Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch was hoping to put off thumb surgery until after the season, but the pain from his torn ligament has prevented him from swinging a bat and he made the decision Sunday to have the procedure now.
Boesch was one of the AL’s better corner outfielders during the first half of the season, hitting .306/.360/.490 with 12 homers, 57 runs scored and 44 RBI in 84 games before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, a thumb injury he sustained earlier in the season got a whole lot worse when he aggravated it on Aug. 10. He played scarcely afterwards and failed to drive in a run in any of his remaining eight appearances.
With Boesch done, the Tigers will hope that Magglio Ordonez or Andy Dirks can step up and claim the right-field job headed into the postseason. Ordonez had a big game Thursday, homering and doubling twice against the Royals. Still, he’s hitting just .239/.288/.321 in 293 at-bats. Dirks, a rookie, is batting .253/.296/.404 in 178 at-bats. The Tigers can also give Ryan Raburn time there if they wish. He’s hitting .239/.277/.402. Dirks, being the lefty swinger and the superior defender, would be the preferable choice to step into Boesch’s shoes.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.