Angel Pagan

September surprise: reasons to look forward to 2016 Angel Pagan

Angel Pagan Giants

The Giants’ sweep of the San Diego Padres was a much-needed dose of fun after a horrendous road trip. The bats woke up. Madison Bumgarner had one of the strangest almost-perfectos in baseball history — one of the worst hitters in the majors, Melvin Upton, singled in the eighth to become the Padres first and only baserunner on Saturday. Still, Bumgarner was phenomenal and he’ll get his no-hitter someday (probably). Mike Leake made up for a rocky start with a three-run home run and his first victory as a Giant.

Fans, players and coaches alike had a blast all weekend at AT&T … just don’t look at the standings. The Dodgers are still 7.5 games up. If L.A. finishes 8-12 in their remaining games, the Giants would need to go 15-4 to force a one-game playoff for the division title.

If rooting for miracles doesn’t quite do it for you, perhaps Angel Pagan’s recent resurgence will keep you warm through the winter. I have not been kind to Pagan this season. That’s putting it mildly, although mine was a two-pronged approach. I didn’t particularly care to watch Pagan play center field and hit in the leadoff spot any longer, but the Giants had a say in those matters. Nori Aoki and Hunter Pence were missing when Pagan was at his worst in the field and at the plate, but it seemed like more rest would’ve been a smarter plan than forcing Pagan to play through his knee pain. Perhaps dealing for outfield help earlier would’ve made sense, too.

Then the Giants finally made a move, placing Pagan on the disabled list on Aug. 11 after he went 5-for-26 with no walks or extra-base hits to start the month. Since returning on Sept. 1, he has looked like a completely different player. He’s hitting .319/.373/.489 in 12 games. He ended his MLB-leading homerless streak (698 at-bats) at Coors on Sept. 5, and hit another at AT&T Park on Saturday, his first at home since 4/29/14. He even stole a career-high three bases yesterday off Padres catcher (and future DH, possibly) Derek Norris.

And we can’t go on any further without taking another look at this:

With all of that, I’ve done a total 180 on Pagan. If the Giants put him in center field, as the leadoff hitter, to start next season, I’ll be fine with it. No complaints from this corner. Now, if he gets dinged up and starts playing like he did from May through early-August, I may change my tune. But I have a feeling that the Giants will put him back in center, and with the right time management it could work out.

Why put him in center?

— The Giants feel that Gregor Blanco (who’s under contract for next year, at about a third the price of Pagan) is better as a fourth outfielder, because he gets worn down as an everyday starter. So does Pagan, but that’s why they have Blanco.

— Hunter Pence is a right fielder, and Nori Aoki (who has a team option for next year that the Giants would be silly not to exercise) is best left in left field where he can do the least damage.

— Pagan wants to play center, and the Giants know it’s better to just do whatever it takes to keep him happy. Mostly because they’re paying him, but also because a happy Pagan who’s reasonably healthy can be a dynamic offensive force. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t have to worry about Pagan’s pride/ego/whatever, but he’s sort of like an uncle who drinks a little too much and makes inappropriate comments, but every family get together ends up at his house because he’s an awesome chef. Pagan is a member of the Giants family, and they know — better than I do, that’s for sure — that sometimes they have to take the good with the bad.

Why expect better?

This one’s obvious.

IT’S A CONTRACT YEAR.

Contract Year Angel Pagan, even in a year when he’ll turn 35, could be a nice player to have around. Throw in the Giants’ presumed realization that a little rest will do Pagan’s body good, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pagan have one of his better seasons as a pro.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get injured in Scottsdale, and play hurt throughout the first half before getting shut down in July, either. However, at least from his showing in September, we know he isn’t “done.” Instead of representing a 2016 albatross, Pagan may play more like a mighty eagle. I think Pagan would like the latter description very much. “Yes, I feel that I am a mighty eagle who soars to his greatest heights as a leadoff hitter who plays center field.” What makes me say that? I don’t know, maybe I’m still affected by this weird back-and-forth from Friday night.

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