It was only last season when we heard the whispers and withstood the rumors surrounding Joe Panik: “He’s out of shape.” “He’s lost a step.” “He’s washed up.” “He is not the player we thought he was.” After a .177 start through 20 games things were not looking bright for Joe Panik’s future. Well, rumors of Joey Baseball’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Since those first twenty games he has hit .313 and played his usual sparkling second base. Even when he was not getting his hits Joe Panik was swinging the bat well and playing an excellent second base.
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) May 22, 2019
Last night the Giants second baseman hit a two-out two-run single to propel the Giants over the Braves in a thriller in the bottom of the ninth. The Giants would score three runs in that inning and steal two bases, each of which played a big role in the rally. Buster Posey had two hits to raise his average to .260 and Shaun Anderson pitched five mostly strong innings allowing only two runs and striking out three Braves on zero walks.
I’ve always loved Joe Panik since he was called up in 2014. His demeanor of humility and his everyman quality make him a kind of throwback ballplayer, someone who does not fit quite at home in the spectacle of sports in 2019. That Panik does many things well without being a 30-homer guy is one of the reasons I think he is a fan favorite. Joe Panik is a gamer and a player who seems to come up big in big games. Remember the 2014 NLCS? How about his triple in game 1 of the 2014 NLDS? What about that double play in game 7 of the 2014 World Series?
Panik is kind of the anti-analytics ball player. He is a second baseman whose overall value to a baseball team appears to be much greater than the sum of his WAR or OPS. He has spirit, grit and exceptional baseball instincts that cannot easily be quantified but that are easy to discern when you watch him play. He runs hard. He has good instincts on the basepaths and he almost never makes a mental gaffe. He is also one of the toughest players in Major League Baseball to strike out.
No matter their record, this 2019 Giants club seems to have a flair for the dramatic victory and does not quit. With thrilling wins over the Reds in Cincinnati, last night and a few others sprinkled throughout this young season I daresay they may not be a playoff contender but the Giants do make things exciting.
Speaking of walk-off wins, the Giants have more than their share this season and throughout baseball history.