April 4, 2014
What You Need to Know
The Importance of Pagan
The Thursday Takeaway
During the 84 games that Pagan spent on the disabled list, Bruce Bochy’s club went 32-52—good for a .380 winning percentage. For comparison, the 2013 Marlins, the worst team in the National League, compiled a .383 winning percentage for the season. Other factors certainly were at play, but with their primary center fielder on the shelf, and with the likes of Juan Perez and Andres Torres filling his shoes, the Giants were much closer to the senior circuit basement than they were to contention.
In yesterday’s series finale at Chase Field, with the Giants having taken two of the first three games from the Diamondbacks, the visitors entered the top of the eighth inning trailing 5-3. Paul Goldschmidt had sustained his ownage of Tim Lincecum with his sixth homer in 21 head-to-head meetings, and Mark Trumbo had added two more runs with a blast of his own in the last of the sixth.
Six batters into the frame, the Giants had tied the game on an RBI double by Hector Sanchez and a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Michael Morse. Pagan was the seventh batter of the inning, and he completed the five-run outburst with a three-run long ball that narrowly missed the pool in right-center field.
With that game-winning homer, Pagan improved to 8-for-19 on the young season, with two other extra-base hits, both of them doubles. And the Giants improved to 3-1. When Pagan is healthy, Bochy fields a dynamic threat at the top of the order.
But general manager Brian Sabean secured only one material reinforcement for his outfield this offseason, adding Morse on a one-year deal. Were Pagan to miss extended time again, the Giants would have to deploy Gregor Blanco and Perez, or seek outside help. With former first-round pick Gary Brown no longer a top 10 prospect and merely a Factor on the Farm, there is little in the way of organizational depth in the middle of the outfield.
With a full season of contributions from their leadoff man, PECOTA sees the Giants as an 86-win team—one good enough to secure a berth in the wild card game. But with seven disabled list stints on his medical chart since he debuted with the Cubs in 2006, Pagan is hardly the epitome of durability. And another prolonged absence could keep the Giants home in October for the second straight year.
Quick Hits from Thursday
Nonetheless, Bonifacio is only the third Modern Era player to collect 11 knocks in his club’s first three contests, joining Ira Flagstead (1926) and Cecil Cooper (1982). He scored the first run of the game in the opening frame yesterday, then notched the game-winning tally in the third inning, when he crossed the plate on a double-play ball after doubling and moving to third on Starlin Castro’s single.
The 28-year-old switch-hitter is no stranger to torrid starts, which is both a feather in his cap and a reason for us to be wary of his ability to sustain this surge. Bonifacio racked up 14 hits in his first 24 at-bats of the 2009 season before falling into a 10-game, 4-for-41 rut, during which he struck out 15 times. Enjoy this while it lasts—and if you happen to own Bonifacio in a fantasy league with gullible counterparts, sell sell sell!
As MLB.com beat writer Joe Frisaro pointed out during Thursday’s matinee, the Marlins finished dead last in the majors in doubles last season. They compiled just 219 of them as a team, or 1.35 per game, a total that looks even more dismal when you consider that their new ballpark was among the friendliest in the two-bagger department for hitters of either handedness.
If the first few days of the 2014 season are any indication, though, Mike Redmond’s squad won’t be finishing in the doubles basement again this year. Frisaro noted that Miami had nine two-baggers entering play on Thursday, and it added one more in the late innings after his tweet, raising its three-game sum to 12.
A three-per-game pace would have led the bigs by nearly 123 doubles last year, so a slowdown is inevitable. But the Fish—behind newcomer Casey McGehee, who leads the club with three—have exceeded five percent of their 2013 output just 2.5 percent of the way into the 2014 campaign.
Incidentally, one of those doubles—a liner to left off the bat of Adeiny Hechavarria—brought us one of the first scoring decisions potentially impacted by the new rules banning catchers from blocking the plate. As Marcell Ozuna rounded third and headed for home, Carlos Gonzalez threw a two-hopper to the plate that catcher Wilin Rosario might have scooped or blocked were he positioned in front of the dish.
Except, Rosario wasn’t in front of the plate; he was about a foot behind and to the first-base side of it. The ball skipped past Rosario and all the way to the first-base dugout, enabling Hechavarria to trot over to third. An error was initially charged to Gonzalez, but later flipped to Rosario, acknowledging that even though catchers can no longer impede runners’ paths to home plate, they must still find a way to corral throws.
The series opener between the Mariners and Athletics at the Coliseum featured two hurlers who were far from favorites to secure rotation spots at the outset of spring training. Roenis Elias, who was making his first trip to a big-league mound, and Jesse Chavez, who had spent the bulk of his career in the bullpen, did not disappoint—even though they had to contend with an inconsistent strike zone, as shown by the limited PITCHf/x sample available here.
Elias lasted five innings and permitted only one run, enough to leave in line for the victory until Yoenis Cespedes tied the game with a triple off of Tom Wilhelmsen in the eighth. Chavez outlasted Elias, but while he allowed only one earned run, his infielders put him in a bid from the get-go.
Abraham Almonte led off the contest by hitting a grounder to Alberto Callaspo, a veteran infielder but a relative novice at first base. Callaspo booted it, allowing Almonte to reach first, and then second baseman Nick Punto, who picked up the ball, threw it away, enabling Almonte to scamper over to second. He later scored. The Mariners plated their second run on a three-single rally in the fifth inning, capped by Almonte.
Oakland tied the game on Cespedes’ three-bagger, then won it in the bottom of the 12th on a walk-off homer by Coco Crisp. More importantly, both clubs got reassuring signs from two pitchers who were pressed into duty because of injuries suffered by their teammates last month.
The Defensive Play of the Day
What to Watch for This Weekend
It’ll be up to Mike Pelfrey to avoid that fate this evening, as the right-hander tries to prove himself worthy of the two-year, $11 million extension that the Twins handed him on December 23. PECOTA isn’t optimistic about the 30-year-old Pelfrey, projecting him for 136 2/3 innings of below-replacement-level work. But the big man has one thing going for him this afternoon: In the 109 times that hitters have dug in against him with the bases loaded, he has allowed only one home run (3:05 p.m. ET).