Hunter Pence wants to play major league baseball again in 2019, and a team should absolutely give him a chance if for no other reason than Hunter Pence is a gem and baseball would be worse with his absence. Even if he replicated his lost 2018 in which he had a .509 OPS, he could still improve some teams. The Marlins gave 298 combined plate appearances to Magneuris Sierra and oyster restaurant JB Shuck and they had a .399 and .486 OPS respectively.
Pence, as you know, has been playing in the Dominican Winter League to try out his new swing. Unless you’re a spirit of spite from a Miyazaki movie, you wanted Hunter Pence to lead the league in dingers and have OPS over 1.000. His performance would have given him a job on a team less woefully lost than the Marlins. Maybe the Mariners or the Rangers.
In reality, Pence didn’t lead the league in OPS. That distinction belonged to San Diego’s Franmil Reyes, a spirit of beef. Pence had just 31 plate appearances in the regular season, across which he hit .276/.290/.414 with one home run. That’s an OPS of .704. If you add his 6-for-20 in the postseason, he’s hitting .275 in 52 plate appearances. That might not seem impressive, but the league had an OPS of .623. Incidentally, that’s also what current Giant Abiatal Avelino hit for the Gigantes del Ciabo.
Looking through the Gameday of Friday’s playoff game between Pence’s Toros del Este and the Tigres del Licey, I suspect offense is down because umpires call strikes whenever the hell they feel like it. This second pitch was a called strike against Erick Mejia.
This ball at the shins was also called a strike against Danny Santana.
This first pitch against Pence was also called a strike.
Not to be dismayed, Pence knocked that second pitch between third baseman Donovan Solano and shortstop Erick Mejia to drive in the winning runs.
Hunter Pence remolcando las dos carreras de la ventaja para @TorosdelEste— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) December 29, 2018
Cortesía de @AFPSiembra pic.twitter.com/Wk7P4UX9cl
In his tenure with the Giants, Hunter Pence amassed a modest collection of electrifying clutch hits that weren’t hit all that well. Remember this walk-off against the Padres this year?
Or this other one against the Padres?
Or when he literally threw his bat at the ball to knock in a run?
And of course his voodoo three-hit against the Cardinals:
Pence could really turn the tide of a game with a weird chopper and black majicks, and he’s done it again for his new team, and in the playoffs no less. It would be more special if the Liga de Beisbol Domincano’s playoffs weren’t an 18-game round robin that lasted for a month. Pence was a hero for a night, he’s been an above average hitter for the league, and he’s even given motivational, potty mouth speeches in the locker room.
We found inspiration on every single player every day. #Momentum by @hunterpence #AquiToSomosToros pic.twitter.com/xnO2TWgh1T— Toros del Este (@TorosdelEste) December 12, 2018
All we could really hope for was for Hunter Pence to spread his joy to other parts of the baseball universe, and so far, he’s doing that.