San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro Couldn't Be More Different

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 26: Hunter Pence #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a triple in the first inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on June 26, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images
Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 1, 2012

You'd be hard-pressed to find a team that made two more different acquisitions at the MLB trade deadline than the San Francisco Giants.

In a partial departure from his typical penchant for formerly-toolsy veterans with poor plate discipline, GM Brian Sabean brought in utility man Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies earlier this week.

I say "partial departure" because, while Scutaro certainly fits into the veteran category, he's actually very different than most hitters the Giants seem to covet. By that, I mean he has a clue about the strike zone and contributes in a way that makes stat nerds smile and scouts frown.

Scutaro strikes out at an extremely low rate—8.4 percent this year, 11.1 percent for his career—and walks at a career rate of 8.9 percent. He hasn't been much of threat with the bat since his career year in 2009 with the Toronto Blue Jays. In that season, at age 34, Scutaro hit 35 doubles, walked 90 times and scored 100 runs. Since then, his eye has remained solid, but he certainly hasn't hit much.

Still, he'll be an upgrade over virtually all of the Giants' infield options—which says as much about how poorly they've played as it says about Scutaro's value.

On the other hand, the Giants also acquired outfielder Hunter Pence. Upon hearing the news, Giants fans uttered a collective "that's more like it."

Pence fits the Giants' long-preferred mold for hitters. He is an aggressive swinger with a career strikeout rate that's more than twice his walk rate. Pence also fits the Giants' old-school scouting preference for strong-armed outfielders who can run a little bit and hit for above-average power.

And unlike Scutaro, who enjoyed his best years after his 30th birthday, Pence has shown solid consistency since the Houston Astros called him up in 2007. In every full year of his career, Pence has hit at least 22 home runs and 26 doubles.

It's likely that both Scutaro and Pence will be good additions to the Giants, but they'll make their contributions in very different ways.

Pence, 29, will provide a steady middle-of-the-order bat the Giants will likely keep through his final arbitration year in 2013.

Scutaro will offer stability to the infield. At the plate, his discerning eye and veteran experience will hopefully give pitchers a tougher, longer at-bat than the rest of the Giants' free-swinging lineup. But unlike Pence, he's clearly a rental.

Overall, the Giants' front office is showing that they can find value in more than one type of player, which is a nice departure from the more predictable acquisitions of years past.

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