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Billy Vargus: Do Phillies Fans Have Unrealistic Expectations for Hunter Pence?

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V FOR VICTORY WITH BILLY VARGUSBilly V

The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence
 
So Phillies Fans Got Excited With Dreams of Hunter Pence
 
And Now That He’s Here, the Lineup Is  Much More Even Handed
 
He Plays Hard, But I have to Say This..And I’m Just Being Candid
 
He’s A Decent Hitter Yes,  But Hey.. He Ain’t No Babe Ruth
 
He’s Good Not Great ..I'm Not Trying To Hate,  But That’s The Simple Truth 
 
Everything worked out extremely well for the Phillies, as general manager Ruben Amaro  picked up a much needed right handed bat without giving up Dominic Brown or Vance Worley.  
 
But my concern is the fans. I know how it is in this town; folks get so excited about the arrival of a new player, and the expectations become a little unrealistic.
 
The talk that the Astros might be willing to trade Pence first surfaced in late June. There were probably a lot of fans who took a quick look at the stats, saw Pence was hitting .323 at that point, and said, "Yeah, let's get this guy."  But Pence is not a true .323 hitter, and his average was sure to come down.  It already has--he was batting .308 when the trade was made--and I expect it will come down more between now and season's end.
 
Many baseball purists frown on any mention of fantasy baseball, but that obsessive pastime has helped change the mindset and increase the understanding of the sport. Fantasy freaks have created "fanalytics,” a whole new slew of statistics that help evaluate whether a player has been lucky or good, and whether he can sustain his past performance.Will Phillies fans have unrealistic expectations for Hunter Pence? Photo: wwww.philaphans.com
 
And the "fanalytics" say Hunter Pence  has had a lot of luck this year. Pence's hit percentage is 38%, which means that whenever he hits a ball, it drops in safely 38% of the time. Coming into the season, Pence's career hit percentage was 31% ,so he's due for a correction.

Then there is  xBA (expected batting average), a complicated formula designed to determine what a hitter would be batting if luck were eliminated. Pence's xBA  is only .280, 27 points below his actual average.

Even Charlie Manuel, when addressing the media right after the trade was made, was careful not to get too effusive.

"You got to put him out there, let him play, and see," Manuel said when  asked about what Pence would bring to the team.

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But as Manuel also pointed out, Pence is a guy who hustles, fields well, hits for some power (a career average of 26 homers a year), and is a good fielder with a great arm. (He's thrown out more runners than any other outfielder in baseball over the last four seasons.)

And with Pence in the lineup, the Phillies not only don't have the problem of too many left-handed bats, but they also now have Placido Polanco, who was their best hitter early in the season, batting out of the 7th hole. Having Polanco and Carlos Ruiz at the bottom of the lineup gives them a solid top-to-bottom configuration that is unmatched by any other team, except the Boston Red Sox. The Sox have catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a .261 hitter, batting 7th. Josh Reddick, the 8th hitter, is batting .333, but he's only  had 117 major league at-bats, and the same set of statistics that say Pence's average will come down scream for an even bigger drop in Reddick's case.

It's natural to compare the Phils to the Red Sox, the teams with the two best records in baseball, and the clear cut favorites to face each other in the World Series.  

And that, I think,  is not an unrealistic expectation at all.

Billy Vargus is an Emmy Award Winner for Best Sports Anchor for 2008 and 2009. (Mid-Atlantic region, covering all of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.) Bill has been a TV sports anchor in the Philadelphia area for 18 years with the last 12 coming at Fox 29. He’s also had stops at Channel 10, Channel 12, plus at other television markets around the country.He has also served as the pre-game host for all Seventy-Sixers games in the past and also has acted in films, TV shows and commercials.

Billy V can be contacted at billv@philly2philly.com

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Home page and article photo: www.philaphans.com

Pence thumbnail: www.examiner.com