San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence Is Pressing, Killing the Giants

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 11, 2012

August 1, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) reacts after striking out against the New York Mets during the ninth inning at AT&T Park. The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Brought in to solidify the middle of the San Francisco Giants' lineup, Hunter Pence has actually made it worse during his short tenure as a Giant.

The right fielder has gone just 6-for-43 for San Francisco in 10 games. He's struck out 11 times and walked just once. Overall he's hitting .140, with an OPS of .365.

These 10 games absolutely represent a small sample size, so he can't be judged on his performance as a Giant alone. But Pence is very obviously pressing. He's diving at pitches, trying to prove himself to his teammates and Giant fans with every wild swing. He's always been antsy at the plate, with his body in constant motion. But he's looked more than antsy so far; he's looked anxious, in a teeth-gritting, silently desperate sort of way.

There's no way Pence is actually this bad. He's clearly hurting himself by simply trying to do too much. In fact, he's hit a couple of balls hard that have unluckily turned into outs.

There is reason to be concerned, though.

First of all, Pence's last month in Philadelphia was absolutely awful. In July, he hit .217 with just one homer in 22 games. He, again, rarely walked, leading to an OBP of .278 and an OPS of .531. That was for an entire month. Add that up to his first 10 games in August and something looks seriously wrong.

The fact that Pence was so bad in July makes it harder to argue that his poor performance as a Giant is due solely to the fact that he's pressing.

There's probably not an easy fix for what Pence is going through. The more he struggles, the harder he presses—which gives this whole thing a scary, downward spiral-type of feel.

Manager Bruce Bochy would certainly be justified in dropping Pence in the order in an effort to take some of the pressure off. Bochy has certainly done that before, most notably with Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt during some of their prolonged slumps.

Whatever the Giants do, they're going to have to figure out how to get something out of Pence in a hurry. With only a few weeks remaining in the season, the Dodgers have pulled even with the Giants. If Pence can, at the very least, rediscover the above-average form he showed as a Phillie in May and June, the Giants' offense will be better for it.

But if he keeps pressing, he'll keep killing the Giants.