Joe Panik, by the numbers, is a pedestrian ballplayer. To the Mets, he represents a piece of the puzzle that was sorely needed in their lineup and clubhouse…
Joe Panik was not sought after by the Mets. Instead, he fell into their hands when the San Francisco Giants released him. An after the trade deadline acquisition, there was never any question by either Panik or the Mets where he would wind up. The only matter at hand was waiting the appropriate time for Panik to become a free agent and the paperwork completed. Home, where he wanted to be.
Joe Panik is a local boy of sorts. He grew up in Hopewell Junction, NY, where he graduated from John Jay High School, where I taught Social Studies for a bit. From there, he went to St. John’s University in Queens, NY, where his skills as a ballplayer became more widely known.
Panik was drafted in the first round (the 29th player overall) in the 2011 June Amateur Draft by the San Francisco Giants. Eight years and one World Championship (2014) later, Panik is now the regular second baseman for the New York Mets, batting second.
Joe Panik – The Piece That Completes The Puzzle
Joe Panik is the glue the Mets have been looking to find. Classified as a veteran now, Panik is surrounded by youth on a team whose heights have yet to be attained.
Panik is there to set an example for Pete Alonso, Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis – the kids. Especially, the way Joe Panik approaches every at-bat. A pitcher’s nightmare, watch Panik as he falls into a two-strike count. Good pitches fouled off, building the opponent’s pitch count, never giving away an at-bat before giving way to Alonso who’s waiting in the on-deck circle.
Panik’s numbers are nothing to write home about. When the Giants sent him on his way, he was batting .235 with a mere three home runs, 27 RBI, and an OPS well below the league average of .743. Since he’s been with the Mets, Panik has turned his season around. Panik is hitting .323 and carries an OPS of, 783. With a lifetime batting average of .272, Panik figures to settle around that mark by seasons end.
Slotted in the number two hole by Mickey Callaway, this is where Panik thrives. A situational hitter, he can be counted on to move Rosario to third after he has opened an inning with a double. Or, if his team needs it, Panik will produce that fly fall to right, driving in the runner from third.
Joe Panik will never be a power hitter. That’s up to the big boys in the lineup who follow him in the order. However, Panik carries a winning pedigree and a calming presence the Mets sorely need in the crunch of this pennant race. No matter what Pete Alonso says with all the optimism in the world, he has never been through this before. Nor has the bulk of the Mets starting lineup.
Todd Frazier has a veteran presence on the Mets as well. His, however, emanates mainly from the sheer joy he has in playing the game. A gifted power hitter, Frazier’s at-bats, unlike those of Panik, often take on sheer desperation and he can be seen (as he did last night twice) flailing at sliders a foot or more removed from the outside portion of the plate. In his way though, Frazier complements Panik as a calming influence on the Mets.
Coming Up – A New Puzzle For Mickey Callaway
With the imminent return of Jeff McNeil from the IL, it’ll be interesting to see how Mickey Callaway adjusts his batting order. Before his injury, McNeil was a mainstay in the leadoff spot, competing for a Batting Title. When he returns, he is a cinch to resume that spot. Raising the question of what to do with Rosario, who has been hitting leadoff in McNeil’s place.
In the American League with no pitcher hitting, moving Panik to the nine-hole would seem ideal. Without that luxury, Callaway has a choice to make between Rosario and Panik hitting second. Rosario’s new-found hitting prowess could find him in the middle of the order, leaving Panik where he is thriving in the two-hole.
Regardless of who bats where, the addition of Joe Panik to the Mets team is a godsend. As the cliche reminds us, you have to watch him play to appreciate what he means to the team. Come October, don’t be surprised if the name Panik is one you will hear often – and only in a positive light. The glue the Mets needed.