After being called up on June 6th from Fresno (which sent down John Bowker to the Grizzlies in the process), Pat Burrell has made quite the splash in the Bay Area.
In 10 games and 31 plate appearances so far, Burrell is hitting .407 with two home runs, five RBI and has a wOBA of .497 and a wRAA of 4.3. That is a vast improvement from his tenure in Tampa this season, where he hit only two home runs and posted a batting average of .202 and a wOBA of .283 in 96 plate appearances.
However, how real is this start from Burrell? Is it real like Brad Penny's arrival last season with the Giants? Or is Burrell most likely going to hit a skid, and fall back to the numbers he put up in 146 games with the Rays? And, what does Burrell in the lineup mean for the rest of this Giants roster?
First off, I'm really not sure about Burrell's start. First off, you have to look at the BB and K numbers in Tampa and in San Francisco this season.
Tampa: 10.4 percent (BB percentage), 33.3 percent (K percentage), 0.36 (BB/K ratio) in 96 plate appearances.
San Francisco: 9.7 percent (BB percentage), 14.8 percent (K percentage), 0.75 (BB/K ratio) in 31 plate appearances.
Burrell's career strikeout percentage is 28.2 percent, so for Giants fans to think the 14.8 percent strikeout percentage is going to hover around that number for this rest of the season is foolish thinking. That being said, he does have a 0.60 career BB/K ratio, and his 9.7 percent BB percentage is comforting. Giants fans should definitely get used to seeing Burrell strikeout a little more often as he gets more playing time (another indicator: his 88.9 percent contact rate so far; Burrell has a career contact rate of 77.9), but if he can keep his walk percentage high (which he even did in Tampa), he is totally capable of putting up respectable BB/K numbers, which would make him tolerable in the lineup at the very least.
Some other numbers that are interesting to look in terms of Burrell's arrival to San Francisco are his batted ball numbers. Burrell has a 20.8 percent line drive percentage and a 28.6 percent HR/FB ratio. To put those percentages in perspective, Burrell had sub-20 line drive rates in Tampa (17.3 percent in 2009 and 15.8 percent in 2010) and sub-10 HR/FB rates as well (9.8 percent last year, 7.4 percent this year in Tampa).
The line drive percentage is a good indicator of things to come, since it is close to his career average which is 20.7 percent. As for the HR/FB ratio, it's definitely impossible in terms of being sustained, but I do believe he can at the very least, post a HR/FB ratio over 10 percent for the remainder of the season with the Giants. After all, he never had a HR/FB ratio under 12.6 percent prior to his arrival in Tampa, and his career HR/FB percentage is 16 percent. Granted, you have to remember that was in Philadelphia at a hitter-friendly ballpark, but even so, his career HR/FB numbers prior to Tampa are impressive regardless of team and ballpark.
Of course, while I'm happy with Burrell's start, I'm not totally on the Bandwagon yet. Since coming to San Francisco, the Giants have played Burrell in games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Oakland, and Baltimore. With the exception of the Reds all those teams are pretty poor (only the Reds have a winning record entering today), and with the exception of Oakland, the pitching staffs are mediocre (only the A's ranked higher than 22nd in MLB in terms of team ERA).
I am interested to see how Burrell will perform against the tougher pitching staffs in the NL West (San Diego, Colorado and Los Angeles rank 1st, 5th and 14th respectively in terms of team ERA). It's one thing for Burrell to feast on the Orioles and Reds. However, if Burrell can come up big against the NL West, than he certainly will prove that he was a worthwhile pickup.
In terms of Burrell's effect on the roster, it may not be as bad as it seems. After tweaking his wrist in a rehab game in Fresno, it looks like Mark Derosa may require surgery and may be done for the season. Furthermore, the Giants may be more apt to bench the struggling Aaron Rowand more often, which will give more center field opportunities to Andres Torres, who will definitely make up for Burrell's defensive shortcomings (career minus-44.6 UZR in the outfield for Burrell).
Granted, the increase in playing time does hurt a few players. John Bowker is probably destined for Fresno the rest of the season (though if he can regain his confidence, he may be able to bounce back...he's off to a good start so far) and Nate Schierholtz may be regulated to the bench duty he received last year, which is unfortunate because Schierholtz is good defensively (career 20.9 UZR) and is much better at the plate this year in comparison to last season (.301 wOBA last year; .323 wOBA this season).
What could be the saving grace for Schierholtz? The Giants designate Bengie Molina for assignment, put Buster Posey behind the plate, move Aubrey Huff back to his natural position of first base, and put Torres in Center and Schierholtz in right, with Burrell in left, which won't be so bad because the Giants will have two plus defenders in left and right (Torres and Schierholtz's combined OF UZR this season is 16.2). The Giants will have a solid defense, without sacrificing any of the offense.
Pat "The Bat" (God I hate that nickname) is hitting well so far in San Francisco, and while I don't think he'll put up the incredible numbers he put up from 2005-2008, I think he can provide similar production to Huff at the very least. Additionally, Burrell could make this lineup work if manager Bruce Bochy can tool this lineup the right way (Which would involve Torres and Nate in, and Molina and Rowand out).
Let's hope as Giants fans Bruce Bochy can realize that and make it happen. For the first time since Barry Bonds left, the Giants offense might actually have the opportunity to be pretty decent.