So You Want to Compare Pagan and Rowand
Sorry if you clicked on this article when it originally got published. You were probably excited to see some picture or video to remind you of the times you loved Aaron Rowand. The only time that was really the case was when he celebrated Edgar Renteria‘s Game 5 HR, or when he tackled Cody Ross to the ground in Arlington. I don’t think there are any other positive memories I have of him, and that’s really too bad. Nowadays when you say his name, you’re often met with a retort of “slider low and away and probably in the dirt. strike three.” Poor guy. Not his fault the Giants offered him the money they did, and there were stories abound about his work ethic trying to get things right, but it really just never happened. 2007 in Philadelphia would be his peak and the valleys seemed to solely exist in a San Francisco uniform.
Angel Pagan just yesterday got himself four more years and forty million, and his wife has been busy tweeting out pictures of their celebrating, and good for them. They seem like good people, and so when good things happen to good people, people like that. But this isn’t a character post, it’s a post about the first seven years of Pagan and Rowand’s career. By now, the baseball reference linker has done its work and you can go check out both of those guys’ career pages and you’re doing your own research as to how Angel Pagan will end up like Aaron Rowand. You’re comparing OBP, their average, you’ve noticed that they both play center field. In a moment of panic, you suddenly think they are the same person, and now you’re remembering the Giants had a chance to sign Shane Victorino for some reason… but they didn’t! And you’re back to feeling OK and ready to look at the pretty colors below:
Helps to know what you’re looking at, so let me explain: Pagan’s Year One (Y1) is his age 24 season in 2006, and Rowand’s Y1 is his age 23 season in 2001. The first few years of each of their careers are especially smaller sample sizes, but it’s fun to look at anyway because I like numbers and spreadsheets. Rowand’s Y7 is his career year with the Phillies, while Pagan’s is just this past year in the 2012 season.
Now we see we might be able to attribute part of Pagan’s bad year in 2011 to his BABIP, and where he was in 2012 is about where he should be in his peak years. The only problem with that is that by the time Pagan’s contract is done, his peak years will be behind him, so it would be reasonable to not expect 2008, 2010, 2012 levels. This every other year thing reminds me of someone… nevermind.
Here you might be wondering why Pagan’s wOBA is normally so much less than Rowand’s and what we need to recall is what kind of player both of these guys are marketed as: Defensive CF with some pop, and the normal leadoff CF with speed, much less pop, but more contact. Home runs will score you more points with wOBA than will stolen bases.
This is the area where we really start to see the difference in the types of player Pagan and Rowand are. Even in Rowand’s career year sure he was swinging a little more, but his contact was just about the same as it was the year before. Pagan, who swings a little more than Rowand, makes a ton more contact… and that’s outside the strike zone.
After you look at Pagan’s numbers, you’re not surprised that his swing rate, even in the strike zone, is lower than Rowand’s. The man swings at less than half the pitches he gets overall as you’ll see below, and when he does swing at pitches inside the strike zone, he makes contact. Marco Scutaro, who was known for his inability to strike out, does have a crazy high (like high-90s) outside of the strike zone contact rate, but Angel Pagan actually has a better contact rate inside the zone than our buddy who might be getting a slightly crazy post-WS contract. To talk about Rowand here, it looks like in 2004 he really had a good idea of the strike zone, yet his contact rate was kinda low. Interesting.
Pagan since the 2010 season where he had his highest rate has, like Rowand since 2004 within this chart, exhibited more patience in choosing what to swing at. I don’t imagine a 30-year old’s swing stats getting much lower from here, but I’ll worry if Pagan starts swinging at more than 50% of the stuff offered, since that doesn’t seem to be the approach that’s working for him.
Of course, Pagan’s money numbers relative to the team are estimates, ranging from $140-$150MM payrolls, but being one of the bigger guys on the roster like Rowand was, who knows if that had any psychological effects. Since I can’t really expand on that and would be just be getting the “point and laugh at” treatment from anybody reading, I’ll just leave those graphs there and you can decide if they mean anything towards Pagan feeling more/less pressure than Rowand.
After going through all of this, it should be pretty clear that Angel Pagan and Aaron Rowand really are very different players, and I probably should’ve compared Angel Pagan to other speedy CFs out there that have gone through the process. There have been tweets out there noting that Torii Hunter has been the only late 30′s CF to keep his position, so while that may not bode well for Pagan holding his spot in CF, it doesn’t mean the results he produces shouldn’t be better than what Aaron Rowand brought to the Bay.