We just debuted “McDeep Dive”, our new series that will spotlight one Giants player every day for a week. We’ll move backwards and forwards through time, look at on the field stuff, off the field stuff, and see if we can learn something new about them. Here’s the final part on this week’s subject, Hunter Pence.
2011 was a career-defining year for Hunter Pence. It was his best season (140 wRC+), he made his second All-Star team in a 3-year span, and it was the year he was traded to the Phillies which setup his trade the following season to the Giants. That trade from the Astros to the Phillies was also because 2011 was the year he made contact.
He had a 23-game hitting streak as the headline indicated, and it was all a part of a career-high 190 hit season. That streak was tied for 4th-longest in MLB that season. Ryan Braun also had 23, and only AL leader Dustin Pedroia (25), Andre Ethier (30), and Dan Uggla! (33) had longer streaks. That streak is also tied (with Braun’s) for the 7th-longest streak in the National League since 2011.
The streak ran from May 19 to June 13, and the full line was:
AVG .406 / OBP .436 / SLG .625
39 H (7 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR) | 5 BB: 18 K | .459 wOBA | 196 wRC+
A month and a half later, the Astros traded Pence to the Phillies to kick off what would become a long, slow, painful rebuild of the organization that did eventually lead to a World Series for them in 2017, but had the effect of netting the Giants 2 thanks in part to Hunter Pence in the interim.
The Phillies somehow came out on the short end of the stick with having him in their organization, to the point that Liz Roscher over at The Good Phight had this to say after the Giants advanced to the World Series in 2014:
In 2012, the Giants flew to a World Series victory not on the back of Pence’s hitting, but on the back of his inspirational speeches. Hunter Pence, gangly weirdsmobile and spaghetti-limbed dervish of baseball, had found where he belonged.
And seeing that, seeing how Pence fit in so well with the Giants, annoyed me even more. The Phillies of the last 7-8 years have never seemed comfortable with that kind of emotion. Or even emotion at all. They’re like Catholics. “Well, evangelism and inspirational spiritualism is fine for all of *those* Christians. We’ve got our quiet homilies and recitations of faith and silent, serious prayer.” The emotional, speech-giving Pence is not one that could have existed on the Phillies. But that guy is almost tailor made for the San Francisco Giants.
The hitting streak showed off Pence’s entire hit skill set. You’ve got the barely hit grounders that he beats out, the inside-out swing that launches balls to the opposite field, the huge home runs... and when you watch the video embedded below, you’ll immediately note the bat speed. My how quick those hands were. That’s the secret to his success. His gangly stance always worked because it was setup to unleash a whirling dervish of swing.
Let’s consider it a minor miracle that MLB.com still makes this video available. After they converted over from Flash, virtually all of the links from over the years went dead as they haven’t bothered to update them to the new video format. But enough about Major League Baseball’s resistance to promoting its game using the technology it pioneered. Let’s watch this 6 minute, 9 second highlight of Hunter Pence doing his thing: