Exit Interviews – Dexter Fowler
G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP
156 690 17 102 46 20 12.2 % 22.3 % .161 .308
AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
.250 .346 . 411 .333 110 0.2 8.1 0.6 3.2
It was almost a given that Fowler would take off in the 2nd half of the season, because I spent most of May and June motherfucking him across that very wire. Fowler was awful in those two months, and he took the Cubs offense with him (with some assistance from Starlin Castro and Addison Russell). May saw Fowler hit .189. He got up all the way to .240 in June. His on-base percentage didn’t crack .300 in either month. It was U-G-L-Y, and he didn’t have no alibi.
But then someone whispered in his ear, “Free agent year” (they’re poet and don’t even know it), and suddenly Fowler caught fire. And he took the Cubs offense with him (along with some assistance from Starlin Castro).
Fowler did suffer some bad luck in June. He was hitting liners everywhere, with a 26% line-drive rate, But his BABIP remained average at .295, and really when you’re hitting the ball that hard that often it should be a little higher than that. It corrected right before the All-Star break, where Fowler maintained that line drive average but saw more fall in with a BABIP of .329 in July and .361 in August. He had .400+ OBP in both of those months. Not a coincidence.
Perhaps the surprise from Fowler was that his defense ended up being pretty good. Where he was rated below average trying to patrol the Walmart parking lots that the center fields in Houston and Denver are, the more intimate environs of Wrigley suited him a lot better. His routes were still a little goofy, and he didn’t look all that smooth running back on a ball, but he got the job done.
It’s also funny that in a free agent year Fowler didn’t miss any time through injury, when he’s missed a minimum of 20 throughout his major league career. Isn’t it funny how that always works?
Even with his 2nd half surge, there’s room for Fowler to be just as good next year. Fowler has a career .341 BABIP with his line-drive tendencies and speed, and only had a .308 one last year. His .250 batting average was the lowest of his career, and I can’t help but think it’s tied to that BABIP. His walk and k-rate were all on career norms, so an evening out of where balls actually land an you could get even more out of Fowler.
Of course, the debate now is how much to pay him. Brett at Bleacher Nation looked at this today, and it’s a debate between Fowler and Alex Gordon. Fowler plays a position the Cubs have to fill in center, whereas Gordon would either have to move someone to right field or man it himself which he’s never done. The rest of the numbers are kind of comparable, and Fowler is younger and might be slightly cheaper. As Brett says, a team that is in the Cubs position can’t worry about blocking a prospect like Alberto Almora if Fowler is the better option now. Fowler will be 30 when next season starts and there’s no reason to think he can’t patrol center for a couple more years at worst serviceably. If Almora becomes a must-choose, there’s no reason to think that Fowler couldn’t transition to left if Schwarber is catching most of the time in 2017 or ’18, or move to right if Soler has been traded for pitching. You obviously don’t want to break the bank for Fowler. $12 million per would basically be a bargain. $15 million per year feels like it’s pushing it. Fowler can almost certainly get the latter somewhere. But with no other answers out there for center other than a flier on someone like Denard Span, or trying to fist either Baez or Bryant in there for a season and praying Almora is ready to take over in 2017, Fowler definitely seems like the best option.