Hunter Pence’s 2011: Awkward but Effective

Posted by Michael Baumann, Tue, December 13, 2011 03:00 PM | Comments: 14
2011 Player Review, Analysis, Posts

During the last week of July, I lost my mind at the prospect that the Phillies would trade one or more of Jarred Cosart, Domonic Brown, and Jonathan Singleton to Houston for right fielder Hunter Pence. But then it happened, and you know what? It all turned out better than anyone could have imagined.

Let’s leave aside for a moment all the accoutrements that come with Hunter Pence. Let’s leave aside, for instance, the topless photos. Let’s leave aside the ragging on John Mayberry for the Stanford Mermaid Experiment. Hunter Pence: Creator of Catchphrases and Destroyer of Postgame Buffets.

These antics are great, but what do they say about Hunter Pence, the ballplayer? Pence could be a latter-day Roger McDowell, a pitcher remembered today less for his 159 career saves but for the 12 years he spent in major league bullpens setting other people’s shoelaces on fire. (Or for this more recent nastiness, which someone would mention if I didn’t.)

But back to Hunter Pence the ballplayer. From 2007 to 2010, he was pretty decent. But in 2011, particularly in the second half of 2011, he was freakin’ incredible.

Before coming to Philadelphia, Hunter Pence was a nice player, a 3-win-and-change outfielder with enough power and speed to get by and less plate discipline than you’d like. Occasionally, he’d post something like a .370 BABIP and post a 4-WAR year. In Houston, Pence was a solid player, an all-star, even, on a team that didn’t really have much else to offer in terms of players who were worth a crap.

Then he came to Philadelphia and, for 236 plate appearances, was, well, not Jose Bautista with wheels, but close. With Houston, Pence posted a .290/.339/.479 slash line–decent numbers. After his trade to the Phillies, he posted a .324/.394/.560 slash line, a partial season head and shoulders above anything he’d ever done before, and head and shoulders above anything any other member of the Phillies did in 2011. Pence’s .954 OPS with the Phillies, over a full season, would have been the best OPS posted by any Phillies player since Ryan Howard and Chase Utley posted dueling .976 marks in 2007.

Sure, that’s a small sample, and Pence did still have that ridiculous BABIP supporting his season, but this is one case where analyzing it too much kind of ruins the fun. And, really, that’s what Hunter Pence was all about.

Grade: 8.9/10 — A right-handed power bat, good defense, and an engaging, fan-friendly personality that’s even more adorably hyperactive than Shane Victorino’s. I originally had misgivings about rating Pence higher than Ian Riccaboni rated Victorino, but even though Victorino was the team’s most valuable position player by far, Pence was better than Victorino in his short time in Philadelphia.

Note: Thanks to @SpoontownUSA for coming up with the subtitle when I couldn’t think of anything good.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 5068 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Great review MB. The irony that you drew this assignment by random chance is just too much! Please tell us, did you request this one? If so, well played man.

    • Posts: 35 Michael Baumann

      Avatar of Michael Baumann

      I actually requested this one. I still think the Phillies paid way too much for him, but there’s no disputing that he’s been great both in terms of production and entertainment. I love being pleasantly surprised like that and I felt like I needed to give him his due.

  • Posts: 0 Tom G

    Not sure I woudl give HP that high of a mark for a short season on the roster but he was crucial in bringing the Phils home with a title

    HP is a solid player…fields well, strong arm and good bat with power…what else do you want…oh he is young too…so giving away the farm (literally0 was tought to take, still is…love Singleton…but HP is going to be a key contributor in the five slot for a long time to come…ok sometimes 3

  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    I hated The Hunter for how he treated the Phils, kind of like hating Peter Rose before he became a Phil. Now that he is here, what an addition. Looking forward to a full season of his awkwardness and enthusiasm.. I am also predicting that he will have over 100 rbi to go along with his 30 plus Hrs.

    Good stuff!

  • Posts: 0 Frank Riccard

    Hunter Pence is a Philadelphia man-crush candidate above all others.

    Funny, has a great attitude, is a lot of fun to watch, and above all else–he is an excellent player, and always plays hard. I know that in this town the man-crush standards have become Chase, Cliff, and Doc, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I love me some HP.

    The day he gets locked up long term, I will purchase so much Hunter Pence-related merchandise. I’m going to start selling plasma and… uh… “DNA” now to save up.

  • Posts: 2978 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    “It all turned out better than anyone could have imagined.” …

    No. …. I, for one, had a feeling that the trade would work out just fine. I wasn’t ripping the Phillies and Ruben for making a bold move to bolster our lineup…getting talent means you have to give up talent. Of course, the trade can’t fully be judged just yet as we don’t know how those prospects will end up doing. But Pence has been awesome. Excited to see him for a full season.

  • Posts: 0 Chris

    The only player that we gave up that I think will come back to bite us is Singleton. Cosart I’m not so sure he’ll turn out that good plus his delivery is the one that is like 50-50 for serious injuries.

  • Posts: 0 800812

    I’m disputing the “good defense” comment. Hunter muffed several plays in RF while with the Phillies. He takes routes that are so awkward, they’d get Dom Brown ridiculed had he taken them.
    Great arm, terrific season with the,stick. But, let’s not get carried away.

    • Posts: 0 Chris

      Hunter Pence has a pretty positive career UZR so he is a good defender although last year he was in the negative. Dom Brown is strongly in the negative in his short career.

      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        You can’t use UZR to rate Dom Brown at this point because the sample size is way too small. It’s supposed to be used over ~3 full seasons to get an accurate reading through the noise. Dom’s sample size is about 60 games total.

      • Posts: 0 Chris

        Yeah I admit that it’s a small sample size but to peg Pence as a bad fielder is just meh. I know the eye test isn’t always effective but for defense it may be a little better in some cases. The eye test doesn’t suggest to me that Dom is even average at D yet. That’s not to say that he can’t get better. To compare him and Pence isn’t exactly something that makes sense and it seems it’s only done because Pence took Dom’s spot.

  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    He was awesome! He helped vault us from first place to….first place?

    Oh, wait, no, I heard he was picked up to help in the playoffs where he….disappeared?

    Hrm. Sure glad we gutted the farm system for that pickup. I don’t know about you guys, but I think 3 of the top ten organizational prospects are worth a new overused meme and a few preening runway topless shots.

    Bottom line, he’s a nice player who cost way too much to fill a need that was non-existent.

    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      EricL, you’re forgetting that he “improved” the offense.

      From the time Utley joined until the trade they scored only 4.71 per game, and then 4.54 from there on out. To be fair the 8-game post-clinch slump didn’t help, and he did in fact help them to rack up the highest scoring in the league from May 23rd on.

      In the balance between “Win Now!” and “Stay Competitive”, the trade moved a lot of chips from one side to the other. Hopefully the crapshooty playoffs will go the Phillies’ way one of these years to make it worth it.

      I know this is an overgeneralization, but casual fans will like the trade because they want the rush of winning it all, and when the Phillies suck in 5 years because they’ve traded all their prospects, the casual fans will flock to the Flyers or Eagles or whoever happens to be doing well at the time. It’s diehards like myself who don’t want to go back to the days of 65-80 win seasons who cringed at this trade.

      Spending lots of money on FAs like they are now will help to avoid a collapse, but that in itself is not a cure-all (see Cubs, Mets, pre-2010 Rangers, etc.). You also need to be good (and more importantly, lucky) in drafting and developing your own.

  • Posts: 0 Chris

    To me I’m glad we have Pence. As I said above Singleton probably is the only player that will hurt from that trade. But does Singleton in 3 years and a Phillies team that is well out of its prime and some other so-so prospects have a better chance of winning? I’m gonna say no and I think that’s why Rube did the deal. Of course you could argue that maybe we could have traded the prospects for some other player although I’m not sure who and how feasible any hypothetical would be.

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