His statistics and style may not be the shiniest of the postseason, but there is no denying the fact that former St. John's product Joe Panik has made an immediate impact for the San Francisco Giants on their march to their third World Series in five years.
All he did in his first career playoff game was go 3-for-5 in a do-or-die one-game playoff to see if his Giants-who made the playoffs as the final National League club-would be able to play another day. He has picked up crucial walks in the ninth inning of games. He has played solid defense at second base, which had been a weak point of the National League Champions. He’s had clutch hits.
So you ask yourself, what can't Joe Panik do?
It seems unlikely that a rookie with half a season of big league experience can be playing so steadily through a stage as overwhelming as the Major League Baseball's playoffs.
But Giants manager Bruce Bochy sees it another way, saying, "Panik, he's a guy you'll do more things with, including bunt, and hit-and-run..." and teammate Gregor Blanco added, "he was the guy we were missing." It seems so.
In 287 plate appearances during the regular season, Panik managed to muscle all of one home run out of the ballpark.
In Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Panik would clobber a home run off Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals ace, to put San Francisco ahead 2-1. Due to Travis Ishikawa's walk-off home run later in the game to send the Giants to the World Series, Panik's effort can be lost amongst the hoopla - just the way he likes it.
After his first Major League game, Panik said, "there's always going to be a little bit of butterflies, but I was able to settle down."
That quote is from just over two short months ago. The phrase "cannot believe I'm here" is thrown around a lot by many in this position, but for Panik, it still has to feel like a dream come true.
Although Panik may be batting only .239 (11-for-46) with a .271 on-base percentage, he has contributed far above what his base statistics indicate.
A crucial component a two-hitter in the lineup must possess is the ability to make contact. He has 48 plate appearances in the postseason, which means he has faced the best each team has to offer, and yet he has struck out only once.
Batting in front of the ferociously hot Buster Posey, Panik has helped set the table for an offense that has overcome the tremendous pitching of both the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
As the World Series is set to get underway on Tuesday night, the Giants' opponent, the Kansas City Royals, feature a loaded roster of former high-level draft choices. While the national media is sure to gobble up the opportunity to sing the praises of Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon, cornerstones of the Royals' miraculous run, at the center of it all for the Giants will be a first-round pick of their own, and St. John's own, second baseman Joe Panik.