In praise of Vin Scully

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This is not the almost obligatory “Vin Scully is the best” stuff. I get that and participate in that often, but I almost feel like Scully has become such an institution that people feel like they have to say that, even if Scully isn’t doing anything particularly great.

But today he did something, the kind of thing you don’t notice too often, but which is really the stuff that makes him great. In the third inning of the Dodgers-Giants game, Angel Pagan was on first base, Clayton Kershaw holding him on. Scully talked about Kershaw’s success at holding runners on. A minute later Pagan took off for second and was nailed by A.J. Ellis. The reason he was out mostly had to do with Kershaw messing with his timing.

No, it’s not spectacular that Scully foreshadowed the caught stealing as such. The greatness of it was that, to Scully, there really was nothing more important in the moment than talking about what might happen with that runner on base and that pitcher on the mound. The caught stealing stats weren’t dropped in quickly, as if read straight from the stat sheet. Scully was in the moment, delivering the game to us, not at all distracted by overarching news stories, who he talked to before the game or any of the noise that so often pollutes broadcasters. Scully does not consider himself a reporter at all. He’s a broadcaster, in the purest sense of the term.

Maybe I’m not doing the moment justice here. But that moment, after watching baseball for nearly five hours, stood out as something so much higher and better than everything else because it flowed so naturally with what I was watching and thinking at the time. Scully is praised for his longevity and his stories and his style all the time, but it’s in these little moments where he really shines.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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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.