Sunday, July 31, 2011

SixPence, Phils' the Richer

As I’m sure you have heard, the Phillies acquired Astros right-fielder Hunter Pence in exchange for four prospects, two of which were the Phillies’ top hitting and pitching prospects.  I am not writing to discuss the merits of the trade, except to say that it was the sort of deal that needed to be made, because both Jared Cosart and Jonathan Singleton were in Single-A and would not have made a splash in the major leagues until 2013 or 2014, when the Phillies’ window of opportunity to win another World Series will be closing.

However, I should say that this post is not going to make Phillies fans feel great about the trade that was just made, especially since there is a reasonably large chance that Cosart and Singleton are impact players in a few years.

Hunter Pence is a definite improvement over our incumbent right-fielder Domonic Brown, who was sent back down to the minor leagues for the time being.  He joined the team yesterday already leading the team in batting average (.308) and brings the power, speed, and fielding ability that definitely put him over Brown.  However, the abysmal performance of Raul Ibañez (especially in the field) this season actually makes manager Charlie Manuel’s best lineup configuration to be with Brown in left field and Pence in right with Rauuuuul riding pine.

Exhibit A:

The first thing you should notice is that Pence is not the top-flight player that many people may have been led to believe.  He is good at many things, but is in no way great.  His hustle and workmanlike attitude will make him more of a fan favorite than his stats may deserve.  But as you can also see, the other corner outfield options are not making anyone argue with GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s decision to trade for Pence.  In terms of having a legitimate hitter batting behind Ryan Howard in the lineup, Pence is a significant improvement in terms of batting average, and also allows the middle of the lineup to not be as lefty-heavy.

Pence’s .823 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) makes him not only almost 100 points better than Brown or Ibañez, but he joins the team trailing just Shane Victorino and Chase Utley on the team.  He is achieving some unusual batting success this year, actually hitting better against right-handed pitchers than lefties (.836 vs. .780 OPS), and much better with runners on base than with the bases empty (.897 vs. .752 OPS).  His position at fifth in this lineup should give him a solid amount of opportunities with runners on, so I anticipate that he will do just fine.

Adding Hunter Pence will not do for the Phillies what Roy Oswalt, Manny Ramirez, or CC Sabathia have done for teams in past trade-deadline deals, but his passion, effort, and balanced skillset will provide a much-needed boost to the Phillies’ offense and team as a whole.

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