Leading off: Angel Pagan or Nori Aoki
Mar 10, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Norichika Aoki (23) bats against the San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
When Angel Pagan has been healthy, he has been the San Francisco Giants solid lead-off man. But questions on whether or not he will be ready to go for the season opener and beyond have put Bruce Bochy in a position where the leadoff spot in the lineup is in limbo.
In speaking with Bochy, Chris Haft of MLB.com reported,
"“Manager Bruce Bochy isn’t certain whether he’ll assign Aoki or Angel Pagan to the leadoff spot when the Giants open the regular season April 6 at Arizona. If Aoki continues to display anything close to this proficiency, he’ll fit in any spot.“I’m still looking at it. I’ll leave it at that,” Bochy said, regarding the top of the order.”"
Mar 6, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Angel Pagan against the Texas Rangers during a spring training baseball game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
If you strictly look at career numbers, Aoki and Pagan are so similar, that it is difficult to give the advantage to one player (granted Pagan has been playing for much longer). Both have similar career BA (Aoki .287, Pagan .283), OBP (Aoki .353, Pagan .334), OPS (Aoki .741, Pagan .753) but Aoki has the has the advantage and strikes out fewer times per at bat (Aoki .089, Pagan .156). Combine his ability to make contact, with his speed and ability to quickly get out of the box and Nori can be an important asset for a team that lacks power and relies heavily on baserunners.
And Aoki is riding a hot streak. Through his last four Spring Training games, the Japanese outfielder has put the pressure on Boch to reconsider who bats first with his stellar performance at the dish. In those games, Aoki has hit .400 (6-for -15) including his second triple in the Cactus League.
I am going to trust Boch and have faith that he will make the right call
The Giant’s skipper likes to play the hot hand, and Aoki is warming up. Combine that with problems concerning Pagan’s back, and it would seem logical to make the call to put Nori at the top of the lineup.
It becomes more of an issue of continuity, in the case of Pagan’s health, to have Aoki (who has played in at least 132 games in each of his three MLB seasons) leadoff and put Pagan in the two spot which is slightly more interchangeable or even closer to the bottom of the lineup where he can add a spark.
It will definitely test the chemistry of the team if Pagan is (for lack of a better word) demoted in the lineup. I really believe, though, that because of the team’s make-up, they will go along with whatever is best for the team. And for me personally, I am going to trust Boch and have faith that he will make the right call.