Monday, July 07, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: I'm Not Panicking ... Yet

Some are worried or dismissive of Joe Panik.  He started out nicely, but then hit the skids, but has done better lately.  Sabean recently said that nobody's doing well among the prospects who have come up, though that appears to be before his recent up spurt, I suppose that could have motivated him.  Still, his batting line is nothing to celebrate.  Or is it?

ogc thoughts

One thing I noticed was that his contact rate was superb during this stretch of poor batting line, so I thought I would dig a little deeper into his numbers.  All SSS, so I'm not panicking yet, if anything I'm Paniking, as we'll see here.

He has only had 12 games, so there is nothing to really key on really, not enough sample data points.  That goes for both bad and good, in spite of the poor batting line.  BABIP can go wildly up and down in such small samplings, as we all know, so there is not a lot that can truly be said about his hitting.

For example, what has been masked by the poor hitting that initially followed his nice intro to the majors is that he has been hitting well lately.  In his last 6 games played, he has hit .368/.409/.421/.830, but .350 BABIP.   That is much better than his overall .257/.325/.314/.639 batting line.  Of course, that BABIP is likely not sustainable, but that could be regression to the mean due to his 0-for-12 he put up in his prior 4 games.  Or perhaps he was just lucky good now, and the before was his mean talent level.  Can't really tell right now.

What we can say, and this bodes well for his MLB future if he can continue this, is that in 35 AB, he only has 3 K's but do have 4 BB's.  That's a 91% contact rate as well as more walks than strikeouts, both of which only the best hitters in baseball can do.

According to Baseball Forecaster studies, hitters with above 1.0 BB/K ratios, on average, hit somewhere in the .280-.290 range, with 51% ending up above .300 and only 9% ending up below .250.  And that jives with hitters with contact rate in the 90's, they normally end up hitting .270-.290.  And combining his walk rate (10%) with his contact rate, again, roughly .280 hitter on average.  On top of all that, his pitches per PA is at 3.80, which is on the good side, and hitters in his range tended to have high OBP, .347, which is pretty good.

These all suggest that he should be able to raise his BA up another 20-30 points, roughly, putting him around .340-.350 OBP, which would be pretty good to get in the #2 spot of the batting order.

What this reminds me of was Dustin Pedroia's first month in the majors, in his first full season in 2007.  His batting line was horrible, but his batting peripherals were good, he wasn't striking out much, while walking a lot, much like Panik is in a little less than half a month of results.  And given enough time, he worked things out and has hit very well.

Not that Panik is on Pedroia's level.  Joe's ISO and SLG is not that good, and that is a key difference between the two, and I do not mean to suggest that they are similar level prospects.  Panik is profiling more like Burris than Pedroia, right now, because of the lack of power.  However, what I am trying to show is that quality will usually out when it comes to contact rate and BB/K ratios for hitters.   If Joe can hit for a high average with walks, and thus high OBP, he can be a very valuable hitter for us in the lineup.
 
However, batting second is not one of those spots, at least at the moment.  The lineup regression data shows that each point of SLG is very important for the #2 hitter (second most important after #4), and while a high BA helps to keep SLG higher, it don't really make up for a very poor ISO hitter.  

Panik would actually be better in the #3 spot, where a high OBP is rewarded, but low SLG/ISO is tolerable, ironic, since most old-time baseball men love to put their best hitters in the #3 spot, wasting their power there.   This is probably why our offense was doing so well when Pence was hitting second even while Sandoval was batting third and not doing that well (and I also noticed that Bochy was batting Posey third when he was struggling, so perhaps Bochy is aware of this anomaly as well).

Or, despite his lack of speed, he could be better batting leadoff than second, for if he is able to hit for average and high OBP, it would be better to bat him first and Pence second because Pence has that much more power than Panik.   However, if Pence is able to beat Panik in both OBP and SLG, it would be better probably to bat him first, it does vary depending on who is better in OBP and SLG, and by how much.

In any case, right now, given how poorly Hicks has been hitting and how poorly Arias has fielded 2B the past few seasons, I would rather give Panik the bulk of the starts there, just to see how long he can continue to show good batting peripherals and to see how good he is defensively there (so far the advanced stats are not liking him there, UZR and Total Zone have him as negative, though DRS has him at average or zero DRS, but it is still very SSS).

However, once or when Adrianza comes back from rehab, the Giants will have to make a choice, either DFA Adrianza or Hicks or send Panik back down to AAA.  Ehire still have a bit of time left on his rehab and the Giants will probably keep him down there as long as possible in order to see Panik as long as possible.

But like Panik, Adrianza had been hitting well before his injury, running up a 5 game hitting streak before his injury.  In June, he had 3 walks and 3 K's in 27 ABs, very good peripherals that showed in his batting line, .333/.419/.407/.827, but unsustainable .375 BABIP.   Still, you drop that to .300 BABIP, and you got around .258/.344/.332/.677, which is basically what we've been getting from Blanco off the bench, some OBP and great defense, but for MI.  And at MLB minimum.  So I would not expect the Giants to DFA Adrianza.

Hard Choices

Right now, it looks like the good vibes of the early Hicks success story is crashing down hard, possibly leading to a DFA when Adrianza is ready to come off the DL (unless he has another injury...).  Hicks in June hit .115/.246/.173/.419, with 23 strikeouts in only 52 AB (only 56% contact rate or horrible 44% strikeout rate) and with no homers.  As good as his defense has been, which is roughly at a 1 WAR seasonal rate, that in no way makes up for poor hitting like that.  It appears that the clock might have struck midnight for this Cinderella story.

Still, we don't know how the Joe Panik story will end up while Adrianza is still on the DL and rehabbing.  His good hitting could stop and the down cycle begins again, in which case, Hicks probably gets a reprieve and Panik gets sent down.  Or he could continue and make a strong case for DFAing Adrianza since Scutaro appears to be working towards joining the team after the ASB as a bench player, or even Arias, despite his new 2 year contract, he has not been hitting at all and he's only a good defensive player at 3B, making him a possible DFA candidate when/if Scutaro returns.   Or maybe Adrianza's injury lingers and reinjure easily.  Or the Giants could decide that one backup outfielder is enough again and send Perez back down since he still has his option for the season.  

The Giants will have to make some hard choices when/if Scutaro returns, and Panik and Adrianza are not the ones who are looking really bad right now, Arias is, as well as Hicks, for the two backup infield spots.   They are the ones on the edge right now, in my estimation.

Lots of options available to the Giants, some already utilized this season, as Perez has been up and down many times already this season, taking the Fresno Shuttle.  It will be interesting times for these Giants players, fortunately and unfortunately, and the Giants most likely will have to make a hard choice and let go of someone they like but must let go of because they have only 25 spots on the MLB roster.

4 comments:

  1. that contact rate! let's see how it turns out, but from his college ball and minors play, we have a good idea it should be pretty elite. his frame looks good to me, plenty of power potential. the SF the other day in SD was hit deep to center. Panik is a contraverial pick, but its one that could turn out well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that is why I'm still positive about Panik, that great contact rate, that's a great sign to be able to do that regularly in the minors, and seems to bode well for some level of success in the majors.

      The possible lack of power is what scares me, reminding me of Burriss, so I'm glad to hear that you think he has a good frame with power potential.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  2. Giants seem to agree about Panik and Hicks. They just brought Adrianza up to the majors (sending down Perez), and with Scutaro looking like he'll be returning on Friday, the speculation from Baggerly is that Hicks is the guy who will be DFAed when Scutaro returns, because his return will require a 40-man spot to bring him back. Plus, Hicks has hardly played much for the last month, so it all points to him right now.

    Still, once Scutaro returns, that's still too many bench MI guys, Scutaro, Arias, Panik, and Adrianza, with one taking the starting 2B spot, and being one short in the OF, making Blanco the starting CF with Colvin as the backup CF. With the ASB coming soon, I don't think anything happens about that soon. Plus Perez has to stay down 10 days, so he can't come up until then unless there is an injury.

    Looks like the Giants like what Panik is doing. But they brought up Adrianza, apparently, so that he can face the LHP today. So it appears that Scutaro will platoon with Panik for a little while at least.

    But they appear to like Adrianza enough to bring him up early, they could have left him in rehab a bit longer if they wanted to wait on the decision. So perhaps eventually Panik gets sent back down and Adrianza would take over the platoon with Scutaro, since he switch hits. He had a nice rehab too, 6 for 19, 1 homer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, Pavlovic noted as well as Baggerly, sorry about that.

      Pavlovic just noted that Adrianza will get more time at short in the second half because coaches don't want Crawford to wear down, as he's second on team in games played, plus there's a lot of trips upcoming (to make up for easy home schedule during this horrendous slump) as well as visits to hot weather teams.

      So that's another sign that Adrianza is here to stay, at least for now.

      Plus, Pavlovic reported that Bochy said Perez wasn't going to play much before the ASB anyway, so he's going down to play every day. So Colvin is the backup CF while Blanco starts.

      Delete

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