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May 1, 2014

Going Yard

How Hunter Pence's Freak-Show Swing Works

by Ryan Parker


When I’m not watching baseball I spend my days teaching everyone from 8-year-olds to All-Americans how to improve their swings. A batting cage at East Coast Baseball Academy is my laboratory. Between the mechanical tweaks and endless batting practice there comes a time for young hitters to look at video of major leaguers and learn how the best at the game move their bodies. My favorite swings to use as examples are smooth and athletic. We look at Pujols, Cabera, Posey, etc. We don’t look at Hunter Pence. Maybe we should.

Pence is a career .280 hitter who hits 25 bombs a year. If his job was to have a pretty swing then he would be out of luck. Fortunately for him, his job is to hit baseballs and he has found a way to be extremely successful at his job. It’s time to put Pence under microscope and examine what mechanical features have allowed him to be such a productive ball player.

The strangeness in his swing starts in his stance. He is a big man but hits from a wide, crouched position. His front toe lines up with his back heel, giving him an open stance. Even with the foot being open his hips are straight and line up to the pitcher. His shoulders are closed off just a bit. His front shoulder points somewhere between the pitcher and first baseman. These positions aren’t unusual. The fact that Pence starts in this position is.

Most hitters who use an open stance will use the gather and approach phases of their swing to reach the position Pence starts at. Here’s Chipper Jones showing a more traditional open stance and striding pattern. Pay attention to how Jones loads his hips and shoulders during his first tap step. So while its not typical, Pence just skips a step. There is nothing inherently wrong with that idea.

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Related Content:  Scouting,  San Francisco Giants

12 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Behemoth

I think some of the gifs are wrong. There seem to be an awful lot of Pence in the same position.

May 01, 2014 06:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ryan Parker
BP staff

Thanks for the heads up. They should be pictures and not gifs.

May 01, 2014 06:14 AM
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Fixed.

May 01, 2014 06:30 AM
 
EricJ

It always surprises me he was a 2nd rounder with that swing. Was it considered an overdraft at the time or did many believe the swing would work in the pros?

May 01, 2014 08:54 AM
rating: 3
 
bobbygrace

I wish I had this series of articles when I was playing baseball.

May 01, 2014 09:35 AM
rating: 3
 
tannerg

I saw him play in college and I don't remember that front leg kick being that pronounced.

And I think I would remember that because I used to pitch, and I think that guys who have that Ichiro-swing aren't properly fearing the baseball, so I would bust them inside repeatedly.

(Sorry, really don't mean to sound like Rob Dibble here.)

May 01, 2014 09:49 AM
rating: 0
 
maphal

Pence had hydraulics fused to his joints as a child, ala Wolverine. This explains the "praying mantis" movements.

May 01, 2014 10:56 AM
rating: 3
 
BillJohnson

Probably the face as well.

May 01, 2014 12:29 PM
rating: 1
 
lipitorkid

I can't even watch him on the on deck circle. It's like watching someone put a banana in a burrito.

May 01, 2014 11:00 AM
rating: 5
 
danrnelson

Pence is the Jim Furyk of baseball.

May 01, 2014 11:34 AM
rating: 1
 
owlcroft

"very unique"? Oh, dear.

May 01, 2014 13:42 PM
rating: -1
 
beerd90210

yeah, I'd say 'the strangeness in his swing starts in the on deck circle" where he looks like he's playing jai alai or something.

May 01, 2014 19:10 PM
rating: 3
 
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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (05/01)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Going Yard: How Carlos... (04/15)
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Premium Article Going Yard: The Swing ... (05/20)
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Premium Article Skewed Left: Staying A... (05/01)

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