With Marco Scutaro nowhere in sight for the vast majority of the season, manager Bruce Bochy had to find a solid hitter to replace Scutaro. Traditional wisdom might suggest you need someone that can bunt for late in the game, but we know Bochy does not always follow those old school rules. He tried Brandon Belt there, which I still think is a great idea, but he’s had an even distribution of games in the two, three, five, and six spot. Just about 200 plate appearances this season in the two spot have come from the ever awkward and ever present Hunter Pence. I can only guess what the initial reaction was to putting Pence behind Angel Pagan, but getting a good hitter like Pence more plate appearances is a gameplan I’m definitely OK with.
May 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) hits a three run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
What did Hunter Pence have to replace? Well, in 2013, Marco Scutaro put up a healthy average/on-base line of .297/.361 with twenty doubles and two home runs. Not much power to write home about, and Scutaro was tenth overall in wOBA for 2012-2013 for players that had put up at least 500 plate appearances batting second. Flash forward to this year and the leaderboard for players that have at least 100 plate appearances while batting second include the names Yasiel Puig, Joey Votto, and Mike Trout. Not too far down from Trout and Votto’s numbers will you find the not-scooter-less Hunter Pence. How the four players have done this year when batting second:
Puig: 139 PA, .460 OBP, .415 BABIP, .492 wOBA, 223 wRC+
Votto: 107 PA, .430 OBP, .306 BABIP, .392 wOBA, 149 wRC+
Trout: 237 PA, .371 OBP, .348 BABIP, .391 wOBA, 155 wRC+
Pence: 198 PA, .379 OBP, .338 BABIP, .384 wOBA, 150 wRC+
These are all very good numbers with Puig’s being the most ridiculous of the bunch. Each of these hitters also have a double-digit walk percentage this year, setting it up for the rest of their lineup. Only Trout has struck out more than 20% of the time in that spot. As for Scutaro’s advanced numbers in 2012-2013:
Scutaro: 949 PA, .362 OBP, .327 BABIP, .338 wOBA, 113 wRC+
In a smaller stretch of games, Pence is outdoing Scutaro, so if/when Marco ever comes back, I don’t think it should be automatically assumed Pence should be taken out of the two spot, and I’m sure the front office and Bochy will have that discussion as well if/when the time comes. So keep on 1bup-ing, overlord. You are a key component to the Giants offense, especially when Angel Pagan and Buster Posey are out of the lineup and Pablo Sandoval is being streaky. As ford who you would rather have batting second between Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence? That will have to be another article covered when Belt is on the verge of coming back.