Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why Nori Aoki?

 My first reaction has been that Brian Sabean has decided that starting Gregor Blanco every day and having Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa as the 4th and 5th outfielders isn't really that good an option, particularly given that Angel Pagan hasn't played a full season since 2012.

Juan Perez had some great moments in the 2014 postseason but the bottom line is that he went 5 for 25. He's just not much of a hitter.

Nori has racked up a 7.5 WAR in 3 years. That's more than decent.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs has a long but fascinating explanation of the Aoki signing. Bottom line -- Aoki should be a decent replacement for Michael Morse: a far better defender who's not going to go on the DL.

He's also not going to hit a lot of HRs in a park where it's damn difficult to hit them. Sullivan projects the Giants to hit the lowest amount of HRs in MLB this year. 

Here's part --

Yet there’s so much more to baseball than home runs. Sabean, at least, is betting on that being true. Dave already wrote some time back that Aoki compares very well to Nick Markakis, who signed with the Braves for $44 million. Aoki has signed for a minimum of $4.7 million and one year, and he’s signed for a maximum of $12.5 million and two years. Aoki apparently turned down a bigger offer or three because of San Francisco’s comfort and track record, but I think he’s been pretty clearly undervalued, which makes this a good get for a team whose success somehow always seems sneaky.
At the best of times, Aoki wasn’t a home-run hitter. As a rookie in Milwaukee, he knocked out ten dingers. Then he hit eight, then he hit one. His power didn’t translate to Kauffman Stadium from Miller Park, as Kauffman’s plenty bigger and Aoki’s power is just about completely down the right-field line. He’s yanked every single one of his career home runs that wasn’t an inside-the-parker (of which he’s hit one). According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Aoki has hit one home run with a standard distance of at least 390 feet. He’s averaged 372 feet. He’s hit weak home runs, basically, and he’s hit a total of three career dingers that would’ve left every MLB ballpark.
San Francisco shouldn’t be bad for him — AT&T Park will yield home runs down the right-field line, and of course there’s the triple spot in the right-center gap. AT&T will be no more difficult for Aoki than Kauffman, and I probably shouldn’t even be dwelling on power anyway. Aoki has selling points, and power’s never been among them.
He’s very difficult to strike out. Every year, Aoki posts one of baseball’s highest contact rates. He doesn’t chase much, so Aoki can also work a walk. He’s shown absolutely no vulnerability against left-handed pitchers, so he doesn’t need to be platooned, and there might be no less shiftable hitter in the game. Aoki hits the ball anywhere and everywhere, provided you’re only looking within 350 feet of home plate. Though people remember some Aoki baserunning gaffes, he’s not a lousy baserunner. Though people remember some Aoki defensive gaffes, he’s not a lousy defender. As a matter of fact, by both DRS and UZR, he’s been above-average. He did see the bench during the World Series, but then just about everybody is an inferior defender to Jarrod Dyson. Aoki doesn’t have baseball’s greatest defensive instincts, but to this point he’s made more than enough plays.
In some sense, Aoki might seem redundant with Gregor Blanco, a versatile outfielder who’s also underrated for not having any power. But now the Giants have four functional outfielders, instead of three and Juan Perez. And while Angel Pagan is good, he hasn’t played every day since 2012. In 2013, he had surgery on his leg. In 2014, he had surgery on his back. It would’ve been irresponsible for a contending team to go into the year with three decent outfielders, and one of them being Pagan, so the Giants have done themselves an affordable favor, improving depth now and at the very least strengthening the bench.


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