San Francisco Giants: Grading Each Aspect of Hunter Pence's Game so Far
It has been an inauspicious beginning to the Hunter Pence era in San Francisco. It's only been six games, but the results have not been pretty thus far.
Pence has gone just 4-for-26 with only one walk against six strikeouts, leading to a tepid .154/.179/.269 batting line.
Six games is a tiny sample size, so I will use Pence's time in Philadelphia and Houston to help inform my grades on each of his five tools (range, throwing arm, hitting, power, patience and speed). All grades are based on the 2-8 scouting scale that teams use, with eight being the highest, and two being the lowest.
Pence has only had nine chances since being acquired by the Giants, but he's shown good range thus far—making three out of zone plays.
He has a reputation as being a good defensive outfielder, though the advanced metrics were down on him this year in Philadelphia. He played center field in the minor leagues, and for most of his first season in Houston. Given how well he runs, my guess is that those numbers are just a small sample size fluke.
Throwing Arm: 7
Pence has only had the opportunity to show off his arm a couple of times since being acquired last week, but he appears to have a big throwing arm. His arm may not be quite as good as Melky Cabrera's in left field, but it is a strength of his game. He has 67 assists in six seasons in the big leagues.
Hitting Tool: 6.0
Pence has not looked very good with the Giants, but he is a career .289 hitter, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
That being said, his approach to hitting is quite odd. He takes a big leg kick to get started, and as he lifts his leg, he drops his hands down. His back is also hunched forward, which puts him in an awkward-looking position as the pitch is being delivered.
His foundation is somewhat similar to Brandon Belt's. His legs are moving all over the box, and his back leg tends to slide rather than being firmly planted beneath him. Sometimes it looks like he is hitting with ice skates on instead of cleats.
He swings incredibly hard, and with excellent bat speed. That violent swing hasn't lent itself to much success with the Giants, but it has led to a very good career.
Pence hasn't homered yet for the Giants, but he has hit a foul home run and three doubles while also just missing a couple of balls.
He has never hit 30 home runs in a season despite playing in hitter's ballparks in Houston and Philadelphia, but he has hit 17 home runs so far this season after hitting 22 last season, and 25 each year from 2008-2010.
The swing isn't pretty, but it does create a lot of torque. He also is very rotational with his hips, which leads to power. The best way to hit home runs is to swing hard and try to pull the ball, and that is exactly what Pence seems to do every time up.
The power is legitimate, but it would play up more if he were more selective at the plate.
Pence has a career walk rate of 7.3 percent, which is slightly below league average. He is a hacker at the plate, and he will chase out of the strike zone more than the average hitter.
He clearly is pressing with the Giants. In Philadelphia, he was going outside of the strike zone about 32 percent of the time. With the Giants, he has chased nearly 41 percent of pitches out of the zone.
Once he settles down, his patience will likely play up to average, or even slightly above average. However, the pressure of trying to justify the trade has turned him into a complete hack at the plate, and only Pablo Sandoval can have any measure of success swinging at everything.
Pence has very good speed. I timed him at 4.2 seconds from contact to first base on a ground ball over the weekend, which is excellent for a right-handed hitter.
He is an asset on the bases, though he doesn't have the quickness to be a true base-stealing threat. At 6'4", his speed is all about getting his long legs moving. His speed is useful in avoiding double plays, scoring from first on a double, scoring from a second on a hard single and going first-to-third on a single.
Despite the slow start, the Giants clearly improved their situation in right field by acquiring Pence. He's a better overall player than Nate Schierholtz, though Nate probably has the slight edge on the defensive side of the ball.
Pence just needs to settle down at the plate and do a better job of attacking strikes in the zone. He's a high energy player who clearly is trying to do much right now. Once he settles into his role, the Giants should get the player who has hit .289/.341/.480 with an average of 24 home runs per season for his career.
The price to acquire Pence was high, but there is a lot to like about him. He's a big, athletic player with above-average range, speed and power. His approach to the game is awkward at times, but he has a great work ethic.
He may not be the most graceful player, but so far in his career, he has gotten the job done. There's no reason to think he won't eventually deliver for the Giants in 2012.