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Panik respects history, strives to improve

Giants 2nd baseman focused on footwork this offseason
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants' 60th anniversary of their move to San Francisco serves as a reminder of how the past and present combine to become tradition.

To understand this, consider the position of second base in general, and the performance of Joe Panik in particular.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants' 60th anniversary of their move to San Francisco serves as a reminder of how the past and present combine to become tradition.

To understand this, consider the position of second base in general, and the performance of Joe Panik in particular.

View Full Game Coverage

Spring Training information

Entering his fourth full season as a regular, Panik has sustained the productivity, if not excellence, that has typified Giants second basemen during the second half of their stay by the Bay.

"There's a lot of history in this organization," said Panik, who went 0-for-3 Tuesday in the Giants' 14-12 Cactus League victory over Arizona. "The second basemen, the players of the past, they're the ones who set the high standard. I'm the one who has to keep that standard high. That's why you play hard. It's up to us to carry that tradition and pass it down the line to future Giants."

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The second-base lineage began with Robby Thompson, who manned the position from 1986-96. Next was Jeff Kent, who played his way onto the Hall of Fame ballot primarily with his feats as a Giant (1997-2002). Then came Ray Durham, an indifferent defender but a presence at the plate.

Following short-term bursts of glory from Freddy Sanchez and Marco Scutaro, along came Panik, San Francisco's first-round Draft choice in 2011 who's mostly unspectacular yet highly effective, and thus must be watched almost daily to appreciate.

To be sure, Panik's signature moment as a Giant was spectacular -- his diving stop of Eric Hosmer's ground ball and subsequent scoop to Brandon Crawford to start a third-inning double play in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series at Kansas City.

Video: WS2014 Gm7: Panik starts stellar reviewed double play

Since then, Panik has remained steady.

Panik lacks the power of Kent or Durham, and he's years from matching Thompson's longevity. But among the six players who have appeared in at least 400 games at second base for San Francisco, Panik's .282 batting average eclipses that of Durham (.276), Tito Fuentes (.262), Thompson (.257) and Hal Lanier (.229). Only Kent's .297 average exceeds Panik's.

Panik also harbors an old-fashioned aversion to striking out. He was the toughest National Leaguer to retire on strikes in the previous two years, averaging 9.9 and 9.5 at-bats per strikeout in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

"I understand what type of hitter I am," Panik said. "I'm not a guy who's going to hit 40 home runs. I have to be able to battle with two strikes."

Panik, who in 2016 became the only Giants second baseman besides Thompson to win a Gold Glove Award for fielding prowess, brings the same diligence to defense.

Video: Panik wins NL Gold Glove at second base

"Every time he goes home in the winter, he wants to know what he can get better at, what he needs to work on. He's dedicated to his craft," said Giants third-base coach Ron Wotus, who supervises the team's infielders.

This past offseason, footwork was Panik's focus -- economizing his movement to maintain and even improve his quickness.

Said Panik, "Every offseason, I'm always thinking, 'How can I become a better, complete ballplayer?' -- whether it's offensively, defensively, physically. You're always trying to get better, because if you're not, you're basically getting worse."

That shouldn't be a concern in the near future for Panik, who at 27 is the Giants' youngest projected starting position player.

"Because of the makeup and the man, he's a guy who's going to continue to get the most out of his ability," Wotus said.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Joe Panik