There was a point last season when the question wasn't what Hunter Pence's contract would like, but whether he would get the qualifying offer. Magic hit and oratory prowess aside, Pence was a spectacular bust in 2012. His strike zone was between the on-deck circles, and he wasn't hitting for power. The power returned last year, but through July 14 of last year, he was hitting .262/.305/.455. He showed flashes of the player the Astros and Phillies enjoyed, but nothing more.
Then came August and September. Pence didn't exactly develop Eddie Stanky-like discipline, but he stopped missing his pitches when he got them. He hit 11 home runs in September. If he didn't have another homer for the rest of the season, he would have ranked fourth on the team just from that month
CUT TO: Present. A good portion of my hopes regarding the 2014 Giants are Pence-based. He's a middle-of-the-order hitter on a team that's relying more on its lineup than they have since Barry Bonds left. The Giants can't win with four runs a game anymore, and if they want to score like a normal team, Pence's power and OBP can't frandsen away in the dead of night. I'm not expecting him to regress, either. When I look at his aggregate numbers for the season, I'm filled with ... confidence? Mostly based on one month?
When July you looked at his aggregate numbers for the Giants, you were thinking about that sweet, sweet compensation pick toward the end of the first round. That's near where the Cardinals got Pete Kozma, you know. July you is very confused, right now.
Your Pence projection is caught between two separate truths.
Truth #1: Forgetting presentation, Pence is clearly one of the most talented players on the team. He's at least tied for the fastest player on the team, and no one can hit a baseball further. His arm is strong and accurate. And your hope is that somewhere in his brain, there's a punch card out of place. Someone will find it, slide it back in, and Pence will suddenly turn into a Daniel Craig-like fellow. Calm, measured. Able to harness his ample tools. Maybe he just needs time to grow into his puppy feet, so to speak. Maybe that's what September was
If not that, then your secondary hope is that he remains just as talented. It's a sight, alright.
Truth #2: The dude is weird, and not just in the yuk-yuk way that powers 90 percent of the jokes on this site. Weird as in baseball weird, as in that's not how baseball is supposed to work. His knee isn't supposed to touch his helmet when he begins his swing, and he should probably move his arms when he runs. His throwing motion shouldn't remind you of a cat trying to get masking tape off its foot. At some point, the athleticism is going to lose to the herky-jerky, and that battle usually turns in a player's early 30s.
Hunter Pence is a working helicopter made out of rubber bands and leftover Ikea wrenches. You don't want to stop marveling at it, even as you're expecting it to stop working at any second. And right now, that helicopter is your only way to get back on the island. We have to get back on the island, dammit. We have to get back on the island.
The scary thing is how reasonable his new contract seems, considering the above. I think I'd put money on Gregor Blanco being more valuable in 2017 and 2018, just because I don't trust Pence's unorthodox methods. But the last of five years and $90 million scares me a heckuva lot less than Shin-Soo Choo's seventh year.
Forget the contract, though. Let's reconcile both of those truths and prognosticate. The homers will go down, the OBP will stay about the same, but Pence will still be outstanding, considering the ballpark and league-wide scoring.