San Francisco Giants: Mac Williamson Should Replace Pence in Left
By Vince Cestone
At the 2012 trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants acquired outfielder Hunter Pence to solidify their offense and add some pop to a power-starved team. But fast forward to 2018, Mac Williamson is primed to take Pence’s starting role — and it’s only late April.
The San Francisco Giants came into the Los Angeles Angels series last week with too many games where they scored either one run or none. And one of the problems with the offense was Pence.
Too many times the Giants would set the table for Pence. Seemingly every time this season, the Giants would have two on and two out, down by one or tied, with the 35-year-old right fielder at the plate.
Then, the at-bat would end with Pence flailing at junk outside, striking out to end the inning.
The numbers haven’t been pretty: Pence was hitting .172 with no home runs in 58 at-bats. He has a minuscule .197 on-base percentage and a 2017 first-half Gorkys Hernandez-like .386 OPS.
The numbers are ugly — Pence knows it, the fans know it, the Giants know it. The Giants went all-in for 2018, and this kind of production won’t fly as they try to bounce back from a 98-loss season.
In comes Mac Williamson, the remade right-handed power hitter who changed his whole plate approach to look like a bigger, taller, and stronger Justin Turner at the plate.
Turner, of course, is the star third-baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers who is currently injured. He was once a mere reserve player for the New York Mets but changed his whole swing and it paid off, thanks to a private hitting instructor.
Turner is now a top-tier third baseman, and Williamson, wanting to join the party, saw this same instructor and is so far enjoying success in his brief stint with the major league club.
Since being called up from Triple-A after Pence went on the 10-day disabled list with a thumb injury, Williamson is 4-for-15 but with two game-changing home runs.
In his 2018 debut on Friday, Williamson hit an opposite field bomb that turned a 1-0 game into a 3-0 game. The Giants went on to win that game 8-1 over the Angels.
The next night, he went 1-for-4 but the one hit was a leadoff single with the Giants down by one run in the ninth. The Giants did go on to lose the game 4-3.
In the series finale, Williamson had a single in three at-bats, while striking out twice. However, both were looking on high strike calls.
Giants still won Game three in Anaheim 4-2.
Then on Monday, he endeared himself to Giants fans against the Washington Nationals with a 464-foot blast in Barry Bonds territory in right-center field. Keep in mind, Mac hit it there as a right-handed hitter.
The home run turned a tight 2-1 game into a 4-1 game, and the Giants got the add-on runs they’ve been missing earlier this season and all of last season.
The Giants won the game 4-2, as Williamson’s home run was the difference in the game.
And the homer was historical too, in the Statcast era anyway:
More from Around the Foghorn
- Atlanta claims SF Giants C Chadwick Tromp off waivers
- SF Giants: Could Johnny Cueto help down the stretch?
- SF Giants: Does Thairo Estrada have a role in 2022?
- SF Giants activate Alex Wood, option Sammy Long, and DFA Chadwick Tromp
- SF Giants: Hard-throwing reliever could be key in playoffs
Even the analytics people are loving what Williamson is doing.
At age 27, time was running out for Williamson to get his career going.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 240-pound Williamson only had a .226 career average and .682 OPS over three seasons as a part-time player coming into 2018.
After getting frustrated about constantly hitting the ball on the ground, Williamson impressed in spring training and is so far continuing his success in the majors — and making an impact right away.
But even so, after getting yo-yoed from Triple-A to the majors over the last three seasons, Williamson says he isn’t getting too confident just yet.
"“I’m encouraged, but this is a game of adjustments,” Williamson told MLB.com. “So I’m not complacent with where I am right now. I know that it’s always going to be a game of adjustments. As you have success, they’re going to adjust to how you’re doing and you’re going to adjust back to what they’re doing. It’s a constant chess game."
So what does this mean for Pence?
With Andrew McCutchen solidified in right field, Austin Slater and Steven Duggar knocking on the door, and Williamson’s immediate success, it might be the end for Pence as an everyday player.
Pence has definitely lost a step in the outfield, and the once durable player has been decimated by injuries the last couple of years.
After playing all 162 games for the Giants in both 2013 and 2014, he only played in 158 games in 2015 and 2016 combined.
And his OPS was a career-worst .701 last year.
Pence is a great Giant. Who could forget his potential game-saving catch in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, big speech before Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS with the Giants down 2-0 against the Cincinnati Reds, and his appearance on Netflix’s Fuller House?
Next: What the Giants need to do the rest of April
But it’s time for him to abdicate his starting role to younger players and help out from the bench.
Not bad to have a three-time All-Star and playoff hero come up as a pinch hitter with the game on the line.