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My Off-Day Ray Of Sunshine Is Named Gregor Blanco

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I wrote earlier this week that I dreaded the trade deadline. The fear was that Brian Sabean & Co. would feel close enough to a playoff spot in a few weeks to be buyers but needing to buy in bulk to make a difference with this very flawed team.

But Sabes threw a lot of cold water onto any notion that the brain trust is itchy to make trades. My favorite quote was that trading this early was asking "to get your clock cleaned."

So, good. No panic. Depression, despair, disgust, yes, but no panic! Also no reason today to get into various trade nolascos, I mean, scenarios. Instead, let's dig into something interesting Sabean said about one of his current players:

"Gregor Blanco has stepped up to the point of distinguishing himself, at least early on. I think he's ninth in on base percentage out of 40 qualifiers for the leadoff spot, he ranks first in zone rating, and third in runs saved at +13 amongst all center fielders. So that's not a problem. Leadoff spot's not a problem."
First of all, is he right? Blanco doesn't have enough CF innings to qualify for the leaderboard, but when the threshold is lowered to 100 innings, he is second in Fangraph's UZR/150. Close enough. His OBP overall is a chewy .351, and even better from the leadoff spot at .361. But here's something odd, with a small sample size caveat: When he actually leads off an inning, his OBP is .174; leading off a game, it's .325. He's also done most of his damage against righties this year and for his career; we can probably assume Bochy will keep platooning him with Andres Torres, whose splits as a right-handed batter against lefties are terrific.

Something else I dug up: Blanco for his career is 35 for 69 with 14 sacrifices when he bunts. He's a .507 bunter. That seems spectacular! When he bunts for a hit, more than half the time he gets a hit; there are probably a few instances in which he's reached on an error, too. How spectacular is it? I can't figure out how to do historical comparisons, so I'll just pick a few leadoff types or famous bunt artistes and look them up, too. Sadly, Fangraphs doesn't have bunt records for earlier generations, so nothing for Brett Butler, Vince Coleman, Ty Cobb, Rod Carew, or Maury Wills. Here's who I found:

Juan Pierre .389
Scott Podsednik .406 (The Ted Williams of bunting.)
Jose Reyes .465
Kenny Lofton .581
Ichiro Suzuki .591
Derek Jeter .677 (Of course.)

Blanco might be a great bunter, but he's no Captain Calm Eyes. Still, you figure he should bunt more. Even if third basemen squeeze in and cut off some of those bunts, he'd win by slapping more balls through the left side of the infield. Bunt, Gregor, bunt!

Back to Sabes' comment. Gregor Blanco is getting on base, and he's saving a lot of runs with his glove in center field. When Angel Pagan returns next year (a return this year seems just short of miraculous), might the Giants re-think Pagan's spot in the batting order? He's not a high-OBP guy. If Blanco continues to improve in that area, and with more everyday experience and good health, I can imagine he would, he's a better leadoff candidate in 2014. Plus, Pagan slugged .440 last year, and he hit 11 home runs with the Mets in 2010. Not saying he can morph into a power hitter in his mid-30s, but hitting sixth or seventh he'd still be useful. Whether Pagan should stay in center when he returns is another story. For now I'll stick with Gregor Blanco, one reason to feel good about this season and to look forward to 2014.

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