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.