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Giants Acquire Pagan to Upgrade the Leadoff Spot

Posted By Howard Bender On December 7, 2011 @ 11:21 am In Outfielders | No Comments

Based on some of the names Brian Sabean was rumored to be shopping at the winter meetings, it was hard to figure the Giants would pull off any sort of a deal, let alone one that would actually serve as an upgrade for the team.  But when he dealt centerfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez to the Mets yesterday in exchange for 30 year old Angel Pagan, he did just that.  We’ll leave the defensive debate for Jack Moore’s piece over in FanGraphs ( I threw in my two cents in the comments section).  RotoGraphs is fantasy and in fantasy, for position players,  it’s about the hitting.  And offensively speaking, Pagan should fare well in San Francisco and improve the team’s leadoff hitting, something they are in desperate need of doing.

There are plenty of similarities when comparing Pagan and Torres — both were late-bloomers who, after years of part-time work, finally got the opportunity to play regularly for their respective teams in 2010.  In that year, they each posted career bests in both home runs and stolen bases and provided an offensive spark that few people saw coming.  They also both came back down to earth the following season.  Expectations were high coming into 2011 and neither delivered the goods.

But there are also numerous differences in their game and in those differences is where Pagan’s edge is found.  Again, we’re talking strictly offensive production here.  You may think (as most of us do) that Torres brings a better glove to the table and that may be so.  But with the bat, the 30 year old Pagan brings plenty more.

Given the fact that both are leadoff hitters, I immediately turn to their on-base numbers.  While Pagan’s career .331 OBP is certainly not a mark on which offensive dreams are built, it is a definite improvement over the .318 mark of Torres.  Yes, Torres has a better overall walk rate (9.2% vs 7.5%), but his 22.8% strikeout rate helps pull that OBP right back down into the gutter.

Pagan’s overall plate discipline is also a staunch improvement than that of Torres.  Just look at the comparisons for their contact rate (87.6% vs 77.8%), their SwStr% (5.3% vs 10.0%),and even how often they swing outside the zone (27.2% vs 28.4%).  Not only does Torres swing more often overall (45.3% to Pagan’s 44.0%), but he’s also less successful which makes him a less effective hitter — something you don’t like to see in a leadoff guy.

Then there’s the speed factor to consider.  Both have great speed and have proven to be valuable commodities on the basepaths, but the edge certainly goes to Pagan for his efficiency as he owns a career 78.5% SB percentage to that of Torres which sits at a still respectable, but not as good 74.1%.

Now obviously predicting how each will produce this season can be difficult.  There are a world of other factors, both tangible and intangible, that will likely come into play.  But if you’re just going by the numbers, then the odds of one out-producing the other are certainly in favor of Pagan.  And if that holds true, then the rest of the lineup should benefit as well.  With the right guys setting the table, the production of players like Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval should improve and ultimately help the Giants score more runs, a quality they haven’t possessed since…well…since the days of Barry.

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