The Giants’ underrated missing piece

Posted By on September 2, 2011 8:40 am

Through all the talk about why the Giants’ offense has fared so much worse this year than in their championship season, I think one name has been conspicuously absent: Pat Burrell.

It seems like most Giants fans understand the obvious impact of the loss of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and the struggles of Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres, but it doesn’t seem like anyone ever mentions how much the Giants miss what Burrell did last year.

You know what position produced the highest OPS on the team last year? Left field. Burrell may have spent only four months with the Giants, but he had 18 homers — including seven that gave the Giants a lead — and a .872 OPS. (In almost the same playing time, the deified Posey hit 18 HRs with an .862 OPS.)

Before Burrell showed up, the Giants averaged 4.1 runs per game. After, it was 4.4. (Posey came around the same time, so it was a double boost.)

Why has no one missed Burrell this year? Either his value last year was underrated or Giants fans — in a rare show of realism — never expected much out of him in 2011. If it’s the latter, I’m not sure why the same people who seemed to be so blind to Aubrey Huff’s career trajectory would be so skeptical of Burrell’s though. (Maybe it was that postseason performance.) I happen to think it’s the former. Burrell wasn’t as warm and fuzzy as Huff or Posey, so Giants fans clung more to them and overlooked what Burrell did.

Anyway, Burrell is back now. And it seems that he and his bum foot are going to be in the outfield for tonight’s opener of a do-or-die series against Arizona. I don’t think Burrell will be enough to get the Giants into the playoffs, even if he could reproduce last year’s production, which he probably can’t. But it at least gives a glimmer of hope that maybe he’ll make a difference.

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