The 15 Seconds that Saved the Giants and Pagan

When San Francisco Giants outfielder Angel Pagan came to the plate in the bottom of the tenth inning on Saturday, I was getting ready to write a column chastising his 40-million-dollar contract.

Pagan then saved the day with a game-winning, walk-off two-run homer to beat the Colorado Rockies by the final score of 6-5. I timed Pagan’s romp around the bases from contact back to the plate at 14.8 seconds. Those 15 seconds saved the Giants and Pagan on Saturday.

However, before that plate appearance, it had been another tough day in a disappointing season to this point for Pagan—whom the Giants signed to a 4-year, $40 million deal this winter. Leading off the top of the fourth, Troy Tulowitzki blooped a ball in front of Pagan in center. As Pagan has done so often this year, he froze before coming in on the ball and getting there too late. The ball went right underneath his outstretched glove for a double to start a two-run rally that would push the Rockies’ lead to 4-0.

According to Baseball Info Solutions’ defensive metric Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Pagan has cost the Giants six runs with his glove this year. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has him at -1.5 runs. Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA), the metric that Baseball Prospectus created, has him costing the Giants two runs thus far.

Defensive metrics aren’t anywhere near one-hundred percent reliable, particularly over a 380-inning sample. However, those numbers do seem to back up what I’ve seen from Pagan in center field this year. He looks below average to me and the advanced metrics back that up.

Pagan isn’t playing good enough defense for a player signed in large part because of his speed and defense. His bat hasn’t made up for his defensive shortcomings to this point, as he’s hitting just .262/.314/.374 even after his walk-off home run. He’s also been caught stealing four times in 10 attempts.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, he cost the Giants with his bat when he popped up to short with the bases loaded and one out with the team trailing 4-2.

However, after Pagan’s incredible 15-second sprint around the bases, his early-season struggles can be forgotten for a day or two. Time will tell if Pagan’s defense improves to the point of justifying his rich new contract.

Who Will Replace Vogey?

The Giants still haven’t decided on a replacement for Ryan Vogelsong. Chad Gaudin is one possible option, but I think he’d be better served by staying in the bullpen. His fastball was at 92-94 miles per hour on Saturday. If the Giants moved him to the rotation, he’d probably lose some zip off of the heater.

The other, bigger issue with Gaudin is that he’s really a right-handed specialist. Lefties have put up an OPS of .843 off of him this year compared to just .425 for righties. If the A’s load up their lineup with lefties on Tuesday, it’s hard to envision Gaudin having much of a chance. I’d go with Triple-A lefty Michael Kickham instead of Gaudin for the next few months while Vogelsong is out. The Giants could need three new starters next year, so now would be a good time to see if Kickham is a possible long-term option.

Andres Torres Looking Better

Andres Torres is having much better plate appearances of late. He’s doing a nice job of laying off soft stuff below the zone lately. He’s 6-for-11 with a walk in his last 12 trips to the plate, which has raised his slash line to a more respectable .264/.304/.391.

#BuntFail

In the first inning, with the Giants already trailing 2-0, Marco Scutaro attempted to move Pagan to third via a sacrifice bunt with no outs. Scutaro botched the bunt, Pagan got nailed at third, and the Giants didn’t score in the inning despite getting a walk, a single, a double, and a wild pitch.

The bunt is almost always a bad play with a runner already in scoring position. It’s an even worse play in the first inning when you already know you’re going to need more than one run to win the game. And it’s made all the more terrible when the bunt is being laid down by a guy hitting .322. Just try to drive the guy in next time, Marco.

Belt’s Approach

With the bases loaded in the first inning, Brandon Belt struck out looking on perhaps the only call home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez got right all game. Belt had fouled off a fastball in on the hands earlier in the at-bat. His bat path really only allows him to cover pitches down and in or right over the middle of the plate. He can’t handle hard stuff on the hands and he seems to foul off the stuff he gets to hit on the outside corner. His bat doesn’t stay in the zone long enough to allow him to cover much of the zone right now, which is why he’s hitting just .253.

However, his patience has allowed him to draw 16 walks to boost his OBP to .325. He had a nice walk in the game-tying rally in the seventh inning. I was going back and forth during Belt’s plate appearance to Shin-Soo Choo’s plate appearance in the Reds-Cubs game. Choo walked. Belt walked. Jesus wept. He likes hackers. I like watching guys who walk though. It’s more enjoyable for me than watching Pablo Sandoval hack at pitches that are about to hit him in the neck.

Zito is Zito is Zito

Barry Zito’s line: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 HR, 3 K. For a fifth starter throwing 82-84, that’s pretty good! Unfortunately, the Giants have three fifth starters right now in Zito (4.13 ERA), Lincecum (4.75), and whomever replaces Vogelsong’s 7.19 ERA.

Zito’s ERA in 2010 and 2012 was 4.15. The Giants won the World Series in both of those seasons. Thus, if he puts up a 4.15 ERA again this year, the Giants will win the World Series. They’re well on their way given Zito’s 4.13 ERA thus far in 2013. It’s science.

Pagan’s inside-the-park heroics will allow the Giants to forget about the fact that their starters have the National League’s third worst ERA right now.

That was awesome. The starting pitching has not been awesome though.