Hunter Pence’s swing is just fine, thank you very much.
Pence didn’t need minor league rehab games to prep for a return to the majors after missing 30 games with a wrist injury. The San Francisco Giants' right fielder had a hit and two RBIs (as well as a diving-catch-turned double play) in a win over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
Pence is hitting .280 with 15 RBIs in 19 games this season, and the Giants not surprisingly have been better with him in the lineup. They are 13-5 when he starts, 30-37 when he doesn’t.
As goofy as Pence can look on the field sometimes, he takes his swing very seriously. And no matter whether he is hitting well or badly, his swing usually doesn’t feel how he would like.
“Hitting is very difficult,” Pence said in March. “The beauty of hitting is that you never master it. You have to deal with a lot of failure. Though 162 games, I’d say there’s maybe a two- or three-week period that I feel really good. The rest of the time, I don’t feel good and I’m battling through.”
Pence is among a number of endorsers of a product called Zepp along with Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton and David Ortiz (Zepp has partnerships with, among others, Ripken Baseball and the MLBPA as it tries to gain a foothold with baseball players of all ages).
“We wanted to take an approach to capturing data for an athlete to make it actionable and to show them a path to get better,” said Jason Fass, who founded the company and has been its CEO since 2002.
The device is a green mount small enough to hold in your thumb and index finger that can be attached to the knob of the bat. It measures your bat speed and the angle you’re taking to the ball. Previous articles have described it as the future of baseball analytics, and it has the potential to be extremely useful for baseball players and softball players, as well as those in other sports as the technology further develops.
“I don’t think that we’ve tapped into all of the resources as far as the amount of information you’re now able to get on your swing,” said Pence, whose most recent use of the tool was in spring training before his injury (videos showing his use can be found on the company’s website). “There are going to be times where you’re feeling really good and in those times, it’s going to be good to ‘Zepp’ your swing. You have that data, and if you’re ever not feeling good, you can take your [feel-good] swing and look at it. You would then have hard data showing you if there’s a difference, if it’s physical or if it’s mechanical.
“Let’s say you’re feeling bad. I’m looking to see if the swing is any different. If there’s an issue, I’ll have the confidence that I can get the swing back to the way when it was feeling good.”
Getting inside Pence’s head, as we’ve previously seen, is an interesting place to be.
The Hunter Pence signs that began popping up last season haven’t been seen with the same frequency yet this season. We asked Pence what sign he would like to see to best represent his swing.
“I like, ‘Hunter Pence’s swing scares coffee,’” Pence said with a laugh. “But ideally, it’s, ‘Hunter Pence’s swing gets a lot of hits.”