Please believe me, I'm not trying to play Devil's Advocate, and I'm not trolling you. Let's just examine this for a minute.
Does Gregor Blanco really need to be replaced? Is he that bad? Does he hurt us as an everyday left fielder?
Everyone initially would say, "Of course he needs to be replaced. He plays great D, but LF is a power position, and he can't hit it out. Hell, he can barely hit doubles, and doesn't steal enough bases."
Okay. Fair enough. He does seem to lack the ideal makeup of a left fielder... especially when you think Bonds every time "Left Field" and "Giants" appear in the same thought. Blanco just doesn't quite do enough while we're watching games all year to make us think that he's good enough to man the position on his own.
But is perception truly reality?
With all the MLB Hot Stove action going on and names being thrown around as free agent targets or potential trade acquisitions, I've checked out a fair amount of stats on guys. For stats, usually I go to Fangraphs, and really pore over the averages and percentages.
You know me by now. I'm not a big WAR or FLIPx or ASS+ believer (or whatever they're all called). I don't think numbers derived from all kinds of sources and mixed into a blender for a final number metric rating is the only way to evaluate players. Call me old school, call me an idiot, I don't care.
However, I do respect WAR as a decent ranking of whether a player hurts or helps a team. Despite my old man, conservative way of thinking, when a metric like WAR has Mike Trout as the best OF and Andrew McCutchen as #2, it's something that can be depended on for something. You can't really argue with that. Is Mike Trout really worth 10 extra wins, versus an average player like Ryan Doumit? Yeah. I think so, don't you?
This actually marks a partial turnaround for me on this issue.
So, knowing that having Mike Trout roaming your outfield and in your lineup wins you 10 extra games and having Ryan Doumit or Nick Markakis in yours only preserves the status quo, where would you think Gregor Blanco was in 2013? Hunter Pence?
It may surprise you. A lot of the stats and rankings will surprise you. Simply because most of us don't see Blanco as a starting caliber LF, but instead an easy scapegoat for the lack of power the Giants consistently display.
WAR says Pence is worth nearly 5.5 wins, and Blanco worth almost 3.
No matter what our eyes tell us, Blanco is an above average player-- 28th best on this list of qualified OFs. Pence was 6th.
This is both the interesting and annoying part of using the WAR metric to make any arguments. Would you rather have Blanco or Allen Craig? Blanco or Beltran? Cespedes, Cuddyer, even Norichka Aoki?
Blanco placed above all those guys in the WAR rankings.
This is why I cannot and absolutely will not use it as an end-all be-all for player evaluation like famed MLB Network Troll Brian Kenny, and for those whose entire blogs are based off metrics like this. Team baseball has too many moving parts to be defined by one guy's history and patterns.
I'm okay with using it as part of an evaluation though, so let's dig a little deeper.
Blanco's ranks versus the other qualified 50 outfielders in 2013.
If nothing else, this just proves that Blanco is a study in gives and takes. He's patient and makes a ton of contact, but doesn't hit for any power (as we knew already), but, what is up with him having the highest Line Drive percentage among all outfielders? Now that is a wild stat..
The thing that shocks me is how few times he crossed the plate in 2013. A lot of this can be attributed to how poor Blanco performed as a leadoff hitter in 2013 (as well as lousy clutch hitting behind him). He simply isn't up to the task and his supporting cast didn't help matters.
Is it possible that Blanco could significantly improve with the presence of a healthy and productive Angel Pagan leading off? The evidence would suggest as such. In fact, Blanco is a .248 career hitter leading off. Sometimes you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and you can't make a guy a leadoff hitter just because he's fast, makes contact, and walks at a decent rate.
Although we figured out just now that Blanco should never lead off unless medically necessary, the biggest issue with Gregor is not simply that he has below average power, but that he doesn't hit lefties well. Couple this with a weak Giants bench devoid of pop, and you have a serious hole against left handed pitchers. Giants brass knows this, and is trying to add a right-handed LF to complement Blanco. I suggested Mike Morse via free agency. There are also ideas of trading for someone.
My argument in all of this though, is that a cheap right-handed platoon mate (better than Andres Torres obviously) is the answer for the cost-conscious Giants, rather than trading for a new player entirely.
The recent names floated are Logan Morrison from the Marlins and Brett Gardner from the Yankees. Possibly even Ichiro.
Ok, all nice names, but they're also all left handed, and the entire point of this article is to prove that Blanco is an above average player that simply needs A) To not lead off, and B) to have his at bats versus lefties reduced to the minimum by instituting the buddy system.
Furthermore, I'd rather have Giants brass spend another $3-6MM annually to find Blanco a decent platoon mate than trade anyone worthwhile from our farm system to replace a guy that may not need replacing to begin with.
FURTHERMORE SOME MORE, the lack of power throughout the Giants lineup has more to do with the sub-par 2013 performances of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and the absence of Angel Pagan, than Blanco not playing well enough.
Yes, it is their fault more than it is his fault. Take it to the vault.
It rhymes so I said it.
Assuming Pagan is the everyday leadoff hitter (career .294 hitter in the #1 hole), Blanco gets pushed down to 6-8th (career .278 hitter in those spots), and they can find a righty LF that can be average versus LHPs, the problems are lessened.
This kind of patchwork problem solving can indeed be maddening for fans that want more, but ownership isn't willing to go nuts on free agents and this guy can't blame them. The approach isn't sexy and it doesn't satisfy our appetite for home runs, but it could work-- or at least prevent left field from hurting the 2014 Giants.