San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence‘s game against the Padres Sunday was a microcosm of his season thus far. He struck out twice, and once was with a runner in scoring position. He has made very little hard contact, and that continued on Sunday.
In all fairness to Pence, the Giants, as a team, have not been hitting. This is especially true with runners in scoring position. However, Pence is not inspiring any confidence with the way he is hitting. He is swinging at everything, and not making contact very often. When he does make contact, it does not go very far.
Pence came up early in the game with a runner in scoring position, and he struck out. The final score was 10-1 in favor of the Padres. So, this play did not affect the outcome in any material way. This trend is occurring frequently with Pence.
Later in the game, Pence struck out again. He did manage to get a hit in between his strike outs. On the year, Pence’s strike out rate is above 33 percent. For a player who hits baseballs far, this is an acceptable strikeout rate. That is not Pence anymore as evidenced by his one extra-base hit on the season, which was a double.
If he was only striking out at a high rate, then it could be just a bad stretch. It is a long season, and everyone goes through it – except for Mike Trout. Trout never goes through a bad stretch. It is not just the strikeouts with Pence, it is how he is hitting the ball.
According to his batted balls data, Pence is making soft contact in about 33 percent of his batted balls. This is an especially huge spike for Pence in this area. It seems clear that the stats back up what we are seeing with Pence: his bat may not have much left. It is still early, but three weeks into this season, and the results have not been encouraging
There is also this:
Evidently, the Giants are taking notice of Pence’s struggles. This position change is occurring in the midst of Mac Williamson’s offensive explosion. Williamson altered his swing in the offseason, and these changes are paying dividends.
It seems the Giants want Williamson to get some reps in left field in case Pence cannot come out of his funk. If Williamson stays hot at the plate, it is a matter of time before he is wearing a Giants uniform again.