Can one man make a difference on a team? If you ask the San Francisco Giants (52-64), the answer is yes. They have been missing their starting center fielder, Angel Pagan, since May 25th, when he scored his final run of the season with a walk-off in the park home run against the Colorado Rockies.
Since Pagan’s season ending injury, the Giants are 26-44 and in last place in the National League (NL) West. They are a season high 13 games under .500 and 14.0 games behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers. This marks the most games the Giants have been out of first place in the NL West since the end of the 2007 season when they finished 19.0 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
When looking at the Giants’ record, you can’t help but wonder what it would be like if Pagan was still in the line up, leading off. With Pagan, the team was 27-22 and going back and forth between first and second place with the Diamondbacks and five games over .500.
Pagan suffered from a torn left hamstring and underwent surgery in June to repair the tear. He was scheduled to miss 12 weeks in total placing him to return in mid-September. At the time, Pagan was hitting .262 with a .662 OBP, six stolen bases, 10 doubles, one triple, three homers, 24 RBIs and had 30 runs scored in 46 games.
Giants’ right fielder, Hunter Pence, says Pagan is missed in the outfield and that he is a catalyst for the team.
“We absolutely miss him, there is no doubt about that,” said Pence. “He is a catalyst for our offense and is an extremely exceptional defender. We definitely missed him this year.”
Pagan is currently in extended spring training in Arizona where he is doing baseball activities and working out. However, the Giants’ front office won’t be able to tell how well he is doing until he starts stretching his hamstring. He’s currently only jogging and will hopefully be moving to sprints within the next few weeks.
Manager, Bruce Bochy, is anticipating Pagan’s return when the rosters expand to 40 on September 1st or shortly after.
“He’s coming around. He’s actually doing quite well,” Bochy said. “He’ll have to some games here, I don’t know when we’ll start that, but it’s good to hear that he’s upbeat and he’ll be playing in September.”
The Giants have been desperately looking for a credible lead off hitter within their own line up, but have not been successful. Bochy has had Gregor Blanco & Andres Torres trying to fill the shoes of Pagan but they continuously struggled at the plate. More recently, he has had Marco Scutaro and Pence leading off trying to find a hitter that can be comparable to Pagan.
Giants’ leadoff batters have combined to go just 10-for-86 (.116) with eight runs scored since the All-Star break (last 22 games). In Saturday’s game, Scutaro finished 1-for-4 with a RBI and run scored in the leadoff position. It also was his first RBI since the All-Star break.
The Giants beginning of the end could easily be pinpointed to when Pagan was placed on the disabled list officially on May 28th. Until his return, the Giants will have to continue to shuffle leadoff hitters and hope to start climbing back to the top.
If the post-season dream is already shattered, then it’s no different then 2011, when the Giants’ were without Buster Posey after a season ending injury. In 2013, Pagan is the one desperately missed by a team who needs him in more ways then one.
The Giants are already looking forward to not only September, but to next season, when Pagan returns to his spot on top of the line up and in center field.