Hunter Pence embodies everything the Most Valuable Player should be. He has the statistics that prove he is among the elite offensive and defensive players in baseball. He has a spirit and an attitude that is unrivalled. He is a leader for the San Francisco Giants. Ignoring the fanfare guys like Clayton Kershaw and Giancarlo Stanton are cooking up, here are three reasons Pence deserves to be the MVP. Three good reasons, too.
Evidently, it is important to be among the leaders in key offensive statistics, and the right fielder for the Giants is. With 104 runs scored, he is second in the National League easily, trailing Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals by only four runs. Runs are an extremely undervalued statistic, it is a clear depiction that one can carry out the most important role in baseball: Getting on base.
His ability to get on base is further proved by this simple and extraordinary fact: Pence also leads the league in hits. Leading the league in hits is a clear sign of offensive prowess, and that is exactly what Pence has. He is also second in triples, which once more, is very impressive. Long story short; he is very impressive, period.
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He has 19 home runs, 72 runs batted in, 13 stolen bases and a slash of .292/.347/.466, which is pretty good. While his home run, runs batted in and stolen base numbers are all down, you must realise that Pence has hit all over the lineup, and for the vast majority of the season has hit in a role where knocking in runs wasn’t his main priority.
He ranks 16th in wRC+, 16th in wRAA and eighth in WAR. Okay, will these metrics don’t necessarily scream out MVP, the above mentioned core statistics do. While it isn’t always recognised, I’m cognizant of the fact that the MVP award should consider all aspects of the game, and hence, defensive numbers are very important. Pence is first among all right fielders in outfield assists, and fifth in fielding percentage. It is a well documented fact that Pence can go get it with the best of them on defense, despite playing one of the hardest right fields in baseball at AT&T Park.
Pence looks set to play every game of the season, for the second season in a row and played in 160 games the season before that, which is simply incredible. He currently holds the active lead for most consecutive games played. Yeah, it’s handy knowing that your star player will be on the field everyday, but it resembles so much more than just that.
It depicts his dedication and love for the game. Unlike many players these days, he doesn’t care about money or anything materialistic. I mean, he doesn’t drive a glamorous and expensive sports car to the ballpark every day like most guys, he drives a scooter to the ballpark to beat the traffic. It’s impossible not the love the guy. Bruce Bochy has been jumping him all over the lineup this season, and while at times he may not have been hitting in his favourite spot. Did he complain? What do you think.
Who remembers Hunter Pence signs? A phenomena based on heckling the Giants’ right fielder. Did he get angry, or annoyed or speak out against it? Nope. He loved it. He embraced it. In all honesty, it would be ridiculously hard to try and find a player who takes everything in his stride, embraces everything negative and turns it into something positive.
Heart and hustle
When Pence won the heart and hustle award last season for the Giants, it was one of the most deserved awards ever given. As aforementioned, he is set to play in every game for the second straight season. His unrivalled love for the game, and desire to play is a complete and utter polar contrast to his outfield partner, Angel Pagan, who is often joked about resting because his hair isn’t sitting right.
He literally does hustle every play on offense and defense. It is nearly impossible to find an instance where Pence doesn’t hustle out of the batters box, and it has paid serious dividends for the leader of the Giants – he is second in the National League in infield hits. Remember when we won the World Series in 2012, yeah, it’s hard to forget. Still, to this moment, many people believe that Pence’s inspirational speech fueled that success, and it’s hard to disagree.
As aforementioned, the Most Valuable Player award should go to the most complete player in baseball. And to me, anyway, ‘most complete’ should most certainly include attitude to the game, and Pence is undeniably the leader in this. It isn’t something that you can measure, or have a metric for, but it is so important. All considered, how can anyone argue against the fact that Pence is the MVP, if you forget about the historic season Kershaw is having.