It’s Time for the San Francisco Giants to Move Angel Pagan


Or rather, it’s past the time for the San Francisco Giants to move Angel Pagan. As the Giants continue to traverse the minefield that is there August schedule, they can not afford to continue to have Pagan play the way he has in two vital roles: leadoff hitter and center fielder. It’s becoming increasingly crucial that they put forth the best lineup possible, and right now, that doesn’t include Pagan.

It’s extremely easy to forget the roaring start to the season that Pagan enjoyed. On May 14th, 35 games into the season, Pagan was hitting .336 with nine extra-base hits, and was thriving as the third hitter in the Giants’ lineup. That kind of spark evoked memories of 2012 Pagan, when he was the man that made the Giants’ World Series-bound lineup go, to the point that he even earned a few MVP votes.

But since play started on May 15th, that Pagan has disappeared. His numbers have plummeted, due to a .221/.259/.253 slash-line over his last 65 games. In that span, he has only eight extra-base hits, all doubles.

Statistically, Pagan has been the least valuable player in baseball this season. His -1.6 WAR is a full half-point worse than the guy directly behind him, Starlin Castro. Pagan is the third-least valuable player right now at the plate, going by offensive WAR. His –0.9 WAR is better only than a pair of Boston Red Sox hitters: Pablo Sandoval (-1.1) and Hanley Ramirez (-1.3).

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Defensively, he isn’t much better than at the plate. He ranks last among Major League center fielders in defensive rating, at -11.4. He has the third-worst UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and is tied for last in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) among all Major League outfielders.

Of course, you don’t need those defensive numbers to tell you just how poorly Pagan has played in center field. He doesn’t pass the eye test. He’s visibly skittish about laying it all on the line to make a diving play or make a catch as he crashes into the center field wall. He looks like a mere shell of his former self.

Pagan does deserve some kudos for playing through his knee problems while the team was missing both of their corner outfielders. But with Nori Aoki and Hunter Pence both back from their injuries, there’s no excuse to have Pagan out there just about everyday in his current state.

Those two roles mentioned earlier, leadoff hitter and center fielder, can be easily filled currently. Aoki should slide back into the leadoff spot, the place he occupied in the lineup earlier in the season, before a leg fracture landed him on the disabled list.

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Over his first 67 games of the season, Aoki spent all but four in the leadoff role, and all of those four came in games in which Aoki didn’t start, but rather appeared as a pinch-hitter. In that leadoff spot, Aoki was sensational, batting .317 with a .383 on-base percentage, while scoring 33 times. He also stole 12 bases, and appeared well on his way to becoming the first Giants to steal 30 bases or more since Dave Roberts in 2007.

Since returning from that fracture, Aoki has even found a bit of a power stroke. After hitting two home runs in his first 73 games, Aoki has doubled that total over the past four games. Pagan is still sitting at zero home runs for the season, and is riding the longest active streak without a home run, at 720 plate appearances.

In center field, the logical, and quite obvious replacement for Pagan is the Giants’ fourth outfielder-extraordinaire, Gregor Blanco.

Statistically speaking, Blanco has outplayed Pagan in every sense. The White Shark has a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, as well as more doubles, home runs, runs scored and walks, all in 150 less plate appearances than Pagan.

Blanco beats Pagan in UZR by 11.5 points, and has 13 more DRS. With his healthy knees, Blanco can charge balls harder than Pagan, and go back towards the wall better. For the Giants, it seems like a no-brainer.

But everyone knows Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy‘s affinity for sticking with his veterans. It’s very difficult to question Bochy, who has time and time again proven himself to be one of the best minds in the game, but seeing Pagan atop the lineup day after day is a head-scratcher.

The short-term solution for this issue is easy: put Pagan on the disabled list, and give him time to rest up his ailing knees.

The long-term solution is a bit more complicated. There are multiple problems with moving Pagan from center field on an everyday basis, and inserting him to a lesser role. First, and the most glaring obstacle, is that the corner outfield spots are pretty well filled for the Giants. Pence obviously isn’t going anywhere as long as he’s healthy enough to play. Aoki, as mentioned earlier, has been phenomenal.

Secondly, Pagan hasn’t played a position other than center field (besides designated hitter, twice) since 2010 when he was with the New York Mets.

Finally, there’s the human aspect of the whole thing. There’s no telling how Pagan would react to a demotion. One would hope that he takes it as well as starting pitcher Tim Hudson took his demotion, as he was all in with the acquisition of Mike Leake, and accepted a stint on the disabled list to clear room.

Pitcher Jake Peavy recently had some choice words for Mercury News’ Andrew Baggarly, regarding the “team” point of view.

"We’re all open to whatever our roles may be. Everyone here has to be that way.”"

If that holds true, Pagan has to see the bigger picture. Blanco gives the Giants a better chance to win.

Next: What is Kelby Tomlinson's Long-Term Role?