The San Francisco Giants are a different team when Angel Pagan is in the lineup. They have been waiting for about two months for him to come back healthy. He returned yesterday to the tune of two hits, but the Giants’ offense still sputtered. Will his return be enough to get the Giants in the playoffs or will other players have to step up?
Before his injury, Pagan was playing at an All-Star level, batting over .300 with a .350 on base percentage and 11 stolen bases, which were some of the best numbers among all leadoff hitters. At the time of his injury the Giants were 43-26, 17 games over .500, although they had just gotten swept by the Colorado Rockies at home by blowing three ninth inning leads. So Pagan’s injury came at a bad time for the team.
The same thing happened last year when Pagan got injured: the team went into an offensive funk. They didn’t have the spark plug, the swagger, the heart and soul of the team; or whatever other word you could come up with to describe Pagan. His injury forced bench players Gregor Blanco and Tyler Colvin to play more than they really should have. Also, Pagan’s injury put pressure on Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Michael Morse, who did not produce at the level necessary to combat Pagan’s injury.
Pagan’s return comes at a perfect time for the team as they are 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division race and they are right there in the Wild Card chase. Getting Pagan back could be the best acquisition that any National League team made at or around the trade deadline. Should the Giants play at least .600 baseball, which they did when Pagan was healthy, they could overtake the Dodgers or if not ensure that they make the postseason.
Getting Pagan back lengthens the Giants’ lineup significantly. Instead of being five deep, they are now seven deep and eight deep once Brandon Belt gets his swing back. They have a healthy Pagan, an emerging second baseman in Joe Panik to go along with Sandoval, Posey, Hunter Pence, Morse and Brandon Crawford. When this lineup was in tact in the beginning of the season they were averaging close to 5 runs per game and had the look of an elite offense.
And they were doing that without a second baseman. Now that they have a second baseman it makes their lineup even more formidable should Pagan provide the spark he did early in the season.
The Giants need Pagan big time as he is their most important player who could make the difference between them being a playoff team or a team that misses the playoffs and finishes disappointed. Whether or not Pagan’s impact is significant enough to take the Giants over the top remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to watch down the stretch.