A move into the leadoff spot in the batting order has been just the spark that San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik needed to get things going in 2019.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy penciled Joe Panik into the leadoff spot in the batting order for the first time on April 28.
Steven Duggar had seen the bulk of the action in the leadoff role and Kevin Pillar had also batted first a handful of times, but neither player was providing enough offensively to justify that spot in the order.
Still, it was a bold move, considering Panik was hitting just .183/.263/.268 and mired in a 2-for-18 slump at the time.
That’s the beauty of baseball. It doesn’t always have to make sense. It just has to work.
Since making the move, Panik is hitting .321/.413/.434 with eight runs scored in 14 games, and he has strung together a respectable 14-game on-base streak after going 1-for-3 with a double on Wednesday.
With that, he has quietly raised his season numbers to a respectable .242/.329/.339 with six doubles and two home runs, and his 0.4 WAR trails only Pablo Sandoval (0.9) and Evan Longoria (0.5) on the roster.
That’s been a far cry from last season, when Panik hit a dismal .211 with a .544 OPS in 122 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot, compared to a .297 average and .719 OPS over 157 plate appearances hitting second.
It makes sense, then, why the Giants waited so long to give Panik a shot.
It’s easy to forget that the 28-year-old was an above-average offensive performer as recently as 2017 when he posted a 102 OPS+ while tallying 43 extra-base hits during a 1.2 WAR season.
Given his age and track record, there’s no reason to think he can’t continue being a productive table-setter out of the top spot.
And with free agency looming after the 2020 season, the Giants front office would love nothing more than for him to rebuild some value to emerge as a potential trade chip while they move forward with rebuilding efforts.
For now, his resurgence atop the lineup has been one of the few bright spots for the San Francisco Giants offensively.