While the baseball season is just about halfway over, here are the five biggest takeaways from Pence’s first-half performance so far, and they are paramount to the Giants’ chances of advancing to the playoffs this season.
Pence’s Passion Can Help the Giants Win Games
Pence’s work ethic and passion for baseball are undeniable.
Despite winning a title with the Giants in 2012 and being a two-time All-Star, the outfielder still plays the game with the same passion he had during his first start. Per Justice:
Pence cares every bit as much now as he did in those first days with the Astros. He's relentless in his work ethic, meticulous with nutrition, preparation, etc. To put it another way, he's absolutely what we'd like every professional athlete to be. And, yeah, if you see bags of kale chips in the Giants clubhouse, they're probably Hunter's.
Pence can’t win the next title on his own if his team doesn’t improve, but his hard work and perseverance will help inspire the team to follow his lead. Even if the Giants miss the playoffs this season, Pence’s leadership and presence on the team will more than likely lead San Francisco to another title in the next few years.
Pence Knows How to “Set the Table”
According to San Jose Mercury News writer Alex Pavlovic, Pence is thriving in his secondary role for the team:
The Giants don't know if they'll get Scutaro back, but the No. 2 spot is still in good hands. Story on Hunter Pence: http://t.co/cBuu7yiw7q— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) June 3, 2014
After losing Marco Scutaro indefinitely due to a back injury, Pence stepped into the No. 2 role and is helping Angel Pagan form a one-two punch atop the lineup.
This tactic allows Pence to help players on base score; because of his consistency, he has been able to help players on second or third get that extra base and put runs on the board for the team.
Placing one of the team’s best hitters second in the lineup is starting to be seen more frequently around the league, and Pence says he is excited to be a part of a movement that is helping the team win more games:
"I didn't really mean for myself to adjust to it, but I definitely have," Pence said. "My mindset is a little different. Normally I'd be like, 'All right, I'm driving him in.' But I was trying to set the table and get him over just because we have so many big bats right now."
Pence Is Worthy of All-Star Candidacy
Pence is a stud.
Diamondbacks say Pence is first player to hit ball into that Friday's upper deck section since Giancarlo Stanton on Aug. 21, 2012.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) June 22, 2014
Though he probably should be in the running for making an appearance at this year’s All-Star Game, he’s trailing his peers by several million votes and more than likely won’t be, according to Ryan Hood of MLB.com:
Although the Giants have maintained throughout the season that they don't care about All-Star appearances, Pence has a case to make a third squad. His .295 batting average is his highest since 2011. He's batting .339 with three home runs and six RBIs in his last 13 games and is tied for the most multihit games in the NL. with 28.
Pence Is Worth His Contract
After Pence signed a five-year, $90 million contract last year to stay with the Giants, there were those who thought the Giants had overpaid for the outfielder.
Among them, CSNBayArea.com senior insider Ray Ratto:
One more year, $26 million more than I thought Pence would get by signing early. I never learn -- in baseball, money is free.— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) September 28, 2013
Bleacher Report’s Joe Giglio, was also skeptical following the inking of Pence’s deal, but he concluded that the deal was neither a rousing success for the team nor a failure. It was somewhere in the middle:
At first glance, the deal seems to be an egregious overpay, but when looking at some recent contracts for corner outfielders, the deal simply becomes a risk for San Francisco. Unless Pence totally breaks down or reverts into a league average player in the very near future, the contract shouldn't cripple the Giants franchise.
Pence still has several years left on his contract, and only time will tell if he was truly worth $90 million; however, in terms of production this season, Pence has been worth every penny.
Justice sums up his season thus far in the following quote, which is a great example of how Pence is earning his contract:
"There's Pence, who is again doing pretty much everything well. He's hitting .286 with an .801 OPS. He has 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs, six stolen bases, 20 walks. Everything, right? His 1.4 WAR is second among Giants regulars to Pagan."
Pence Is a Workhorse
Need another reason Pence is worth his contract?
He never misses any games. He was among the elite few last year who played all 162 season games, and he’s on pace to hit the same mark this season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
His dedication to the team was part of the reason that he was rewarded with such a lucrative contract, and hopefully his energy and leadership will inspire the rest of the team to follow suit.
It may not happen this season, but if Pence has anything to say about it, he might just be giving more postgame speeches such as this one. Check out the first 50 seconds to see Pence in all his glory:
Mike Martinez is a contributor for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @MikeMartinezBR.