Angel Pagan isn’t just the hottest hitter on the Giants right now; he’s the hottest hitter the Giants have had all season. Also, we’re talking about how he hits baseballs. His .985 OPS this month is the best mark for any month from any hitter on the team. His .456 OBP in August is also the best monthly OBP for any hitter by a 36-point margin. The second half injured him, because of course it did, but Pagan is one of the only reasons the Giants have won in the second half at all.
The unfortunate corollary to this fun factlet is that Hunter Pence is having the worst month of any Giants player this season. He’s been broken over the last month, and in my personal opinion, the team plays better when he is not broken.
In his 18 games this August, Pence has hit .224/.272/.303 with 27 strikeouts and just five walks in 81 plate appearances. The .575 OPS is the worst of any player with more than 15 starts in a month, and the worst part is taht he was doing so well. Before his hamstring injury, he was on a personal-record-setting pace when it came to his patience and walk rate, as his 18 walks in April was a personal best for any month. Now, though, he’s having his worst month since September, 2014, and that’s with him going 6-for-15 over his last four games.
The worst part might be his batting average on balls in play, which is .333. It’s not just him getting unlucky (looking at you, Joe Panik). That’s not the problem at all.
The reason why has been pretty obvious to anyone watching:
Why I said Hunter Pence looked messed up- these are the pitches he's swung at last 3 games pic.twitter.com/nZgDjYWViS— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) August 10, 2016
That brilliant plate discipline from the first part of the season rusted over with his time on the DL, and he’s swinging at everything. Here’s what he’s swinging at in August, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:
He’s swinging at almost everything down the middle, which is good! He’s supposed to. But look at those numbers at pitches below the zone. He’s swinging at almost half of the pitches below the strike zone, and it won’t surprise you to learn that he isn’t having success with those swings, putting just eight balls in play out of the 43 swings taken. Only one of those swings led to a hit.
The last few games have been encouraging, as Pence has shown signs of breaking out of this, with line drives all over the outfield, even in his outs. Against the Marlins and Orioles, Pence struck out 14 times in 27 at-bats, but he’s struck out just four times in his last 27 at-bats. He’s stopped chasing the sliders below the zone, even as pitchers have kept throwing them. If he had a great rest of the month, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
I don’t have answers. I don’t have an explanation, other than rust (that couldn't have been helped by the foul ball off his face). I just came across all this while looking for something else, and figured I should share it on McCoveyChronicles.com to keep you informed. Hunter Pence is in the middle of the worst offensive month from any starting Giants position player this year, even after a mini-hot streak over the last few games has helped buoy his numbers.
One of these days, the Giants will have more than one hot hitter at the same time. Like, oh, July, 2018. For now, though, keep thinking positive thoughts about Hunter Pence’s resurgence. It might have already started, and, boy howdy, does this team need it.