Hunter Pence is in a wee bit of a slump.
I want to like him. Heck, I want to love him. All those years he was on the Astros and Phillies, I was terrified of him. But from the moment he put on a Giants uniform, I was pulling for him like few others before him. I can't explain it. I knew that he was something of a rich man's Nate Schierholtz, and I suspected he was going to hack, but I wasn't expecting this:
We, uh, already had some of those, Hunter. Thanks for thinking of us, but we were full up.
His problem is obvious: He's chasing pitches out of the strike zone like he's Aaron Rowand with glaucoma who smoked medicinal marijuana because of the glaucoma but got so high he closed his eyes and curled into a fetal position on his bed to ride out the wave, which is much worse than regular ol' Aaron Rowand.
This heat map should tell you what you need to know:
Or, if you want a legitimate heat map, you can go over to Baseball Analytics, who took a look at Pence and concluded that …
With the Phillies, Pence swung at plenty of high pitches out of the zone. Despite that, his overall 29.2% chase rate was close to the MLB average (28.5%) ...
… Pence has chased 37% of pitches thrown out of the zone in San Francisco. He's 1-for-24 on those outside pitches, striking out 16 times in the process.
Zoinks. It's been ugly, and it hasn't been a subtle kind of ugly. It's not like those stats made you rethink the way you were watching Giants baseball. Goodness! Hunter Pence is chasing pitches? Well, I'll be …
So now you have to pick between two options.
1. Hunter Pence is a radically different hitter now than he was with the Astros and Phillies, and nothing is going to change, or ...
2. Hunter Pence is in a slump that he'll eventually snap out of.
We can be a cynical bunch around here. But, boy howdy, I don't know if you can be that cynical. I don't like to play amateur psychologist that often, but doesn't it seem natural that Pence would go into a downward spiral of self-induced pressure after going to a new team? He was already in a bit of a slump before he came over, which led to him pressing in his new uniform, which made him more jittery at the plate, which made things worse, which made him press more ...
But here's the good news: The Giants are 16-10 since Pence joined the team. That isn't to say it wouldn't be a heckuva lot cooler if they were 20-6 with a few well-timed Pence bombs, but the team is still on an upward trajectory. The Giants led by a game when they made the trade; now they lead by 3.5 games.
If Pence were struggling at the same time as the Giants, he'd be the symbol of something that was devastatingly wrong. As is, it's been frustrating, but not nearly as frustrating as it could have been. Pence isn't a scapegoat, which is a good thing. If Carlos Beltran got the excoriating talk-radio treatment last year when the Giants were stuck in the toilet, you can be sure Pence would have received the same kind of abuse.
The odds are that Pence will be the same hitter the Giants thought they were acquiring at the deadline, and he'll be doing it in September to help the Giants maintain a division lead. The trade didn't work out as planned so far, but fortunately, it hasn't really needed to just yet. When he starts hitting, we'll forget all about this.
So, uh, any day now, Hunter.
Any day. I'm still optimistic. Kind of. Mostly! In a way.