Greetings, McCovey Chronicles readers.
My name is Riley Breckenridge. I represent the Southern California chapter of Productive Outs, contribute at Getting Blanked, used to hit things with sticks for a living, and have been a reader of/lurker on this fantastic Giants blog for a few years. That readership is due in large part to Grant's amazing writing, but also because of the strength, insight and wit of the community here. I'm honored (and nervous, frankly) to be filling Grant's shoes for a moment, and promise not to take up too much of your time as you watch the video of Barry Zito jamming with Metallica for the tenth time because jamming with a metal band on acoustic guitar makes a ton of sense and whoa LARS ULRICH'S DRUMMING. Oof.
I'm a Giants fan. I'm not a Giants fan in even the tiniest shred of the way that most (or all) of you are, and won't pretend to be. But because of you guys, and my late uncle (who used to snail mail me articles from the SF Chronicle about Barry Bonds [pre-roid scandal]), Grant, and Ian - my cohort at Productive Outs - I follow them more closely than I follow any NL team.
(Note: I'm a born-and-raised Angels fan. I think 2002 was flukey and weird and awesome. I don't harbor grudges, nor do I gloat. The Halos are mostly awful and totally frustrating now, and 2002 was a long time ago, so there's that.)
My favorite Giants player - and probably my favorite player in all of Major League Baseball, come to think of it - is Hunter Pence. He's my favorite player because he's the embodiment of chaos. He's a mechanical disaster that yields surprisingly beneficial results. He's wrong producing right. He's us. Right? Maybe? No? K, let's move on anyway. He's flawed and weird and probably certifiably crazy, but he's getting it done somehow. Again, he's us.
Because of that, I'm utterly and endlessly fascinated by how "wrong" he does everything while holding down a job as probably one of the 200 best baseball players on the planet. He swings like he just mainlined a four-pack of Red Bull in the fourth inning of a sloshball game. He throws like he's chucking jai alai pelota. He runs like he's boneless and on fire. It's incredible to watch. And when he's not doing any of those things, it seems like he's dreaming of delicacies from his home planet and doing stuff like this*.
So, I've been running a series of swingpr0n posts over the past two seasons at Productive Outs. In those posts, I'll take a particularly ridiculous home run from the day or night before and geek over the particulars of said home run with the help of statistics provided by ESPN's Home Run Tracker and Brooks Baseball's phenomenal PitchFX tool.
If the swingpr0n I've done over at Productive Outs is top-tier, A+ level pr0n, what you're about to see is the equivalent of some German scat pr0n, or some naked fat person in nothing but a cowboy hat barfing on someone's most intimate bits. It's ugly, wrong and disgusting as sin, but but the end result is the same. SUCCESS. (Kinda? Maybe? Roll with me here.)
And with that overly wordy and subtext-riddled intro out of the way, let's examine Pence's four home runs of 2013**.
*Please take the time to click the on the links to come. They'll only enhance your reading/viewing experience. I promise. And yeah, I know ... TL;DR, and the Internet is a huge place demanding of your attention, but just trust me.
**He hit a fifth home run on Wednesday night (of course) and because this piece was filed on Wednesday night, I have neither the time, nor the Home Run Tracker and PitchFX data to analyze it. For that, I apologize. It was big, and freakish and awkward as all get out.
This is Hunter Pence's solo shot off of Josh Beckett on April 3rd at Dodger Stadium.
The swing: Like most things Pence, it's confounding example of awkwardness overcome by freakish strength (and probably some sort of alien sorcery). It's an exaggerated leg lift, a sizeable hitch in the hands, a slight step in the bucket (because he doesn't quite get himself squared up from such an open stance), a huuuuge stride, and a front hip that flies open early. Despite all of that nightmare fuel for hitting instructors, Pence manages (post-hitch) to keep his hands back and his bat flat through the zone for long enough to rely on his alien/chimp strength (four-plus times as strong as a human of comparable size) to hit an absolute laser over the right-center field fence. It's no small feat to hit an oppo bomb at Dodger Stadium at night. We make note of this, but ...
The mind. It boggles.
The velocity off the bat: 106.4 mph
The elevation angle: 20.8˚
The verdict: It's fitting that Pence's ability to turn wrong into right was best exhibited in his first home run of the year. For what it's worth, Pence has a baseball academy in Houston where his instructors presumably teach youngsters how to do whatever the hell it is that he does. The curse. It's spreading.
This is Hunter Pence's solo shot off of Shelby Miller on April 6th at AT&T Park.
The pitch: A 2-0, 92 mph, cockshot fastball.
The swing: This, more or less.
This is what happens when Pence sits dead red and tries to hit the everloving piss out of a baseball. It's a straight-up backyard Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby hack; the kind of swing that seems like it could sending him spinning endlessly until he bore his way to the Earth's core. He loads up on his back leg with a huge leg kick, hitches his hands to the point where the knob of the bat almost meets his knee (WTF), takes a massive stride that almost covers the entire landscape of the right-handed batter's box (WTFOMG) and pulls the bat through the zone on a level plane and just crushes a pitch offered by many folks' preseason pick for NL Rookie of the Year. He gets a bit long with this swing here, but that extension is about as pretty as Pence gets. Absorb that beauty into your fandom while you can.
The velocity off the bat: 104.2 mph
The elevation angle: 24.1˚
The verdict: Baseball is weird as hell, and - by all accounts - Hunter Pence is a being who came to this planet as a newborn, was made feral by living in a woodshed for 15 years while being fed a strict diet of Fun Dip and old-timey baseball videos before being released into the wild. The results? You've seen them. A steaming plate of feces at times, a filet mignon at others.
Let's move on ...
This is Hunter Pence's three-run bomb off of Jorge De La Rosa on April 8th at AT&T Park.
The swing: After staring at Pence swing GIFs for the better part of an afternoon, I've completely lost my mind begun to notice that his finish is very magician-like. He uncoils to face the pitcher, waves his wand and turns a gangly mess of limbs into nifty baseball-type things (sometimes). He also does so whilst looking like this more often than not. I'm not gonna speak on the relevance of the CreepyGuy™ that appears in the video, nor the weirdness of a grown man rhythmically banging on a plank of wood that is rooted in his taint, but ... yeah. That's a thing that people do.
The velocity off the bat: 111.3 mph
The elevation angle: 25.3˚
The verdict: My favorite part about this GIF is De la Rosa's reaction immediately after he releases the pitch. Instant shame. I'd like to think that if this GIF were a minute or two longer we'd see him continue spiraling in despair toward the first base dugout, teeth clenched, growing sadder and sadder with each rotation. By the time he reached the first base line he'd be at pirouette-pace and tears would start to stream down his cherubic face. Then, shame and sadness would turn to anger and frustration. And as he continued to pick up speed, he'd start screaming, "FUUUUUUUUU!!!" At which point, anger and frustration would be curb-stomped by violence and rage and he'd throw his hat, and then his glove, and then tear off his jersey, shoes, pants, socks, undershirt, compression shorts and underwear (spinning like the Tasmanian Devil all the while) until he ended up in the visiting dugout, where he'd sit down naked (except for a single Phiten necklace) on the bench next to a very confused Jeff Francis. The end.
This is Hunter Pence's solo shot off of Shawn Camp on April 14th at Wrigley Field.
The swing: His eyes light up as ...
DO NOT LOOK INTO HIS EYES.
I done told ya.
The velocity off the bat: 100.5 mph
The elevation angle: 27.0˚
The verdict: I sincerely believe that Hunter Pence is 53% alien life form, 23% marionette***, and 15% limberjack and 9% human-type things squirted forcefully into a sausage casing that will be erstwhile known as Hunter Andrew Pence, AKA "Captain Underpants".
So, yeah. He's a clustefuck of flesh, but let's enjoy him. He's not like the others.
*The author spent nearly three hours scouring YouTube for pertinent marionette/puppet footage (watching what is the most bizarre subculture of humanity) and is now lying down and weeping uncontrollably into the carpet of his home with visions of Hunter Pence HR GIFs burned into the deepest recesses of his brain. Thanks?