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An Overview of Hunter Pence's Giants Career


Former Giants OF Hunter Pence; Photo via Arturo Pardavila III

Hunter Pence played baseball like a freak. Watching any highlight of his will leave you shocked at how he manages to even get the bat on the ball. Despite his unorthodox play style, Pence was a 4-time All-Star and earned MVP votes four times in his 17-year major-league career. It was not always easy, as he battled through rough injuries in the back half of his time in the majors. Pence is a beloved player by fans of all the teams he played for, but his time with the San Francisco Giants will be forever special.


Pence established himself as an elite vibes guy when he was traded to the Giants in the middle of the 2012 season. The Texas native had spent five seasons with Houston and two with Philadelphia before finding his home in San Francisco. In the middle of their dynasty, the Giants welcomed Pence with open arms, and he immediately became a fan favorite because of his ability to lead on the field and in the clubhouse. His rally speeches became legendary. Pence addressed a crowd of 40,000 at Oracle Park ahead of the Giants’ wildcard game in 2014. He rallied Giants fans to back their boys as they traveled to Pittsburgh. That 2014 team went on to win the World Series, and many fans cite Pence’s famous “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant as the start of that special postseason run. 

 

Pence was a member of the Giants’ 2012 and 2014 World Series champion teams. Early on in San Francisco, Hunter’s ability to stay on the field was extremely impressive. He played 160 games in 2012 and 162 in 2013 and 2014. Giants fans came to appreciate Pence that much more after seeing the outfielder play every day. This resilience paved the way for Hunter to sign a 5-year, $90 million extension in September of 2013. 


Injuries aside, Pence produced at a solid level when he was on the field following his extension. As mentioned above, Pence’s 2014 season was the most renowned of his career. In the full 162 games that year, Pence slashed .277/.322/.445, good for a 121 OPS+. He was selected to the All-Star Game and placed 11th in NL MVP voting, not to mention winning his second World Series in the past three seasons. It was the 2015 season that proved to be the start of long stretches on the injured list. Pence suffered a severe oblique injury in August of 2015, ending his season after only 52 games played. This oblique injury came in the same year that Pence was hit by a pitch in spring training that broke his left forearm. Funny enough, this spring-training injury was not the first of his career. In 2008, Pence ran through a sliding glass door, cutting his hand and leaving him in a knee brace.


Sparing more specifics of Pence’s injuries, he was never the same player after that 2015 season. He never played more than 135 games after then, and he only had 2 seasons with over 100 games played from 2015 to 2019. However, Pence’s offensive production was extremely reliable. He had just three seasons in his career in which he posted a sub-100 OPS+. His career OPS+ was 114, making him 14 percent better than the league average across his 14 years in the bigs. 


Due to the timing of his injuries, Pence only had two seasons that fully qualified on Baseball Savant. His percentile rankings from 2016 do a great job of establishing the type of player he was throughout his career. Impressively, Pence landed in the 84th percentile for average exit velocity, 74th in Hard-Hit%, and 72nd in walk percentage. He was also in the 86th percentile for sprint speed. Ironically, he only had one stolen base in 106 games in 2016, perhaps a symptom of trying to avoid further injury. For reference, Pence swiped 22 and 13 bags in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The negatives to Pence’s game are also present in these percentiles, with ranks like 2nd in Sweet-Spot%, 7th in Whiff%, and 35th in strikeout percentage. Of course, these metrics are from deeper in Pence’s career and do not fully represent the player he was through his entire playing days. When he finally hung up the cleats, he sported a career .279/.334/.461 slash line and racked up 30.9 bWAR in his impressive 14-year career.


It is hard to fully capture and quantify the value that a guy like Hunter Pence brought to Major League Baseball. His fun-loving attitude, exceptional leadership, and general reliability transformed the Texas-born outfielder into a well-regarded player. When it comes to his time in San Francisco, Pence is very open about how much he loves the city and how much he enjoyed his playing time there. He was rewarded with a much-deserved extension after proving his durability during the most important Giants seasons of the last decade. Pence became extremely special for the city of San Francisco, and he perfectly represented the type of player that made the Giants so successful during their dynasty run from 2010-2014. Pence’s wild, all-out style of playing and the passion he displayed on the field will certainly be the most memorable aspects of his time in the MLB.



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