In many ways, Joe Panik is one of the most consistent baseball players around. His approach hasn’t changed much. Each year, you can expect him to be among the best at avoiding strikeouts with some light power potential. Just check out his contact, hard-hit, and swing rates over his career.
Steady as a rock.
But then you look at his results, and they wobbled between good to great to meh to good to Y I K E S. Panik’s a tough nut to crack because nothing about him seems to change but he’ll suddenly be much worse. Last season, Bryan and I each wrote separate pieces about how Panik would be fine because he was still the same guy who made an All-Star team with the same hard-hit rate and exit velocity and discipline and yadda yadda yadda.
But then he wasn’t fine. His best calendar month was April when he had a .312 wOBA (just a teensy tiny bit below league average), and it was all downhill from there. Panik had to deal with injuries and those likely contributed to his struggles. Even then, he was still hitting the ball as hard and as often as he always had, but he never even matched what he did in 2017 let alone his 2015 All-Star season.
His performance was so bad that it wasn’t a sure thing that he would be tendered a contract let alone retain his starting job.
He carried his troubles in 2019, slashing .202/.277/.274 for a 54 wRC+ in through April. He had just four extra base hits all month. Maybe if Yangervis Solarte hadn’t gotten off to an even worse start, maybe Panik would be riding the bench. But it’s a good thing that didn’t happen because Panik has quietly put together his best two week stretch since he opened last season with two consecutive game-winning solo homers.
It’s been easy to miss because his season numbers still look bad. On the year, he’s hitting .240/.324/.331, but since April 28, Panik is slashing .315/.397/.426, and he has reached base in 14 straight games. That’s the longest on-base streak by a Giant this year.
He’s finally getting some batted-ball luck to work in his favor. Last season, he underperformed his expected wOBA by .035 points. That was the difference between him being average and being in the bottom six percent of the league. It’s been the same story this year, but now he’s finally starting to get balls through the defense. It’s about dang time.
We’ve been waiting a year for Panik’s results to match his stuff. For the last two weeks, it has. That’s admittedly a short time, but it’s still a welcome sight.