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Hunter Pence providing no protection for Buster Posey

Oct 17, 2012, 11:30 PM EDT

Hunter Pence AP

The Giants acquired Hunter Pence to drive in runs hitting behind Buster Posey. And that’s exactly what he did in the regular season. In 59 games after coming over from the Phillies, Pence racked up 45 RBI. That pace would have led the NL had he maintained it for the full year.

Of course, it’s been a different story in the postseason. Pence hasn’t driven in a single run in eight games to date. He’s 5-for-31 with no extra-base hits and just one walk. In Wednesday’s loss, he hit with five men on base and advanced none of them. After Posey was intentionally walked to get to him in the third, he hit into a double play.

Pence also went 0-for-9 in his final three regular-season games, leaving him with a .125 average in his last 11 games overall.

Perhaps the Giants should have seen this coming. For all of the runs batted in, Pence didn’t exactly set the world afire after arriving in July. He hit just .219 with seven homers in 219 at-bats. His season OPS of .742 was his lowest in six years as a major leaguer.

Still, since the Giants decided not to activate Melky Cabrera, they’ve pretty much backed themselves into a corner with their outfield situation. They may replace Pence in the fifth spot behind Posey, but there aren’t any attractive options as replacements. The most likely option would involve moving Gregor Blanco up to the third spot and dropping Pablo Sandoval to fifth. Pence will remain in the starting lineup either way, but he may bat sixth or seventh in Thursday’s Game 4.

  1. thehypercritic - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    I love how the headline casually refers to lineup protection, as if it’s something the baseball community believe exists and is impactful without question — like run support for a pitcher.

    And by “love”, I mean why does a single writer at an admirable blog (who has proven himself knowledgable and conversant in sabermetric thought) insist on trolling his readership???!

    • garythebat - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      Mr. Pouliot must be going through some kind of awful mess. His track record is that of a smart and objective dude, but for the last few months, his posts always seem to be coming from a chronically lonely, miserable, glass-half-empty place. Reminiscent of this: http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-on-personal-mission-to-explain-why-univer,29922/

      • thehypercritic - Oct 18, 2012 at 12:09 AM

        I shan’t try to figure out where his head’s at, and I’m only frustrated because he’s a talented blogger who has shown himself to be more rigorous in his process in times past, but sometimes it feels like he’s looking for a rise out of the readership instead of the thoughtful engagement HBT generally promotes.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Oct 18, 2012 at 12:43 AM

      Would you prefer the headline read “production behind Buster Posey,” because it makes no difference to me. The entry isn’t about lineup protection.

      And of course lineup protection is a thing that exists. Do you think Posey would have been intentionally walked today if he had Prince Fielder hitting behind him? The part where traditional baseball people and the numbers friendly crowd would disagree is whether said protection has much or any effect on a player’s performance. Of course, I’m right there in believing it doesn’t.

      • thehypercritic - Oct 18, 2012 at 12:56 AM

        “No production behind Buster Posey”, dropping Posey from the headline for a post primarily about Pence or a qualifier “for those how believe such things matter”.

        I’m not taking a stand one way or the other, but the headline implies that lineup protection is real and relevant and then pays no mind to the pot you have chosen to stir.

      • paperlions - Oct 18, 2012 at 8:05 AM

        The thing that doesn’t exist is lineup protection for the best hitter in the lineup….and yes, Posey very well may have been walked to face Fielder because Posey is the better hitter. Cabrera had his 3rd best season of the last 3 years this year with a better hitter hitting behind him. Holliday hit exactly as well as he always does despite not having Pujols behind him. Lineup protection really doesn’t exist, in that there is no evidence that the quality of the hitter to follow affects either the production of the hitter or the quality of the pitches he sees.

      • stex52 - Oct 18, 2012 at 8:37 AM

        So, as I understand it, Matt is suggesting that line up protection isn’t real, but everybody believes in it and does it anyway. But here we are arguing that Pence is not providing protection that doesn’t exist.

        I’m confused.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 18, 2012 at 10:07 AM

        And of course lineup protection is a thing that exists. Do you think Posey would have been intentionally walked today if he had Prince Fielder hitting behind him? The part where traditional baseball people and the numbers friendly crowd would disagree is whether said protection has much or any effect on a player’s performance

        Of course it has an effect. It’s doing wonders for Posey’s OBP.

  2. nogoodtomedead - Oct 18, 2012 at 12:06 AM

    What is this scenario that you think would have Blanco batting third?? Your just making things up. Wouldn’t the Giants either move Sanchez/Belt up to fifth and Pence down to sixth? As a Giants fan let me tell you that Blanco moving to third and Pablo to fifth is not even being though of- if it is- then the Cardinals have already won.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Oct 18, 2012 at 12:47 AM

      I’d prefer Belt batting fifth. If he plays. We’ll see. The Blanco scenario has been batted around a few times today. I’m not fond of it either.

  3. norcaldeportes - Oct 18, 2012 at 1:25 AM

    While we’re at it, Panda is garbage in big spots too. Was it just me or did he stop at 1st for a snack on that 1 out hit that bounced off the wall? That easily should’ve been a double, and he could’ve moved to 3rd or scored on Posey’s single. The Giants’ 3 & 5 spots are not producing.

  4. greymares - Oct 18, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    shame on those who doubted R.A.J.

  5. geoknows - Oct 18, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Why don’t we start with Posey himself? He’s not exactly helping the Giants either with his .200/.385/.200 slash line this series. And he hit .211 in the NLDS. At least he’s getting walked so his OBP looks respectable.

  6. Joe - Oct 18, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    This basically sums up Pence’s first half of the season with the Phillies. His overall RBI total was good, but whenever there were runners in scoring position and the Phils really needed some runs, he was abysmal–chasing low and outside junk and either striking out or hitting into a double play, with the occastional pop-up thrown in just to keep things interesting.

  7. temporarilyexiled - Oct 18, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Blanco
    Scutaro
    Pagan
    Posey
    Sandoval
    Pence
    Belt
    Crawford

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