Amidst the Phils' exciting run-up to a possible postseason spot, there's some worrisome noise coming from the trainer's room. Aaron Rowand is saying that he's ready to return to action if the team makes the playoffs.
If they do make it to the post-season, Charlie Manuel should loudly just say no to Rowand returning to his everyday role with the team.
Ignoring Rowand's fabled grit and emotion, let's look at reality instead. Here's what the facts tell us: the Phils are a better team without Rowand in the lineup or on the field.
First, let's look at a simple measure, one that many fans will appreciate the most: the team's record with and without Rowand.
The Phils have played better without Rowand than with. That's a small sample size, though, and smart fans know that a simple record analysis doesn't get at an individual player's contribution because so many other factors come into play.
So, let's try to isolate Rowand's contribution compared to the contribution of other center fielders in his absence. Here's a chart comparing Rowand's performance at the plate and other center fielders' performance in the games Rowand has missed:
In the 44 games Rowand has missed, the Phils' centerfielders (mostly Shane Victorino) have slightly outslugged Rowand, hit much better, and massively outperformed Rowand in getting on base. In total, the non-Rowand centerfielders have an OPS that is 0.079 higher than Rowand's. That's a signficant difference at the plate.
How about in the field? Isolating one player's defensive contribution is difficult, but it's possible to see how the team has performed with and without a player in the field by looking at defensive efficiency (the percentage of balls in play turned into outs). Here's the comparison with and without Rowand:
Without Rowand in centerfield, the team has converted about 4.5% more balls in play into outs. That's a significant difference in performance.
Doubters will say that the team suffered for most of Rowand's time because of the wall-fearing tin-man (Bobby Abreu) in right field. They would say that the team's DER would be lower with Abreu in the outfield, thus penalizing Rowand for playing healthy when Abreu was on the field. So, let's limit the DER analysis just to games after Abreu stopped playing for the Phils (his last game was July 28):
The gap has narrowed, but still, even in the post-Abreu era, without Rowand, the team's defense has been better than with Rowand by almost 2.5% more batted balls turned into outs.
The Phils have a better record without Rowand than with; their center fielder has hit better when he was not Rowand than when he was; and their defense has been considerably better without him on the field. There's no reason Charlie Manuel should let him play everyday if he returns and if the Phils's season stretches past October 1.