Will the legend of Johnny G live on?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In this young season, there is little doubt the Angels' biggest cult hero has been the little keystone that could, Johnny Giavotella. With his spunk and hustle and timely hits, he has eased the pain of seeing Howie (and his .306/.368/.500 slash line) in Dodger blue. I've even seen some clamoring to bat him lead-off in order to stretch out the order a bit. Is this a good idea? Will he continue to be productive?

A quick glance at his line is something less than impressive: .275/.336/.353, good for a 103 OPS+. An acceptable, average big leaguer. I was curious if his batted ball data would reveal any indicators that his modest success might continue. For comparison, I used Howie Kendrick and the league average rates for 2015. All stats via Fangraphs and BaseballReference:


JG 2015: .303

JG Career: .283

HK 2015:.347

HK Career: .341

MLB 2015: .311

No over-abundance of bloopers and bleeders for Johnny here. He is well within his career and league norms in this category. Success on balls in play is Howie's bread and butter, so it's hardly fair to hold Giavotella to the same standard. To see if he can keep up with the league pace, let's look at what kind of contact he is making.

Percentage of hard-hit batted balls

JG 2015: 21.5%

JG Career: 22.8%

HK 2015: 29.4%

HK Career: 32.2%

MLB 2015: 30.6%

Well below-average, sitting among other spray-hitters like Nori Aoki, Joe Panik, Dee Gordon and Melky Cabrera. Power isn't his game, but you still want hitters making solid contact. Does he?

Percentage of medium-hit batted balls

JG 2015: 54.8%

JG Career: 56.9%

HK 2015: 54.9%

HK Career: 56.5%

MLB 2015: 52.2%

Percentage of softly-hit batted balls

JG 2015: 23.7%

JG Career: 20.4%

HK 2015: 15.7%

HK Career: 12.3%

MLB 2015: 17.4%

It doesn't appear as though Johnny's lack of power is stopping him from making solid contact, as his percentage of medium-hit balls falls within the top third of qualified batters this year. Guys won't hesitate to challenge him, but it doesn't appear as though they will be knocking the bat out of his hands.

Next I wanted to look at his plate discipline. We knew coming in he had a 10% walk rate in the minors, a great number for a guy no one's trying to pitch around. So far this season he is at 7.8% (league average this year is 7.5%). Does he have a good eye, or his he just passive at the plate?

Out-of-the-zone swing%

JG 2015: 26.4%

JG Career: 29.5%

HK 2015: 32.2%

HK Career: 35%

MLB 2015: 30.2%

In-the-zone swing%

JG 2015: 62%

JG Career: 61.3%

HK 2015: 69.6%

HK Career: 65.6%

MLB 2015: 66.5%

Johnny seems to know a strike when he sees one and will let the close pitches go. It's a good strategy as long as you do a decent job making contact:

Out-of-the-zone contact%

JG 2015: 69.8%

JG Career: 73.9%

HK 2015: 66.7%

HK Career: 62.9%

MLB 2015: 67%

In-the-zone contact%

JG 2015: 92.2%

JG Career: 90.3%

HK 2015: 89.8%

HK Career: 89.5%

MLB 2015: 88.4%

Now I'm getting excited. Giavotella seems to have found that sweet spot between patience and contact. For comparison's sake, in Erick Aybar's career he has made contact with 93.6% of the balls in the zone when he swings, but has also swung at 37% of the balls he sees outside the zone, making contact 78.5% of the time. On the other end of the patience spectrum, Chris Iannetta has swung at 20% of the pitches outside the zone in his career, but has only made contact when he swings at strikes 81.5% of the time.

Any conclusions to be drawn from this small-sample analysis? Of course, there is still that whole second-time-around-the-block thing to worry about. What weaknesses will pitchers exploit? Thus far his performance on pitch type (fastball, slider, curve, change) are all within a couple runs of the league average (and yes, Howie consistently performs below-average on sliders).

For a guy with no pop and minimal tools, he does pretty much everything you would hope for in the batters box. He is on pace for a 3.0 WAR, so even his spotty defense isn't stopping him from being a league-average player. That doesn't replace Howie's production from last season, but Howie also had plenty of years below 4.0 WAR. At this point, I feel safe concluding that he definitely belongs in the majors and isn't a stretch as a starting second basemen. With no major red flags indicating Johnny's current production will drop below it's current level, I think we have ourselves a player.

This FanPost is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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