Why Not Hunter Pence for NL MVP?


After what felt like an endless downward spiral from June until August, the San Francisco Giants find themselves in good playoff position with only two weeks left in the regular season, thanks to another late season surge in the standings.

Despite dropping two out of three games to the first place Los Angeles Dodgers this past weekend, the Giants are within striking distance in the NL West and have a comfortable lead in the Wild Card standings.

Much of the Giants’ recent success has been attributed to the scorching bat of catcher Buster Posey, who’s hitting .363 with 10 home runs and a 1.001 OPS since the All-Star break. With no real frontrunner in the NL MVP race, there is a legitimate case to be made for Posey to take home his second MVP award, as our own Marc Grandi pointed out.

But how can Posey be the MVP of the National League when he may not even be the most valuable player on his own team? Have we all forgotten who has been the Giants’ stalwart all season long?

May 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Michael Morse (38) congratulates outfielder Hunter Pence (8) after Pence scored a run against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Seriously, how could anyone ignore this guy?

Mike Morse certainly can’t. Seriously, look at how majestic that man is.

In a season that has been defined by inconsistency, Hunter Pence has been anything but that. Pence currently leads the National League in hits, he’s second in runs, triples and total bases and is one of only five players in baseball to have played in every game this season, a feat he also pulled off a year ago.

Unlike Posey, who was pretty quiet at the plate in the first half, Pence has been impressive all season long. The stat line for Pence without any context is excellent, but when you account for the various roles he has had to fill in the Giants lineup, it becomes even more impressive.

At the beginning of the season, the Giants were without Marco Scutaro, leaving not only a hole at second base but in the number two spot in the lineup. Pence filled in and it helped mold the Giants’ offense into one of the most dangerous in the league from April to June.

When leadoff hitter Angel Pagan went down due to injury, it was Pence who took over the spot and, at the very least, helped the Giants tread water until Pagan could return. Now, Pence is hitting in a more traditional spot for a power bat like himself, and it has lengthened the Giants lineup considerably.

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Pence is not only one of the best and most consistent hitters in the league, but he has also proven this season that he is the most adaptable as well. When taking that into consideration, as well as his solid defense in right field, it’s hard to imagine why Pence is getting little consideration for NL MVP.

It could be that he doesn’t have the power numbers that someone like Giancarlo Stanton does, or he hasn’t had the same late season surge that former MVP’s Andrew McCutchen and Posey are having.

Perhaps it’s just that Pence the personality has overshadowed Pence the player. Whether it’s his crazy, sometimes frightening, bug eyes, his now legendary scooter or the signs that have become a viral sensation, Pence is the most colorful personality in the game today.

But as his teammates, coaches and peers know, Pence is more than just the class clown. The other part of Pence’s personality is his unrelenting drive to succeed, to push his teammates as hard as he pushes himself and to inspire his team not only with his hustle on the field but with his words of inspiration off the field.

A player’s effect on clubhouse chemistry may not have the biggest effect on MVP voting, but in Pence’s case, maybe it should. After all, he was the Willie Mac award winner for the Giants last season, an award that honors the most inspirational player on the team, and all signs point to him winning it again this season.

Sep 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) celebrates with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) after running in a score against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

If Posey is the leader by example for the Giants, Pence is the leader in almost every other way. He is the most dependable player in baseball and the heart and soul of the Giants who, in many ways, defines everything the team looks to stand for.

There may not be enough time left in the season for any player to make themselves stand out from the rest of the crowd, so maybe handing the MVP award to the game’s ultimate team player and a guy who truly defines what the MVP award stands for isn’t that big of a stretch.

Granted, if the Giants find themselves atop of the NL West once the season comes to an end, it’s more likely that Posey will come away with another award to place on the shelf. But those who have followed the team all season, written about the Giants or actually play alongside Pence know whom they can attribute much of the team’s success to this season, last season and for the next few seasons to come.

Whether he wins the MVP or not, it won’t matter to Pence. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman writes, Pence is not all that interested in any statistical milestone or big individual award. Instead, Pence will be more focused on another postseason run. And if the Giants get there, the “Reverend” will be ready to rally the troops and play his heart out until the bitter end.