New pact doesn't dampen Pagan's desire to win

By Chris Haft /2/15/2013 4:46 P.M. ET

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Talk is cheap. Ballplayers aren't. Based on last season, however, one can assume that Angel Pagan's word is gold.
Pagan, the Giants' center fielder and leadoff hitter, reported to camp Friday and vowed to maintain the determined approach that benefited San Francisco during its World Series-winning 2012 season.
Pagan vowed that the four-year, $40 million contract that the Giants gave him last December to remove him from the free-agent market won't impede his drive to excel.
"My bank account did change, but my focus and hunger for the game will never change," said Pagan, 31. "My passion for this game is unbelievable. ... I just want to leave my heart on the field for my teammates and help this club win, not only ballgames but also championships, for four more years."
Pagan's aware that his deal will draw more attention to him. The $10 million average annual value of his pact ranks second among Giants position players only to right fielder Hunter Pence's one-year, $13.8 million contract.
"I signed this contract, and the expectations are really big," Pagan said. "I want to keep doing what I know I can do -- keep being consistent and being a table-setter at the top of the lineup and scoring as many runs as I can for this team."
That described Pagan's 2012 performance. Moved from the leadoff spot to fifth in the batting order about a month into the season, Pagan returned to the top of the order in early August. He put together three hitting streaks of 11 or more games and batted safely in 28 consecutive home games from April 14-June 4, a franchise record.
Pagan's Major League-high 15 triples broke the San Francisco-era record of 12, which had been shared by Willie Mays (1960) and Steve Finley (2006). He established career bests in triples, doubles (38) and runs scored (95), and he hit .288 with 29 stolen bases.
Pagan also grounded into just six double plays in 659 plate appearances, making him one of the National League's most difficult players to double up. Contemporary metrics provided further proof of Pagan's baserunning prowess: He ranked second among NL players with an 8.2 BsR, a statistic which measures baserunning efficiency.
Pagan served as a necessary complement for an offense that ranked last in the Majors with 103 home runs. San Francisco became only the seventh team since 1900 to reach the postseason despite trailing the field in that category.
"I thought it was critical to have another dynamic on our club that would enable us to manufacture runs," manager Bruce Bochy said. "When you don't hit a lot of home runs, you better figure out other ways to score. Speed can do that, whether you steal a base or hit-and-run or bunt a guy over. Pagan did that for us by stealing those bases and getting in scoring position."
After such an active season, Pagan needed a break. He replenished his energy after the World Series by resting for three weeks. "My body asked for it," he said.
Pagan will vanish along with a legion of teammates in early March to play in the World Baseball Classic -- he said that representing his native Puerto Rico "fills my heart" -- but he sounded as motivated as ever to galvanize the Giants.
According to widespread skepticism, the Giants triumphed during the postseason only because they received every possible break. Pagan himself benefited from this sort of good fortune in Game 1 of the World Series, when his third-inning ground ball struck third base and resulted in a double that sparked a three-run rally.
Pagan considered the cynicism and said with a straight face, "We're going to get lucky again, like people say."