Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has never looked graceful on the baseball field, but we’ve always chalked that up to him just being goofy. There’s actually a legitimate medical reason behind his awkward-looking mechanics, though, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports found out.
Pence, 31, told the FOX broadcasters before Game 1 of the NLCS that he has Scheuermann’s Disease, a spinal disorder that he likely developed as an adolescent.
The condition affects the vertebrae, and the way Pence described it, he has no flexibility in his thoracic spine.
“That’s why he throws the way he does,” Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner said. “He has no rotation in the mid-spine.”
Nevertheless, Pence has consistently rated among the best outfielders in baseball since he broke into the majors in 2007. According to FanGraphs, only five outfielders have been more valuable than Pence (29.2 WAR) since the beginning of the ’07 season: Matt Holliday (42.1), Andrew McCutchen (33.9), Ryan Braun (33.1), Jose Bautista (30.7), and Jayson Werth (29.9).
Pence has reached base in all six of the Giants’ post-season games thus far.
Ryan Braun is in the Brewers’ starting lineup for Sunday afternoon’s season finale against the Cubs, but as soon as that game ends he will begin prepping for surgery that will hopefully correct a nerve issue in his right thumb that has been a source of discomfort since the early part of the 2013 campaign.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes Sunday that Braun will travel to the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles on Thursday morning to have a cryotherapy procedure performed on the thumb by specialist Vernon Williams.
This procedure — which involves the freezing of damaged tissue — has never been performed on a thumb, but it’s been successful on other parts of the body and the Brewers and Braun feel like it’s worth a shot.
“When you can’t use your top hand as a baseball player, it drastically alters everything you do,” Braun told the Journal Sentinel this weekend. “I’ve tried to adjust; I’ve tried to find a way to deal with it the best I could. At times, I’ve been OK. But, for the most part, it’s been really difficult, really challenging and very frustrating.”
Braun is batting just .228/.295/.379 in 61 games since the All-Star break and .268/.325/.455 overall.
The 30-year-old outfielder is owed $107 million in guaranteed money through the 2021 season.
Billy Hamilton suffered what the Reds called a “mild concussion” while robbing Ryan Braun of a home run with a great catch Wednesday and the rookie center fielder remains out of the lineup for tonight’s game against the Pirates.
Yet another reason to stop referring to concussions as “mild.” No brain injury is mild and, as we’ve seen time and time again, no one has any real ability to predict how quickly an athlete will bounce back from one.
If he’s done for the season Hamilton would finish his rookie campaign hitting just .250 with a .295 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage in 152 games. His case for Rookie of the Year is built around his speed (56 steals, 23 caught stealing) and defense (18 runs above average according to Ultimate Zone Rating).
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday that he has spoken to general manager Doug Melvin about the possibility of Ryan Braun moving to first base”
“I think he’s a good defender in the outfield, learning a new position that he picked up pretty fast. I think he’ll continue to get better in right. We haven’t approached (Braun) about it. It’s just kind of what the needs are. We have (Gerardo) Parra here now and we need to figure out what to do with him for next year.”
The talks aren’t serious yet, but the fact is that the Brewers have four outfielders — Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez, Gerardo Parra and Braun — and three of them are better than Braun. And, of course, Mark Reynolds is not a long-term solution at first base.
Braun, of course, would need to bounce back on offense in order to be worth his contract at first base. He has hit a poor-for-him .269/.323/.457 this year, with 19 homers and 81 RBI. That won’t cut it long-term in an outfield corner for a guy who makes what he makes, and certainly won’t play efficiently at first base.
Braun battled a serious hand injury all year. Milwaukee had better hope that was the problem. And not something else. Like, say, a big falloff by virtue of playing clean.