With this announcement and emotional video on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon, Hunter Pence officially announced his retirement from MLB:
Pence, age 37, had been released by the San Francisco Giants on 24 August after he had posted an .096/.161/.250 slash (10 wRC+) and -0.6 fWAR in 17 games in 2020. While the most recent results were quite poor, it’s still very hard to believe that Pence’s presence will be gone in MLB.
In his 14-year career, Pence endeared himself not just to fans of the teams for whom he played, but those of the sport in its entirety. Best known for his wildly unorthodox mechanics in every aspect of the game, Pence debuted with the Houston Astros at age 24 in 2007. He was immediately very good, producing a 132 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR in 108 games, a performance that earned him a third place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He would stay in Houston for parts of 5 seasons, earning 2 all star appearances and averaging a 117 OPS+, while totaling 16.2 bWAR. A 2011 trade to the Philadelphia Phillies came during a career year, one in which he put up a 140 wRC+ and 5.8 bWAR; he received MVP votes for the first time in his career. The next year has a step back, but he won his first World Series after a midseason trade to the San Francisco Giants. Pence would stay by the Bay through 2018, winning another ring and becoming a favorite to Giants fans. He hit well from 2013-16, his first 4 full seasons there, with a 126 wRC+, but age and injuries caught up to him eventually, as he put up just a 79 wRC+ in 2017-18. A resurgent 2019 (128 wRC+) with the Texas Rangers led to his being voted in to start the All Star Game at DH by the fans, but injury caused him to be replaced by J. D. Martinez. He returned to the Giants for a final season in 2020.
For his career Pence put up very good numbers, nothing that will put him in Hall of Fame discussions, but more than respectable nonetheless. In 7006 PA he slashed .279/.334/.461 with 244 HR and 120 SB for a 115 wRC+. He totaled 1791 career hits and an fWAR/bWAR split of 31.1/30.9. As for accolades, Pence was a 4-time all star, received MVP votes in 4 seasons, and won 2 World Series, including a 2014 title in which he put up an 1.167 OPS in 7 games.
It isn’t his on-field performance that people will remember most about Hunter Pence, however. Instead they’ll remember the exuberance he displayed in his play and in having his profession. Whether it was engaging with Mets fans trolling him with bizarre signs, delivering impassioned and wild-eyed speeches in the postseason, delivering humorous quotes about wanting food after games, or making a light-hearted video of an instructional camp with his absurd mechanics, Hunter Pence had fun playing baseball. We all had fun watching him do this for 14 years. Goodbye Hunter Pence. I hope you enjoy your retirement as much as the baseball world enjoyed having you in it.