This is fun. From Joe Strauss’ latest, talking about New England native Chris Carpenter’s return to Fenway park:
There’s enough tug here for the sidelined former Cy Young Award winner to ask Matheny if he could participate in batting practice. (Carpenter only bunted during pregame work with the Jays.) Permission granted, Carpenter drove five balls over the Monster, each to his teammates’ loud approval. “It felt great,” Carpenter said as batting practice ended.
Fun, yes. But it’s also worth remembering the next time you hear a story about a player impressing everyone in batting practice before a game. If a DL’d pitcher can put on a BP show, a lot of guys can. They’re big leaguers, after all.
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.