility, too.Maybe you want to abandon any pretense of logic and point out that Rowand has a monster season every three years.
2004: .310 batting average! .361 on-base percentage! .544 slugging percentage! Twenty-four home runs!
2005: .270/.329/.407, 13 home runs
2006: .262/.321/.425, 12 home runs
2007: .309 batting average! .374 on-base percentage! .515 slugging percentage! Twenty-seven home runs!
2008: .271/.331/.410, 13 home runs
2009: .261/.319/.419, 15 home runs
Maybe you want to think of Rowand as some sort of squat-stanced comet, making a thunderous appearance with an astronomical consistency. Maybe you want to think of Rowand as some sort of wall-kissing cicada, lying dormant until it’s time to spring forth and devour everything in its path. Maybe you’re convinced that the every three years thing is a real pattern. I mean, who would bet against him?
Well, me. Probably you. That guy who is creepily standing behind you as you read this right now. We’ll all feel pretty comfortable betting against another monster season from Aaron Rowand. Like Aubrey Huff, though, those pyritic career years are just so tantalizing, so tangible, it’s hard not to think, "what if he does it again?", even if that sort of thinking defies all logic. At this point, betting on him to even split the difference between a career year and typical year is laughable.
PECOTA: 517 AB, .275/.341/.427, 17 HR
ZiPS: 476 AB, .273/.335/.431, 14 HR
Bill James: 574 AB, .267/.327/.423, 17 HR
CHONE: 503 AB, .262/.324/.408, 14 HR
I’d set the over/under using the ZiPS projection. And while the PECOTA projection wouldn’t be too bad -- especially from the, uh, leadoff hitter -- I’m thinking it’s more of a CHONE kind of year for the warrior spirit and/or the swagger:
Night tremors: yeah, I guess. I don't think the move to leadoff is going to help anyone. I'm just glad he isn't Gary Matthews, Jr..