— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 3, 2015
The worst part about this lineup is the absence of Joe Panik, who was placed on the DL today. (Panik’s open roster spot was filled by Kelby Tomlinson, a 25-year-old infielder who’s hitting .321/.376/.414 combined in Richmond and Sacramento.) When Panik pulled up to second base after hitting his second double on Saturday evening, it was easy to see that his back pain was going to be a problem for a while. His loss will make August that much tougher.
There’s nothing the Giants can do about that. But there is something they can do to improve the offense. It’s time to put hurt feelings aside and move Angel Pagan out of the leadoff spot. Actually, it’s past time to make this move.
If you’ve been following the team for longer than a year, you understand why Pagan is still hitting first in the order.
— Bruce Bochy, only the best manager in the game, doesn’t like to move guys around when the Giants are playing well.
— Pagan has accomplished quite a bit since coming to the Giants. He’s also said on numerous occasions that he thinks of himself as a leadoff man, and at times he’s been very productive in that role.
But the Giants cooled off a bit in the sweltering heat of Arlington — a home run barrage as well as some excellent two-out hitting spurred a comeback on Saturday, but the Giants lost two of three to start their road trip. Plus, Nori Aoki is back and he’s had enough time to shake off whatever rust accumulated during his time on the DL. A switch is warranted.
It’s hard to complain about Pagan’s performance as a leadoff hitter in the first inning. As the first batter of the game, he’s 9-for-26 with a walk and a double (.346/.370/.385). Aoki’s numbers are similar (21-for-59 with two walks — .314/.381/.375) as the first Giant to step to the plate.
The inherent problem with Pagan batting leadoff sounds too obvious to even state, but here goes: Leadoff hitters accumulate more plate appearances than anyone else, and Pagan is the worst hitter among Giants regulars (including Gregor Blanco).
Pagan (all innings): .264/.297/.317, 6-for-8 SB
Pagan (innings 1-3): .322/.350/.369, 5-for-5 SB
Pagan (innings 4-6): .186/.210/.237, 0-for-1 SB
Pagan (innings 7-9): .236/.289/.292, 0-for-1 SB
It’s not necessarily a problem with fatigue, since Pagan is 6-for-9 at the plate and 1-for-1 in steals this year in extra innings. However, Pagan provides very little offensive firepower after the first inning. He doesn’t get on base that often, his baserunning skills have eroded, he has no power. We’ve heard the announcers say that his swings are looking better lately, and that’s true — his double yesterday may have been the farthest ball he’s hit all year.
We’re still talking about a guy who rarely walks and has six extra-base hits (all doubles) in his last 52 games.
Aoki isn’t exactly powerful (although he has two homers and seems to yank a lot of balls to the right of the foul pole that have home run distance), but he’s a better contact hitter (.304) with a better eye (24 walks, .373 OBP) than Pagan, who has walked just 20 times in 98 more plate appearances. There are reasons why Baseball-Reference has Aoki’s WAR at 1.4 and Pagan’s at a team-low -1.6.
Pagan is under contract for 2016. Aoki, 33, has a $5.5 million team option for next season with a $700K buyout, but that turns into a $5.5 million MUTUAL option if he accumulates 550 plate appearances. He’s currently at 309 PAs, which means he’d have to average 4.16 plate appearances over the remaining 58 games to hit 550. And if he does, while maintaining anything close to his current numbers, chances are good he’ll decide to test the free agent market again and see if he can get one last long-term deal.
I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the Giants’ decision-making process here. I doubt it does, plus he’s hitting second tonight. Pagan/Aoki/Duffy/Posey/Pence/Belt/Crawford is probably what we’re going to see throughout Panik’s time away, but Bochy should consider this lineup instead:
Actually, Blanco (.296/.372/.421, 0.8 rWAR) should be hitting seventh and playing center field. But let’s not expect miracles here. Pagan is going to start, and if that continues to be the case in most games, they should limit the damage by moving him down in the order.
Update (2:42 pm):
Bochy definitely read this post after putting out the original lineup (juuuuuust kidding).