Gary Brown

Five thoughts about new San Francisco Giants OF Nori Aoki

The Giants signed a free agent outfielder, and you can pretty well assume he’ll hit somewhere in the mid-high .280s. Oh, and he probably won’t hit many (any?) home runs.

You last saw Norichika Aoki patrolling right field for Kansas City during the World Series. You might have seen him make funny faces, like, all the freaking time. Since the Giants already have a right fielder who could very well be pacing and fidgeting in right field at AT&T Park as you read this, preparing to play every single inning in 2015 (and 2016, 2017 …), Aoki’s services will only be required in left field.

So, time for some scorching hot first impressions!

1. The Giants actually spent a little more money this offseason.

In other words, it’s a two-year deal unless Aoki, 33, gets hurt or stops hitting. And it’s definitely a pretty good deal, at least compared to a guy the Braves signed.

2. This isn’t the greatest news for Gregor Blanco, Gary Brown, or Juan Perez. But especially Gary Brown.

All three are more dependable with the glove than Aoki. But Bochy is going to start Aoki more often than not when everyone is healthy, because Aoki batted .288/.355/.433 in his first year with the Brewers, .286/.356/.370 in his second year (also with Milwaukee), and .285/.349/.360 with the Royals last season. He also doesn’t strike out much (just 8% of the time, compared to over 19% for Blanco over his career).  

Aoki is a left-handed hitter who actually hits better against lefties (.319/.371/.405) than he does when facing right-handed pitchers (.273/.346/.380). If the Giants choose to go with five outfielders other than Travis Ishikawa, the fifth would probably be Perez.

Of course, assuming everyone will stay healthy is silly on a team with Angel Pagan, so all is not lost. But it would take a monster Spring Training performance for Brown to land an Opening Day roster spot ahead of Perez. 

3. Jon Miller is probably a fan of this signing. 

For the first time since Tsuyoshi Shinjo livened things up around AT&T Park (with his personal style, more than his on-field play), the Giants’ Hall of Fame broadcaster will be able to add “-san” to the end of a Giant’s name. That is, unless he did it with Kensuke Tanaka and I just missed it. 

“Throw is there, tag is down and he’s OUT. Caught stealing for the second time in this series. And, so it goes for Aoki-san.”

4. The Giants’ left fielders will make some interesting baserunning decisions in 2015. 

Aoki has stolen 67 bases over his three major league seasons, but he’s also been thrown out 28 times. Blanco steals at a more successful rate (82 SB, 29 CS), but he’s known for taking unnecessary risks that leave Bochy scratching his head. Go ahead and make a larger-than-average-dome remark about Bochy in the comments if you wish — my comedy scale is all out of whack today because I spent all last night laughing about what I remembered from the Jim Tomsula press conference. 

5. Homers? Who needs ’em?

Aoki has 19 career home runs — nine of those were hit at Miller Park and three at Great American Ballpark. So if he hits one into the arcade at AT&T, go to the nearest corner store and buy some scratchers.  The Giants’ top starting lineup (assuming Aoki is a part of it) combined for 77 home runs last year, including four from Madison Bumgarner.

Granted, Brandon Belt (12 homers in 61 games) was on a pace to hit 30 if he played in 153 games. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re hoping for some patented “Giants magic” with Casey McGehee that’ll get his power back up to 2009-11 levels (when he hit 17 HR per season), even though he’s stated that he’s comfortable shortening up and putting the ball in play at this stage of his career. 

But with McGehee (four home runs last year in 691 plate appearances), Joe Panik (one HR in 287 PA), Aoki (one HR in 549 PA) and Angel Pagan (three HR in 413 PA), suddenly you realize that Brandon Crawford is the fourth-most powerful hitter on the team … well, fifth if you include Bumgarner. 

Anyway, here are some funny photos from the funny story I linked in the second paragraph. Welcome, Nori Aoki!

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