There was a not-insignificant chance that Shane Victorino was going to be on the Giants. Brian Sabean almost always has a pricey veteran in center field, and he's never been shy about getting a new one. Randy Winn turned into Dave Roberts who turned into Aaron Rowand. And if Angel Pagan left in free agency, Victorino was one of the options to replace him.
Victorino was worth six wins last year, according to Baseball-Reference.com. But those six wins were not worth your soul. Pagan did you a favor. For that, we thank him.
It came at a cost, though. Pagan is a complicated Lego Technic motorcycle, and baseball is a seven-year-old kid playing with it like it's made out of metal. It's going to get messed up and fixed and messed up again, and eventually it's going to get messed up bad enough for the kid to walk away. For now, we just have to accept that Pagan is going to have dings and scrapes, and that he's not long for 162 games every year.
It's the quality of the games this year, not the quantity. What kind of quality should the Giants expect?
Probably a fair amount. Pagan kind of came out of nowhere as a 27-year-old with the Mets, and he moved from stellar to acceptable to iffy in his first three years with them. It made him hard to evaluate. Which was the real Pagan? The .300-hitting triples monster from 2009, or the .262-hitting injury case from 2011? It was impossible to tell without more evidence.
We have more evidence. The answer is somewhere in the middle, which is mighty fine for an average defender in center. A quick list of Pagan's park-adjusted OPS:
2009 - 122
2010 - 108
2011 - 94
2012 - 120
2013 - 116
Another one of those seasons, please. Before you wish it on the monkey paw, though, make sure to stipulate the proper number of at-bats. Pagan's hamstring problems last year still scare the heck out of me. Don't forget this horrifying passage:
Pagan’s left hamstring tendon wasn’t just fixed, he said. It was removed completely, and the structure of his left leg was altered as a result. He now has two tendons instead of three, and he’ll have to do extra rehab and strengthening work for the rest of his career.
New analogy: His body is a drunk guy playing with fireworks at a Fourth of July party. Wait for it ... wait for it ...
If you're looking to be sad, let's tell the tale of another centerfielder with interesting route-taking skills. A quick list of his park-adjusted OPS:
1998 - 124
1999 - 111
2000 - 92
2001 - 100
2002 - 95
He was the same age as Pagan was in those five seasons up there. Then when he turned 32, he evaporated and never came back. He's listed on Pagan's list of comparable players at Baseball-Reference.com.
That player was Marvin Benard.
Pagan, by WAR, was always more valuable than Benard because of the defense. Pagan might be an adventure out there, but Benard was a six-volume fantasy epic with 18 invented languages and a glossary the size of a Vonnegut book. But the point is that sometimes the glad-to-have-you centerfielders just disappear. Rowand was 32 when he fell in the toilet. That's my big fear. That and the injuries. Because of the freaky robo-knee.
Not this year, though.
Good enough to help the Giants win. Not good enough to prevent us from having the same conversation next year.