Hunter Pence: Scouting the Newest Member of the San Francisco Giants
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A lot of commenters have noted that my articles tend to rely heavily on numbers. While I think advanced statistics have their uses, I am also willing to acknowledge that they aren't the end-all-be-all of baseball analysis.
In fact, I strongly believe that no amount of statistical analysis is as valuable as a solid scouting report from a veteran talent evaluator. This article that I came across at Baseball Prospectus does a good job of highlighting the weaknesses inherent to sabermetric analysis.
With that being said, I have put together a scouting analysis of Hunter Pence, the newest member of the San Francisco Giants, based on my observations from his first game in the orange and black, as well as the 10 or so Phillies games that I watched this season. While I am obviously not a veteran talent evaluator, my scouting report on Pence is informed by two decades spent playing and watching the game.
What jumps out to me about Pence is his combination of size (6'4", 220 pounds), foot speed (I timed him at 3.8 seconds from home to first), power (he hit a foul opposite field home run Wednesday night) and bat speed.
Pence has an unorthodox approach to hitting. Even his approach in the on-deck circle is unorthodox, as he takes practice swings that resemble more of a golf swing than a baseball one.
He hits with an open stance, but unlike most guys who use that set up, his back shoulder is tucked in so that the number on the back of his jersey is facing the pitcher. My guess is that he uses this approach to attempt to prevent his front shoulder from flying open.
He swings exceptionally hard, with excellent bat speed, and he does not take any swing out with two strikes. He's also extremely aggressive, though not quite at the level of Pablo Sandoval. He uses a high leg kick to get started, and as he lifts his leg he drops his hands down. His swing is far from pretty, but it gets the job done. His swing is fairly level, and he puts the ball in play with enough authority to be a plus hitter.
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On the whole, I don't think Pence is a star, but he's an excellent complementary player, and an upgrade over Nate Schierholtz and Gregor Blanco in right field. If he was more selective at the plate, or if he played an up-the-middle position on defense, he would profile as more than just a very good complementary piece.
Given that he's limited to a corner position on defense, and that his approach is not going to change this late into his big league career, he isn't likely to drastically improve. He's a great addition to the Giants, an above-average hitter with good power and speed.
However, he isn't going to take the below-average Giants offense and make it spectacular over the last two months of the season. For the Giants to start scoring more than four runs per game consistently, they will need better offense from right field, as well as from several other positions on the diamond.
Pence will do his part, but he's not a Ryan Braun or Matt Kemp type of player that can carry a team for weeks at a time.
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