Sunday, June 5, 2011

The case for keeping Hunter Pence

          Let me start off by stating that I was the biggest cheerleader for the Astros to begin the rebuilding process. Despite their terrible record this season I am glad they have decided to get younger before the change in ownership. I have heard a lot of grumbling from the Astro faithful about the possibility of trading Hunter Pence for even more prospects. I would like to argue why I think the Astros should keep Hunter in the fold using both my brains (statistics) and heart (gut feeling). Before I begin let me also say that I think every player should have a price. While I think keeping Hunter around is the right decision, if a team offered a young stud pitcher and can't miss every day prospect then you always do what is best for the organization.
     First off, Pence is having a very good season at the plate. He would easily be my Astro MVP right now. I know, on a last place team that's a little like saying he has been the best actor in a Michael Bay flick. He's hitting .311 with a .355 OBP. Pence is second in the NL in hits(76), third in 2B(17), and fourth in RBI(43). The Astros have been very disappointing, but Pence has been a bright spot at the plate. Those statistics only begin to show the kind of season Pence is having. As my friend and I debated the issue of trading Pence, I told him "Yeah, but Hunter has been extremely clutch this season." At the time I only had my perception of games I have seen this year, but after looking it up I can now back that statement up with facts. Pence has batted .382 when the game is tied this season driving in the go ahead run 12 times. In the classic 2 outs runners in scoring position situations, Pence is hitting a whopping .391 with 11 RBI's! Imagine how we would be looking at his season if the Astros could hold onto leads and were within a few games of first.
     Again, I am all for the Astros rebuilding. I think all of us can agree that if we ever see Carlos Lee in Houston after this season it better be at a Rodeo cookoff booth. However, we will need some veteran leadership around the clubhouse. Pence is 28 years old this season and I would argue is just hitting his prime. Berkman is 35 years old and we have all seen he can still produce now that he is healthy and able to perform. I could be wrong here, but Pence strikes me as the kind of player who will always work hard in the offseason, weightroom, and batting cage to get better. His hustle has made him a fan favorite and a great example for the younger players. In MLB unlike NBA, superstars do not guarantee titles (see 2010 Giants), you need 9 good players and an above average rotation. Pence is definitely an above average right fielder. Is he a HOF? Probably not, but there are several World Series contenders who would love to have him patrolling their right field. I for one would like to see Pence in RF when Jim Crane rebuilds our beloved Astros into a contender again. (Fingers crossed)

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