After coming of a somewhat surprising 88 win season in 2009, the San Francisco Giants were looking to improve their ailing offense. The pitching was top notch. The offense, outside of Pablo Sandoval, was a major problem. Team hitting ranked dead last or near dead last in a number of statistical categories -- runs scored, OBP, OPS, wOBA -- and it was clear from the start of the offseason that the club was determined to do something about it.
On December 29, 2009, the Giants signed Mark DeRosa to a two-year, $12M deal.
The Giants, unfazed by DeRosa's wrist injury in 2009, expected the 35-year-old veteran to play multiple positions on the diamond while providing some much needed stability on offense. Before entering the 2010 season, DeRosa laid claim to a career slash-line of: .275/.343/.424.
Unfortunately for the Giants, DeRosa has struggled to produce at the plate in 2010. After 104 plate appearances with his new team, DeRosa is hitting a paltry .194/.279/.258 -- most shocking has been DeRosa's total absence of power. In 2010, DeRosa has 18 hits, 14 of which have been singles. As a right-handed batter, his power is to his pull-side of left field. Yet, of the 18 hits that DeRosa has collected, only 2 of them have been pulled into LF.
A few numbers:
The above data (thanks to Baseball-Reference) indicates Mark DeRosa's hit trajectory for the past three years, his current numbers and his career average. As you can see, DeRosa being a right-handed hitter, is most likely to pull the ball for hits (33.1% career average) or hit the ball up the middle (48.4% career average). DeRosa's 2010 data sample is small, but I think it's somewhat telling. DeRosa has flared a few hits up the middle (55.5%) but has nearly doubled his career average when hitting the ball to the opposite field. And, of course, this data only represents base hits and not all batted balls from DeRosa. If you examined his spray charts, you would see that he's hitting an awful lot of balls into the opposite field.
With the latest news of DeRosa dubbing his offseason wrist surgery a "total failure" the Giants are going to have to address his health issues soon. There's a good chance DeRosa could undergo another procedure and miss a chunk, if not all, of the this year. If the Giants are looking to replace DeRosa with an in-house player, they should look no further than current bench rider, John Bowker.
Bowker has been somewhat of a middling prospect in the Giants farm system. He's already grabbed 448 (mostly sporadic) plate appearances in the majors split between 2008-2010. Over those 448 PAs Bowker has hit a lackluster: 241/.291/.397. You might be asking, why do we want to give Bowker a chance? Because for Bowker, something appears to have changed in AAA in 2009. Under the tutelage of then AAA hitting coach, and current Giants hitting coach, Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, Bowker transformed from a free-swinging outfield prospect into the AAA version of Bobby Abreu. He nearly doubled his career average for walk percentages in the minors -- walking in 16.4 percent of his plate appearances -- while posting a .451 OBP. Bowker finished his PCL gig with a line of: .342/.451/.596. A remarkable year anyway you slice it.
The Giants options for replacing DeRosa in left field after they traded away Fred Lewis are slim. Giving Bowker increased playing time is a risk, but the Giants don't have much of a choice. Bowker represents a hitter with an up-and-down development path but he does offer upside if his AAA performance was the sign of a player making adjustments to his approach. It's hard to see any team making a trade so early in the season so the Giants should let Bowker get 150-200 at bats as the starter in left field.