I didn’t catch today’s game, but I did see this. That three-run homer, which won today’s game for the Giants, was one of two hits on the day for Angel Pagan, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. Over that span, he’s collected a total of 16 hits — seven of them going for extra bases — and he’s managed to raise his OPS nearly 400 points. More interestingly though, his performance has reaffirmed the importance of patience when it comes to making sweeping judgements about players.
Pagan had a .358 wOBA in 2009. That fell to .341 the next season, and dropped another 28 points to .313 last season. Then he stumbled out of the gate, hitting .171/.203/.303 in Spring, and failed to redeem himself in the first week of the regular season (.111/.172/.185). In spite of all the Spring Training stat caveats that are spouted ad nauseam throughout March, and the small-sample-size caveats that follow in April, it was easy to sour on Pagan quickly.
After watching a player for several weeks, their performance inevitably factors into our ever-changing perception of how good (or bad) that player is. We’re all human, after all.
And in this case, it perhaps didn’t seem like a player whose struggles were a product of random variation, because it was a continuation of a trend that had been going on for a few years. The narrative wrote itself: Pagan had put up progressively worse numbers since 2009, and 2012 was to be the next step in this decline phase.
Then Pagan started to hit. And eighteen games into the season, his overall numbers are right about where we’d expect them to be (give a few walks, take a few total bases). If he keeps this up (by which I mean his overall numbers) — which seems probable, he’ll be everything the Giants need him to be: a solid if unspectacular everyday centerfielder. Just another reminder that patience is a virtue.