Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In Appreciation of Hunter Pence

Two nights ago, in a stultifying loss in Colorado, Hunter Pence ran down a ball in right field and plowed face-first into the fence. He'd made the catch, but the ball popped out as a result of the collision. It looked bad. He fell to the ground, and as he lay there, supine, Gregor Blanco completed the play and then waved frantically to the dugout for help. Boch and the trainer (they call them "physios" in England) hustled out to check on their man. Not much later, Pence was up, looking fine, and checking to see if Boch was winded by the sprint. He stayed in the game and kept his streak--140 straight starts--alive. Last night, against the same Rockies, Hunter Pence hit a ball 476 feet that cleared the bleachers in left field. According to the folks that measure such things, it was the longest blast of the season. It was so massive that when Pablo Sandoval followed with 430-footer of his own, it seemed a bit pedestrian. Duane Kuiper has taken to calling Pence "Plastic Man" in appreciation of his gangly, long-limbed, all-out style. Not many guys can do what no. 8 just pulled off, and it got me thinking about what he brings to the ballpark. By the way, the Giants won behind a nice effort from Yusmeiro Petit.

For starters, I like a guy who plays. He's not only played every game this season, he's only missed a handful of innings. That's a lot of balls caught and plays made in right field, and for my money, he passes the eye test. I don't know or care what the advanced defensive metrics say, I see a guy who has lots of range, good hands, and a strong arm. I like it when balls are hit to right--the guy knows what to do. As a hitter, Pence had his worst season ever in 2012. This season, his .278/.326/.450 line is a notch below his career (.284/.337/.471) numbers, but he spent most of his time in hitter-friendly places like Houston and Philadelphia. B-R agrees, giving him a 124 OPS+ so far this year, a notch above his career 118 mark. A .704 OPS is the NL average, it's .726 in the AL. FanGraphs says Pence's .776 should get a 120 wRC+ rating and that he's worth 3.7 WAR (B-R says 3.0). If you give each WAR a $5M price tag, he's certainly earning his $13.8M. Did I forget to mention he is 19 for 21 in stolen bases? Here's a guy who can get on base, hit for power, run the bases, and play the field. He's not Mike Trout, fer chrissakes, but he's average or above average in all the things ballplayers are supposed to do. He reminds me a bit of a guy just about to come off the DL, one Angel Pagan. He's also an all-rounder, pretty darn good at a lot of things. Pagan's a year older, and signed a 4-year, $40M deal for 2013-2016. I think the Giants should make a shot at keeping their right-fielder.




SIR said...

I heard that Boch told Pence to stay down while he caught his breath - sounds like our team - always working together.

Brother Bob said...

I'm tempted to say Pence is the Zito of position players; a cool dude but performing below expectations. But that would be unkind. I like him a lot, but he's just not a consistent hitter.
I'm planning on going to see the Grizzlies play tonight at Raley Field. Get to see how Pagan is doing and check out prospects. Fresno's starting pitcher will be Mitch Lively, a big old right hander who went to Sac State. He's almost 28 years old and has yet to sip that "cup of coffee" in the big leagues. Perusing his career numbers, I think that may never occur.

Zo said...

Without looking at the potential free agents, I think we have to make a serious offer for Pence. He apparently likes playing here and fits in well with the team. The big reason he is important, though, is because we do not really have an answer in left. I wish Blanco was it, but he does not seem consistent enough or have enough power. Blanco is a great 4th outfielder, but we don't really have a 3rd outfielder. Torres, I suspect, is on the decline, and as wonderful as he can look on occasion, he has not done that often enough this year. I really don't see other slots where we can upgrade realistically. And by realistically, I mean that we have commitments to players that we are not going to break, even if someone better was available for that slot, or that an alternate player would not be that big of an upgrade and come at a huge cost.

Brother Bob said...

One thing Pence and Zito have in common, I should have mentioned, is that they were both immensely valuable r/t winning a world championship.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Zito's performance as a Giants pitcher is well below what he did in Oakland. Pence is performing pretty close to his career averages--certainly not below my expectations.

nomisnala said...

Pence, posey, Pablo, pagan, Crawford, belt, and Scutaro are all nice pieces to have but we need a Ryan Braun type to solidify the line-up. Not necessarily Ryan Braun in particular.