So, uh, Joe Panik, huh. Since coming back from the DL, the Giants second baseman is hitting (deep sigh) .116/.235/.116, good for a wRC of -1, and has been one of the many, many factors that's led to the offense looking so anemic. So what's going on with him? Why has he been so un-Paniklike?
Your first instinct here could be to blame the aftereffects of his concussion, to say he's still feeling it, and that's why he's been bad lately. The only problem with that is most of us wouldn't be qualified to make that diagnosis in person, much less through the TV set, and that probably we absolutely shouldn't do that. Okay? Okay.
Do you think that Panik is hitting into bad luck? He is! We've all seen the line drives that haven't gotten through and the grounders that also haven't gotten through. Since coming back, his BABIP is .125, which is absurdly low. However, when you plug his batted ball profile into the best xBABIP calculator we have – by which I mean the first one that came up when I Googled "xBABIP calculator" – it should still only be around .250, which is still quite bad! Panik is unlucky, sure, but he's also doing a whole lot wrong.
The first problem you notice when looking at the stats is that he's not hitting the ball hard anymore. When you look at his first half and second half splits, there's been a massive drop in the number of balls he's hit hard, and a corresponding rise in the number he's hit softly. He's been hitting more line drives, but they're soft line drives, so that doesn't really help. He's also been hitting way more fly balls, but they're soft fly balls, so that really hurts. A lazy fly ball won't ever really find a hole.
It's not like Panik is doing everything wrong since coming back, though. He's striking out less and walking more than he ever has. But the downside is, Panik isn't hitting for any power. A lot of that is related to the issues with batted ball speed, and you can see here how that's progressed over time:
Now, ignore August and September from last year because that's a total of 4 games or so (don't ignore April, but be aware that it was his worst month of 2015), but you can see how when he's going right, he's hitting fastballs hard. Right now, he isn't.
Unfortunately, Fangraphs doesn't separate out its plate discipline numbers into first half/second half splits, so you can't really tell how those change over the course of the year (or they do do that and I don't know where. Either way!). But if you look at Panik's whole year numbers, he's swinging more inside the zone and making more contact. It's entirely possible that since he's getting the bat on the ball more with less to show for it, he might not have as much muscle behind his swing as he did last year, or in the early part of this year. That's what swinging more, striking out less, and making weaker contact says to me.
If that is the problem, the good news is it's fixable with some help from Hensley Meulens. The bad news is he hasn't fixed it yet. Right now, Joe Panik isn't hitting much of anything, and it's hard to watch.