Friday, March 16, 2012

Meet Gregor Blanco

From the KC Star
By now you've probably heard about Gregor Blanco. If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be the fourth outfielder this season. Before the fake games started, the Giants put out the word that they were going to ramp up the running game, and he's the guy who took it really seriously. He's got six stolen bases in seven attempts. He does this kind of stuff:
The non-roster invitee drew a walk in the bottom of the first and stunned the Indians by going first-to-third on a hit-and-run groundout to first base. Blanco scored a batter later on Pablo Sandoval’s soft groundout to the left side. If you’re keeping track at home, Blanco also went first-to-third on a wild pitch earlier this spring.
There's something slightly unnerving about emphasizing the running game. We've all learned from Moneyball that a team shouldn't put themselves in a position to give away outs, so no bunting and no stealing (or, at least don't make it your strategy). An aggressive running game can get players into trouble, so that they give away outs. In the photo up there from a game against Kansas City, Blanco pushed to second, overslid the bag and was subsequently tagged out.

And yet, after reading that quote it's difficult not to see the logic of aggressive baserunning, if the more capable players are doing it. If you take Blanco's moves out of the equation, here's the first inning of that game against Cleveland (names deleted to protect the innocent):
  1. Centerfielder walks. No out.
  2. Leftfielder grounds out to first, CF to second. One out.
  3. Thirdbaseman grounds out to shortstop, CF stays at second. Two out.
  4. Catcher ground out to short. Inning over.
That looks very 2011: first batter gets on, three groundouts. Now the first logical step seems to be, work on the hitting. But if you've got to play small ball, play small ball. The Giants will need the runs (or so it seems).

Still, it feels like a recipe for running into outs, though I think I can accept the occasional out if the said baserunner can get on base frequently. Which leads me to Blanco's career OBP: in 836 PA his OBP is .358.

I'd think if he makes the team, they would be expecting something comparable. To this OBP into perspective, it's a step in the right direction compared to their go-to outfielders for most of 2011: Rowand's OBP was .274, Torres' was .312, Ross posted .325, Schierholtz posted .326 and Burrell's was .352. And then there are Blanco's spring training stats, which get guys like Bruce Bochy talking like this:
“He can be a great starter, too,” Bochy said. “With those tools — I’m not going to pencil him in, but the player that you see is young and I’m sure at some point in his career he’s going to be starting.”
The evidence suggests that Blanco will be the fourth outfielder this season--maybe even starting with the Giants at some point in the future. Of course, before we get ahead of ourselves...those spring training numbers will have to translate into regular season success. And if that works out, I wouldn't mind the Giants fielding a player whose baserunning wreaks havoc on an opposing team's defense.

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