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August 17, 2014 at 11:06 pm ET
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Giants: No Need to Panik
Joe Panik: What, me worry?

Joe Panik: What, me worry?

The San Francisco Giants had one of the ugliest Junes in baseball history. The term “June swoon” was even embarrassed to be associated with the club. The Giants put an exclamation point on their mid-season slide by bringing in a second baseman who never could catch the ball and now can’t hit it either -Dan Uggla.

The Giants didn’t need Uggla to spell U-G-L-Y. And the last couple of weeks haven’t looked much better in the win-loss column. The Giants lost five games in a row last week. But, in spite of this, the team is only four-and-a-half games out of first in the National League West and there is much reason for optimism.

One player to emerge since the All-Star Game is second baseman Joe Panik -called up from Fresno this year, where his play had been all-star caliber -.321 batting average, 45 runs-batted-in, 50 runs-scored in 74 games. Fans hoped Panik might put up at least solid numbers with the big club.
Alas, he struggled early. He barely hit above .200 himself (.216) in 17 games. But in the past 18 games, he’s hitting .323 with 20 runs scored in 18 games. He’s also playing solid defense with one error every 11 games and a .980 fielding percentage.

Also playing well in Angel Pagan’s absence is the previously much-maligned Gregor Blanco. He’s hit .293 in the last month and .375 in the last week. He probably could have been more productive had the Giants run him more. He’s had five stolen bases in as many attempts in 26 games. Defensively, you can’t improve much on a season with no errors in the outfield.

Also, Pagan is back from injury and appears to have recovered fully. The slide started when he and Brandon Belt when on the disabled list.

Add to that the season Pablo Sandoval has put up (.312 batting average) since the first month of the season where he had just 17 hits in 96 at-bats.

So, there are bright spots, but inconsistency is the reason the Giants have struggled. Even at a time like now where seven players are batting better than .275, the remainder of the team isn’t hitting. In the past month, twelve players are hitting .238 or worse.

Juan Perez has hit well in his second year at every level, and the Giants expected him to improve on last year’s stint in the big leagues with a better year this year, especially after he hit .316 with seven stolen bases in 36 games at Fresno. Like Uggla, he’s failed to perform, but he’s young and the Giants shouldn’t write him out of their future plans, yet. Two other players -Darren Ford and Tony Ciriaco have put up career numbers in AAA Fresno. It wouldn’t hurt anything to bring them up and give them a shot -particularly Ford who has 30 stolen bases in 41 attempts.

The last week hasn’t been kind either to outfielder Hunter Pence -who is having his annual slump where a new fan to the game wonders how he made the team -.208, 11 strikeouts, zero walks. Catcher Buster Posey is hitting .216 in the last seven days. The Giants would love to play him more at first, but they have no one to catch and no one at AAA looks like the answer. Andrew Susac was brought up before he was ready because Hector Sanchez is hurt. Susac’s hitting .190.

The Giants hoped first baseman Adam Duvall’s numbers -.296 ave., 26 homers at AAA Fresno- would translate to the bigs and so far they haven’t. The team was so desperate to fill the void left by Belt’s frequent trips to the disabled list that it called up Travis Ishikawa from Fresno. Let’s just say he’s not the answer. There’s a reason Belt’s struggles to return from being beaned earlier this year have mirrored the team’s woes.

Giants fans can also have some hope that the shortstop position might actually contribute offensively. The Giants brought up Ehire Adrianza for a look to give struggling shortsop Brandon Crawford a break. The reason Crawford’s hitting .227 on the year is he can’t hit right-handed pitching -.294 vs lefties compared to .192 vs righties) and the Giants need something at the bottom of the lineup when the stars at the top go cold.

Giants’ Manager Bruce Bochy has a wack-a-mole lineup. Every time he puts out a lineup, another slumping hitter pops up. For now, the Giants need to focus on RBI’s. They’ve been in the bottom-third of the league in the category all year. Pagan and Panik need to be at the top, Sandoval should bat third with Posey batting cleanup and Michael Morse in the fifth spot. Posey strikes out half the number of times Morse does though the rest of their numbers are comparable. When Pence stops swinging at pitches in the dirt, Manager Bruce Bochy can move him back up if need be or keep in the six spot.

Again, it could be worse. There are holes all over this team, but if they can get healthy and if they can just be consistently average across the board, they can still come back. The Dodgers aren’t exactly running away with the division. It’s only August. That’s a long time to make up four-and-a-half games.

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