John Bowker vs. Travis Ishikawa

Posted By on February 24, 2009 10:09 am

It seems there is a little battle brewing here this spring between these two guys, even though the general consensus a month ago seemed to be that Travis Ishikawa was the guy. I still believe he is, but let’s take a look and break ‘em down a little.

They are both 25. Bowker’s about two months older. Ishikawa has much more pro experience since he signed out of high school and Bowker went to college.

Here are their career minor league lines…

Bowker .293/.347/.466
Ishikawa .260/.350/.453

And here are their major league lines…

Bowker .255/.300/.408
Ishikawa .277/.333/.445

It looks like Bowker may be a slightly better hitter. Even though he tanked in the second half in the majors last year, that could just be because he had enough at-bats to tank (326), whereas Ishikawa (119) wasn’t up for long enough for the pitchers to get a good book on him.

Defensively, there is a big difference, but not as big as you might think. Bowker’s a converted outfielder and Ishikawa is a true first baseman with a reputation for having a very good glove. According to one Giants person I talked to about them last year, though, Bowker is really better than you’d think and Ishikawa is really worse. That closes the gap, but Ishikawa is still better.

So, after all that, we’ve settled nothing.

I would go with Ishikawa unless Bowker dramatically outplays him in the spring, for a few reasons. First, defense is fairly important at first base, especially for the Giants. They are giving away enough defensively at the other infield spots, there is no reason to give away even more here. Second, Ishikawa has much more pro experience, and that makes him more likely to be able to handle the adjustments that pitchers will make to him in the big leagues. He may not hit .300 in the majors, but I don’t seem him dropping off a cliff the way Bowker did. Finally, Ishikawa is out of options. It’s no lock that the Giants would lose him if they put him on waivers, and I don’t think it would be the end of the world if they did, but it’s certainly another factor that tips the scales in his favor.

Who would you prefer at first base?

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16 Responses to “John Bowker vs. Travis Ishikawa”

  1. Vo says:

    It’s kind of telling that the Giants probably wouldn’t even lose Ishikawa were they to put him on waivers.

  2. Eric says:

    Brian Sabean has insulted the Giant’s fan by his refusal to improve our options at 1st base in the off season. It’s flat out ridiculous that Ishikawa and Bowker are our leading candidates to win a starting job.

  3. Shooter Beck says:

    So the Giants will have, arguably, the worst right side of the infield in MLB. Aside from the crap they’re choosing between for the starting 2B position, they will have the worst starting 1B in the entire Majors. It’s not even debatable, you can’t find another starting firstbaseman who offers less than either Bowker or Ishican’thit will provide for the Giants. It’s really indefensible that the Giants could conceivably begin a season without a proven commodity at both both second and first base, I only say “conceivably” since there’s still time between now and opening day for a move to be made, though I’m not holding any hope that such a move will happen.

    And, though this is off subject, could someone please explain to me why the Giants didn’t step up and get Orlando Hudson and/or Bobby Abreu, each of whom signed relatively inexpensive one-year deals? Is it because Hudson hits for a high average, has a better than decent OBP, put up solid power numbers for his position and is one of the better fielding 2Bs in the league? Probably since they don’t like any of those qualities, they’d much rather go with someone like Frandsen.

    And why would they want Abreu? I mean he only has a career OBP over .400 and last year, in what was considered a down year by most, hit nearly .300 with a .371 OBP, He signed a 1-year deal for only $5 million…I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on this, just pointing out how absurd it is that the Giants didn’t make a run at him when the cost to do so was very palatable.

  4. Angelsflybecasuestheytakethemselveslightly says:

    I’d argue that the Giants will have the worst 1b-2b combo in the last 15 years.

    Does Ralph “I know nothing about sports” Barbieri have a job?

  5. Waiting4aring says:

    I’m not excited about having either one at first base. The infield is a mess to begin with – no proven player at 2nd or 3rd, not to mention an aging SS with limited range.

    Has anyone else noticed how short Bowker’s arms are? He can’t hit the outside pitch – which may explain the decreased production over the second half of the season. Teams know to keep it away and watch him whiff. He almost looks like a T-Rex up there.

  6. Shooter Beck says:

    Jeff – Thus far 55% of the people who have voted in this poll have voted in favor of Ishikawa starting over Bowker or “someone else”. Jeff, I pray that this was an oversight by your readers and that 55% of the voters really don’t prefer Ishikawa over somebody/anybody else. You have to pray that your audience isn’t that out of it/inept/brain-dead; that would be a sad fact to face that you spend time writing each day for the entertainment of people like that.

  7. grizzliesfan says:

    Hey, Is everyone forgetting about the most prolific power bat in the Giants system? Why bother keeping old man Scott McClain around launching bombs in Fresno all year when everyone is complaining about a lack of power? He may not be the sexy choice, but I would bet he could easily hit 20 homers in an entire big league season. (personally I like Ishikawa but still, McClain showed something at the end of last year).

  8. Vo says:

    Shooter Beck – The reason why we don’t sign an Abreu or Hudson is because all it does is move us into another year of not knowing how good our young guys are or aren’t. Sure, we could sign both those guys and probably do better this year, but we’d be back at square one next year. Let’s see how the kids do this year and realize we’re still rebuilding.

  9. Shooter Beck says:

    Vo –

    I understand that point to a certain degree, but wouldn’t that line of thinking have precluded them from spending over $18 million on Renteria? They also tried to sign Crede, are kicking the tires on ManRam (allegedly), spent $8 million on Randy Johnson and invested in some veteran help for their bullpen. The sum of these moves doesn’t tell the fan base that the Giants are in a rebuilding year, they appear to think that they’ve got a chance this year to make a run at the playoffs in a weak division. If this is true, and all accounts/moves thus far lead me to believe it is, what harm could have been done by making an effort to get either or both Hudson/Abreu? They’re both proven players, wouldn’t kill the short or long-term plans of the Giants and would keep the likes of Frandsen and Ishicrapa out of the lineup.

  10. Vo says:

    Shooter Beck -

    You make all valid points, and that’s why I can’t stand Sabean. I would have been happy seeing how Burriss and Ochoa handled the MI positions, but we decided to bring in Renteria. I understand we can’t have youth at every position and having some veteran leadership in there helps as well, but unless we’re dramatically improving the team (ala ManRam) then I say let’s see what we got. I think Sabean needs to understand that while we do have a good shot to win the NL West because the division is weak, I’m still not sure if we’re quite ready to make a run at a World Series. Let’s take one more year, let our guys get some more experience, see what we got, and make a run in 2010. But hey, that’s just me.

  11. DProfessor says:

    Unless Ishikawa becomes something akin to the next Will Clark, he will not be our starting 1B. Either Bowker or a player acquired via trade will replace him the moment he (a) flounders, (b) the major league pitching figures him out.

  12. Brad Jensen says:

    I’m not a huge Giants fan but I think you have to look at everything from a incremental improvement view:

    Shortstop-I know everyone loves Omar but quite frankly he was league average as a defender last year and went back to hitting like second year in the league Omar. Clearly Furcal was the best player at that position available but the Giants were out of that discussion early on. They signed the next best option on the market in Renteria. There really weren’t any trade options available. Renteria looks likely to provide league average defense at this stage in his career and should provide a significant upgrade offensively. This position is an upgrade from 2008.

    Second-Anyone other than Durham is an upgrade. He is probably the worst defensive second baseman I’ve seen in my life time. His reasonable offensive skills can’t mask his defensive debacles. His insistance to play second was the reason the A’s didn’t even bother talking to him after his half season with them. Had he agreed to be an outfielder they would have looked at him. The options here are not great but at the very least the defense will get better there. I do agree that based on what Hudson signed for they should have taken a look. He’s an injury risk but he is also such an upgrade over the internal options if they didn’t take a look that would be pretty bad management.

    Third-This is a wild card depending on what Sandoval provides defensively but he should provide some of the only power in the lineup. The reports that he has reported to camp overweight should be of concern that he didn’t adjust his training regime from his time as a catcher. This one is too early to tell if it is an improvement or not. Crede at this point in his career is a wild card and I think the Giants were very prudent in their pursuit of him. If they signed him it was going to be on their terms. One thing I think they should have looked into when he got sent down was the Indians Andy Marte. He’s inexpensive and probably wouldn’t have cost the Giants much and he is the kind of low risk / high reward guy that rebuilding teams need to take shots at. At worst Sandoval outduels him and Marte plays at triple A. At best he plays up to his talent, the whole “change of scenery” BS that you hear from scouts and management all the time.

    First-Probably a downgrade either way although any expectation that Aurilia performs much better and can play everyday at his age is asking quite a bit. You also have to find out about these young guys, either to find that they have what it takes or part ways with them. I think it is way too early to write off either of these guys. I know the Giants do not have a history of developing young players but as an A’s fan you simply have to take your lumps and put them out there. Sometimes it can take more than a season to find out about a guy. Bowker should improve defensively. Contrary to popular opinion, coming from a lifelong first baseman and outfielder, playing first is not as easy as some would lead you to believe. You have to understand where you need to be depending on where the ball is, etc and that isn’t something you pick up overnight. Ortmeier looked completely lost in his conversion attempt. Bowker seemed to hold his own. Ishiwaka is already a good defensive player.

    Catcher-No change there except Bengie is a year older and a year fatter. Personally the Giants have been sleeping with angels with this pickup because he really should be declining faster than he has. More power to him. He isn’t much of a defensive catcher anymore, at least compared to when he came up with the Angels, but you could do far worse. The Giants also seem to have capable backups.

    Outfield-Should be better simply because they have more experience and if Bochy can restrain himself from putting Dave Roberts on the field as a starter. The guys they have are talented and they will be fun to watch and get better. This is an organizational strength for the Giants.

    Starting Pitching-The Giants might have the best starting pitching in baseball. When you’re weakest links are Noah Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez you’re sitting pretty. Hopefully the offense can be just good enough for these guys to all win 12+ games.

    Relief Pitching-I don’t really know a lot of about the final 6/7 other than Wilson. He’s a bit of an adventure at the end of the game but results are results and he has them.

    All in all, I would say the 2009 Giants are an upgrade over the 2008 team. Additionally, the rest of the division got worse so they should have a legitimate shot at taking down the division. When you can do that while you are rebuilding you should be very happy as a fan.

  13. [...] Fletcher breaks down the 1st base competition for the Giants…John Bowker vs. Travis Ishikawa¬†and he gives the edge to [...]

  14. Dave says:

    Jeff, I am not sure if Ishikawa or Bowker are going to be any better than the Lance Niekros and Dan Ortmeirs of the Giants world. Still would have preferred a big bat acquisition at either first or third and use Sandoval at the other position, and give up a little defense for more offense. I don’t really want to watch a bunch of 2 to 1 games again this season. Again this is Sabean’s fault for doing nothing.

  15. [...] some of the comments in this thread, I came to the conclusion that a lot of Giants fans are unhappy that GM Brian Sabean didn’t [...]

  16. [...] Fletcher breaks down the 1st base competition for the Giants…John Bowker vs. Travis Ishikawa and he gives the edge to [...]

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