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Torii HunterThe Chicago White Sox wanted Torii Hunter. And now that Hunter has signed with the Angels, the White Sox have moved on to what their GM has deemed “plan 1B”.

Chicago Tribune baseball writer Dave van Dyck says the White Sox are going through a “messy period”:

The one free agent they wanted most has spurned them, leaving them with no clear starting center fielder or left fielder. They have two highly paid starting shortstops, two starting third basemen and an untested second baseman. Oh, and a battered and bruised bullpen.

Of course, the White Sox have plenty of time to straighten things out. And probably the first thing they’ll try and do is find a center fielder. But who? Van Dyck says it will be a free agent, for sure:

Presumably that would be ex-Sox fan favorite Aaron Rowand, who won’t cost as much as Hunter but for good reason. He isn’t nearly as dominating as Hunter could be.

Now wait a second, Dave. I’m not about to argue that Aaron Rowand is the next Willie Mays, but I’m not totally convinced that he’s not more or less equal to Torii Hunter.

Here’s what the U.S.S. Mariner had to say about Hunter, a player the site deemed one of its three “land mine” free agents of 2008:

Torii Hunter just had a terrific year at the right time, and he’s going to be paid for what he was in 2007, not for what he’s likely to be in 2008 and beyond. From 2004 to 2006, Hunter’s offense was worth about 15 runs above an average hitter – combined. He had settled in as a pretty consistent +5 offensive player, which as a center fielder with some defensive value, made him a borderline star, but not anything like a franchise player.

Aaron RowandVegas Watch, which calls Hunter “an overrated fielder coming off a career year”, says:

Hunter’s career OBP is .324, and his career OPS+ is 104. He’ll be 33 in July. He looks good out there, but by any metric Hunter was an average fielder this year; THT has him at 0, BP at -1. Only the leaders and trailers have been published from Dewan’s system, but he’s in neither, which means he was between +3 and -9.

Then there’s Rowand. Nobody seems to have written much about him, but his career OBP is .343, and his career OPS+ is 106. He’ll be 31 in August. In 2007 alone, he was worth 47 runs more than the average hitter, his best offensive season ever and the first time he’d cracked 30 Runs Above Replacement Player since 2004. Rowand’s Runs Above Average is 5 (compared to Hunter’s -1).

In other words, Hunter is a better defensive player than Rowand (six runs better last year), but Rowand is younger and a better offensive player pretty much across the board. He’s got better OBP and OPS.

Both of these guys are players you’d want on your team. Both come with some risk of injury. And both will surely be overpaid (Hunter already has been). Frankly, I can see making an intelligent argument in favor of either of these two guys, depending on what you value more, offense or defense. But I can’t see making a statement like, “(Rowand) isn’t nearly as dominating as Hunter could be.” That’s just silly.

Neither of these guys is going to be “dominating”.

One Response to “And then there was Rowand”

  1. Coley, for the most part, I’m with you. Just because you have the athleticism to rob some homeruns doesn’t make you a great centerfielder. And that’s basically Hunter’s defensive resume. Yes, he’s an above-average CFer, but his perceived defensive value doesn’t seem to match the actuality. So we agree on that part.

    But I also think you’re overvaluing Rowand a tad. He’s one of those guys that so many fans and writers speak of as “underrated” that he’s actually overrated. He’s been fortunate in his career to have played in Chicago and Philly, which are both hitter’s parks, and this fact has helped him a bit. For his career, his away OPS is below .800. So I think both of these guys are pretty similar in terms of offensive abilities.

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