Rookie second baseman Joe Panik has won over the hearts of all San Francisco Giants fans. His slick transition from bashful rookie to calm and collected everyday major league player is a pivotal reason the Giants now find themselves in the thick of a playoff race. His season hasn’t just been impressive on a scale of the Giants, though. He has been so good it would be rude not to make a case for him to win the National League rookie of the year award.
Right from day one, when he pinch hit against the Arizona Diamondbacks on his major league debut, he exhibited that he has the mentality of a big leaguer. Unlike almost every other rookie in the history of baseball, Panik was patient in his first at bat. Prototypically, first timers try to prove themselves to their managers by swinging their way onto the team. Panik, on the other hand? Nope. He took a walk. The second baseman battled off some tough pitches, had several exceptional takes, and eventually forced his way aboard with a base on balls.
Panik’s statistics regarding the matter are extraordinary. His Z-contact% of 93 ranks 20th among all National League players and first among all National League rookies, obviously. Furthermore, he has a O-contact% of 72, an O-swing% of 26, which ranks in the top thirty of all National League hitters, which, once more, is pretty exceptional for a rookie. Fangraphs spoke to Panik about his amazing plate discipline:
"Panik shrugged that lack of attention off. “That’s just the type of player I am. I just try to stay within my physical limitations so to speak,” the second baseman said earlier this week. “I know what type of hitter I am.”When asked to describe what sort of hitter he is, Panik doesn’t hesitate. “I’m a line drive hitter and I know that if I get the ball up in the air I know it’ll go,” he said. “I’m not one of those guys that will try to hit home runs, I’m one of those guys that tries to get the ball in play, shoot from line to line and hope good things happen.”"
Experts often talk about ‘slowing the game down.’ A trait which is considered to be quintessential in a rook’. Rather than attempting to rush everything and panic, the infielder was calm and collected once more. He let the ball come to him, took his time, and has since become an excellent defensive player. Slapping the tag of excellent defensive player on him doesn’t stem from his arm, his range or anything of the sort, rather his attitude, and ability to slow the game down.
Panik’s batting average of .300 ranks head and shoulders above any other rookie in the league. His on base percentage is second best, his wRC+ of 108 is third and his wRAA of 1.7 sits him fourth. His miniscule K% of only 10.9 ranks him second, and his rather impressive clutch rating of 0.7 leaves him seventh in the National League. All in all, Panik is evidently one of the best rookie hitters. When matched with his solid defense and his unrivalled attitude and mentality, it surely makes him a candidate for the rookie of the year award.
What’s more impressive is to consider where he hits. Unlike many rookies, he isn’t hidden down at the bottom of the order, where, in reality, he doesn’t matter copious amounts. Nope, Panik hits second in the Giants order. Collectively, along side, Angel Pagan, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval they form the ‘Killer P’s.’ There’s a reason he has been given a nickname as such, it’s the sort of nickname that is merited. Earned. Deserved.
All considered, there’s no reason to rule out Joe Panik of the running for National League rookie of the year. He has everything going for him, great statistics, hitting in the teeth of the order for a playoff bound team, an unrivalled plate discipline, solid defense. Yeah, he essentially has everything going for him, except one thing: He isn’t Jacob deGrom. The New York Mets’ rookie ace is his biggest competition, but don’t rule out our Joe just yet. Don’t panik. Sorry, it’s very hard not use a panic pun.