Made-up stats are too quickly adopted as facts. So, for the record, free agent center fielder Angel Pagan did not have a career year with the Giants in 2012.
Northern California fans apply the phrase “career year” too quickly to free agents leaving the Giants, or the Athletics, simply because they only really know what the free agent player did in San Francisco or Oakland. So, Giants’ fans who didn’t follow Pagan in his first six big league seasons assume that 2012 was a “career year,” because he played well and the Giants won the World Series.
In Pagan’s case, “career year” is thrown around because he’s a free agent center fielder and the last free agent center fielder the Giants signed was Aaron Rowand. Remember? He was coming off a career year that was clearly a statistical outlier at age 27. His production dropped closer to his mean, then dipped below it, in San Francisco after he signed a rich, rich contract.
It turns out that free agent Pagan batted .288 for the Giants, which is quite close to his career mark of .281 and below the .290 he batted in 151 games for the Mets in 2010. His .338 on-base percentage virtually equaled his career mark of .333, but was below his OBP from 2008, 2009 and 2010.
See? The numbers show that Pagan was good in 2012, but not the best he has ever been. He hit eight home runs for the Giants, but he’s been averaging 10 per full season in the big leagues. His slugging percentage was .440, up from his career average of .424, but down from the .487 in 2009.
Career year? His .778 OPS with San Francisco is about the same as his .765 OPS in 2010 with the Mets, well below a half-season OPS of .837 in New York in 2009. His career OPS is .757. (And, yeah, all these numbers are making my head hurt.)
Pagan’s particular gift offensively is his incredible speed. His 15 triples had a great deal to do with playing in AT&T Park, but he had 11 triples in 88 games in 2009, so it’s hardly reasonable to say he’ll never come close to 15 triples in a year again. And, his 29 stolen bases this season are down from his totals of the previous two years with the Mets.
Oh, he scored more runs (95) for the Giants than he had with any of the simply atrocious Cubs or Mets teams he played for because these Giants had better hitters around Pagan. He got 178 hits (well over his average of 158 per season) and Buster Posey’s presence alone could’ve accounted for Pagan scoring more runs than he has before.
Giants fans acknowledge that the organization might have to take a pass on Pagan returning in 2013 so they use “career year” as a trope intended to diminish Pagan’s future value. The fact that the Giants erred in signing Rowand for too many dollars and too many years coming off the best year of his career has nothing to do with Pagan’s value now.
The club let all of its free agents go without qualifying offers Thursday. A qualifying offer to a free agent would’ve simply meant that if he signed with another team, the Giants would’ve been awarded a pick in the 2013 amateur draft. So, Giants fans celebrated Sunday night … enjoyed the parade Wednesday and begin Friday knowing Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt might never play for San Francisco again.
Pagan’s a good, not great, offensive performer. His ability to cover ground and make plays in that spacious AT&T outfield must be taken into consideration as the Giants, eventually, negotiate his possible return. He’s in his prime right now and, a quick look at available free agents reveal few who can defend center field in San Francisco like Pagan can. (I think his nickname “Caballo Loco” — Crazy Horse — makes him a great fit for The City, too.)
If Pagan can get another team to offer him a five-year contract, OK. Best wishes. Thanks for the memories. It’s hard to imagine a five-year deal for a hitter who averages eight homers with a .757 career OPS and .424 career slugging percentage. But, if Pagan gets one, then start imagining how minor leaguer Gary Brown realistically makes the leap from Double A Richmond to San Francisco to patrol center field in 2013.
Just don’t buy into the “career year” notion when considering Pagan’s value to the Giants. The guy did what he typically does for a team, just playing with better players around him.