This probably should’ve been a rout on the order of Sunday’s game in New York, Madison Bumgarner’s 94-pitch shutout that San Francisco won by nine runs. But the Giants were good enough to beat the Brewers handily on a night when they weren’t perfect, and they *may* have a second baseman they can trust.
Joe Panik looks like a slightly younger, slightly smaller version of Buster Posey, but they aren’t the same guy. Posey has power and confidence. Panik is a quiet assassin who slaps balls to every field and almost died of nervousness in tonight’s postgame interview with Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. If Panik can keep making the right plays — like his breakup of what looked like a probable double play in the first — the Giants won’t mind if he’s not a fully formed media statesman just yet.
The first inning should’ve been the knock-Yovani-Gallardo-out inning, but they let him retreat to his corner as the bell sounded. That’s because Ryan Vogelsong took a fielder’s choice for granted and stopped running to first, wiping a run away and preventing a Hunter Pence plate appearance with the bases loaded. But at least they had a 3-0 lead. Compared to most Vogelsong starts, that kind of advantage in the first inning is like finding a $100 bill on your driveway in the morning.
Then Carlos Gomez gave Giants fans another reminder that hey, Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter may be one of the top 10 position players on the planet right now. But Vogelsong, who’s dealt with a lot more crap in his career than “whoops, I forgot to run to first, then I slammed my helmet down in the dugout and looked upset enough that my manager came over and told me to ‘let it go,’ then I gave up a leadoff homer after the commercial break” wiggled out of jam after jam. Only in the fifth inning did Vogelsong progress without allowing two Brewers to reach base, but the run on Gomez’s deep blast was all he allowed.
Speaking of home runs, how special is Pablo Sandoval right now? That slider from Tom Gorzelanny (a better name for an umpire than a pitcher) wasn’t bad. It started low, dipped lower, and Sandoval connected with some sort of weird half-swing/swipe from his weaker side and knocked it into the bullpen. That’s homer No. 14 for Sandoval, who clubbed his 13th home run of the year about 24 hours earlier on a fastball that came in about five feet higher.
Sandoval is traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination.
Next stop, the Contract zone.
I’m not sure what was going on in the first month of the season, when Sandoval was trying to be too patient, throwing balls in every direction but the first baseman’s glove and doubling up on his mistakes by getting aggressive at all the wrong times. But now he’s in one of those zones that gets Brian Sabean in a mood to start prodding the executive committee for extra 2015 funds.
Michael Morse, on the other hand … we’ll see. Like in the commercial he filmed before the season, he was a veritable superhero in the first couple months of the season when he had 38 RBI. Now, the Giants will take a couple hits and three runs batted in (which give him 14 since the beginning of June). The extended rest Bruce Bochy gave him in the previous two games was a good idea that was long overdue.
— The Giants’ bats broke pretty frequently, but a majority of those bat decapitations resulted in good things happening, like hits. So move over Rally Possum, Rally Termites are coming. Hey, if the Sharks have an official pest control company, maybe the Giants … Alright, that’s about all I got.
— The postseason is generally about starting pitching, but the Giants have to keep this going. Get in the habit of scoring four or more runs per game, and everything will probably be fine.
— /Checks scoreboard, sees Dodgers stayed in front by 2.5 games with a 2-1 victory over the Angels
HEY, THAT’S BASEBALL AND STUFF
— Is Sergio Romo back? Is it too early to broach this? (Slowly backs out of the room.)
— “We’ve played our cards with Panik and Duvall, and God bless them, but they’re not ready to be here.” – Brian Sabean, a little over a month ago.
Duval is back in Fresno, but Panik is 8-for-14 in his last three games.
— Four strikeouts for Brandon Belt, who’s clearly feeling an inordinate amount of pressure as the only returning savior. Once Angel Pagan is back in the lineup tomorrow, look out. Belt’s going to hit five home runs and write five blog posts in the next two weeks.
— Yeah, I said it.
Hard to shake the feeling that Joe Panik will be the Opening Day second baseman in 2015.
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) August 7, 2014
If the Giants had any other real options, they would have no doubt sent Panik back to Fresno the second he struggled, like they have with most minor league prospects. Panik however looks like he is close to figuring it out, unlike the string of predecessors at 2B. Hard to tell if he will, but there has to be a bit of confidence due to the fact he has some time to work it out. There is nothing wrong with a slap hitting 2B, that gets on base. Your second baseman doesn't need to hit HR's, just for average, and have good D.
I knew Scutaro was done the second he hurt himself in Spring. 38 year olds don't come back from that type on injury at 2B. That said, It is tough to be anointing anyone when it comes to the Giants infield options, and to let a guy like Panik, who has skills, work into the game a bit. Just ask Kevin Frandsen, who at least still has a big league career. Panik is a clean slate. Hicks was a joke of a signing, and it would be nice to not be trying to make starters out of guys that are career underachievers at the big league level.
That brings us to Morse, who is exactly what he has always been: a statue, with boat oars for hands, that can hit with some power. Another signing, like Hicks was, based solely on hope, with no real baseball metrics behind it. He is exactly what he is, and does not deserve a contract extension.
Juan Perez will be out of baseball the minute he is off the Giants roster. Time to look deeper in the minors for a bench option, make a waiver claim on anyone else who can hold a bat (and play better D than Morse...which means pretty much anyone), or give Gary Brown a sink or swim shot. I know, Brown sucks...but Perez is worse in a historically bad way at the plate.
Can't a player develop and figure some things out? Panik was hitting roughly .500 OPS a little over a month ago, so what Sabean said back then was true. And, for that matter, not that many days/games ago he was still roughly .500 OPS, so it was true for a long time still, up to this roadtrip. And not that many days ago, fans were going crazy over Duffy coming up and doing something.
And hopefully Panik is figuring things out. The key thing is his contact rate and walk-to-K ratio have been good in his time up here, even though his batting line was not that good. Not that I'm comping him to this other hitter, but Pedroia did the same thing in his early days, good contact and W/K ratio but poor batting line, before figuring things out in the majors. For a closer example, Crawford started off his MLB career with good contact and W/K ratio but poor batting line too. Generally, hitters with good contact and W/K ratio tends to be good hitters, but like the Normal Curve, there are those who end up not being all that good a hitter, after all.
So, it don't mean that Panik is even the starting 2B for the near term, let alone 2015. He needs to continue to show that these past few games of hitting is him and not all the oh-for's that he had before. He's also going to need to hit for more power if he's going to stick as a starter, otherwise he's going to be the new Burriss. And Hicks looked like the answer for about a month before he played himself out of the majors. Panik has looked like the answer for, at best, this road trip. For historical perspective, both Herndon and Gladden looked like the answer after a great half season of playing and ended up not being the answer at all.
And I like his chances of being the 2015 starter, but it's all too soon to put that label on him, he's going to need to prove himself to be new and improved and not just going through a nice lucky streak the past few games. Baseball's unrelenting stream of games have a way of exposing both talent and luck rather quickly. But definitely enjoy the streak, much like we enjoyed Hicks streak early this season.
are we to assume that scutaro is out for 2015 already? If so, waive him now and give the roster spot to someone else.
Could it be? The giants have a second basemen they can trust? Panik had looked nothing but solid this road trip and I'm sure hoping like he's the real deal.....