Angel Pagan Enters 2016 With New Role but Same Mindset
Angel Pagan took a lot of pride in being the San Francisco Giants‘ starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, but he will have to swallow some of that pride in 2016 because he is about to take on a very different role this season than he has in the past for the Giants.
Pagan will always be a spark plug for the Giants, given the high level of energy that he displays every time he steps onto the field or into the batter’s box. His role as a spark plug for the Giants will remain the same, but he will have to energize the team from left field and a whole different spot in the lineup in 2016, given the Giants’ offseason signing of center fielder Denard Span.
Span not only plays the position that Pagan has occupied for the Giants for the past few seasons, but he also is a proven, consistent leadoff hitter. Except for his rookie season, Span has played the majority of his games during the course of a season in center field. In 950 games in his career, he’s played 797 of those in center field. In addition, Span has hit leadoff in 892 of those games.
Over his career, he has a .992 fielding percentage in center field (compared to .983 in left field and .981 in right field). Also, he has a .285 batting average, .350 on-base percentage, and a .390 slugging percentage when hitting leadoff.
Span certainly is qualified to take over the center field and leadoff duties for the Giants, but how does Pagan feel about this?
As mentioned earlier, Pagan is a very proud player and has been somewhat resistant in the past about switching to left field. He was a little surprised when the Span signing was first announced, but overall, he has a great attitude about this situation and about his role in the 2016 season. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News with the report:
“Well, I’ll be honest – really honest,” said Pagan, prior to the Giants’ first full-squad workout on Tuesday. “First of all, I was surprised by the move. Like anybody, when that’s your position and you’re asked to play a different position, I was surprised.
“But at the same time Span is a great center fielder, a great player. Every player has pride, and you have to sit down and understand that at some point, you have to make a move. But I prepared myself really well for center field, and the team asked me to move to left field, and I’m on board 100 percent. I’m here to do whatever the team needs me to do.”
Pagan said he approached Span on Tuesday and told him that they needed to sit down together at the earliest opportunity – not to vent frustration, but to clear the air.
“Because in order for us to work as a team, we’ve got to have great chemistry and I don’t want anything to be between us,” said Pagan, who will be a free agent after the season. “I don’t have any hard feelings at all. I’m just moving to left field and I want him to know that.
“I want him to know I’m on board and I’m ready to get as far as I can to reach for the gappers with him. And hopefully we can play the best defense possible for this pitching staff. To me, that’s the most important thing.”
A lot of professional athletes are coached to answer questions about a tough situation like this as politically correct as possible. Athletes usually give canned answers such as “I just want to help my team win” or “I trust my coach” or something like that to give fans, the organization, and others the perception that they are fine with a difficult situation. Some of these answers are more honest and true than others though.
Pagan seems completely genuine in his feeling that he’s willing to do whatever it takes and fill whatever role is needed for the Giants to win. He was very honest about the fact that the Span signing “surprised” him. That might be a form of him saying that he wasn’t happy about it, at least at first. However, after he thought about it some more and considered the team’s best interest, he probably came to the conclusion that putting Span in center field and having him hit leadoff would benefit the team the most.
Pagan has a lot of pride, but more than anything, he wants the Giants to win. He is all about winning and being a good teammate, and this quality adds to the Giants’ impressive team chemistry and makes his energy so contagious in the clubhouse. If the Giants win with Span in center field and Pagan in left field, Pagan will be proud in a different way. He might be serving a different role, but he will show his pride in the same energetic way that he always does.
As Bochy pointed out in Baggarly’s article, this new role could even mean more at-bats and better overall health for Pagan, because he won’t have to bear the burden of patrolling most of the outfield. Playing center field can take a toll on a player’s body, and this is why most center fielders have to move to a corner outfield spot in their early-to-mid 30’s. Pagan will be 35 in July, and he started to show a little bit of age last season when he was often injured and wasn’t as productive as in previous seasons.
Baggarly pointed out some key statistics in his article that display Pagan’s struggles last season:
The advanced metrics jibe with the anecdotal evidence: moving Pagan to a corner is the obvious move. The Giants’ proprietary stats showed that their center fielders cost the team 24 runs last season; the only position that was more detrimental to an NL club was Mets shortstops, who cost their team 27 runs.
Pagan’s ultimate zone rating was dead last among 23 major league center fielders who had played enough innings to qualify. According to Fangraphs.com, Pagan’s rating of minus-12.4 runs saved also ranked last among everyday major league center fielders.
A switch hitter, Pagan’s .332 slugging percentage last year ranked 138th among the 141 major league players who collected at least 500 plate appearances.
Despite his struggles last season and his current situation of having to change roles this season, Pagan still takes a lot of pride in being a Giant. He loves the organization, his teammates, his coaches, and the fans. He understands how lucky he is to have been a part of two World Series teams and to be a part of a top-notch, well-respected organization. Because of this, it makes sense why he is so willing and able to accept a new role when a newer, younger player comes to the team and takes his spot in the lineup and on the field.
Pagan might have a new role in 2016, but his proud, energetic, and team-first mindset has not changed.