Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros and Nate McLouth of the Pittsburgh Pirates are both up and comers in the NL Central. Each player, though young, is an important piece for their respective teams.
It is easy to draw comparisons between the two youngsters but which one will develop more and greater help their team in 2009?
Last year was the first full year in the majors for both players so I am going to use their 2008 stats as well as their 2009 Spring Training numbers to this point when making a comparison.
Total at bats:
Nate McLouth 597
Hunter Pence 595
Spot most often slotted in batting order:
Nate McLouth 1st
Hunter Pence 6th
One of my Astros V. Pirates memories of last season was watching Houston play the Bucs and McLouth hit a double to pass Lance Berkman for the doubles lead at the point. I think it was his 33rd double or so.
That is a pretty big deal considering Lance Berkman, one of the best hitters in the big leagues, nearly doubled his doubles output last season, hitting 46 doubles, 22 more than the previous season. Although Berkman’s 2007 xtra base hit numbers were down, that is still pretty good company for Nate.
Btw, Nate finished with as many doubles as Lance. Hunter Pence finished the season with twelve less doubles than McLouth with 34.
Another area where McLouth finished higher than Pence is on base percentage. OBP is important for any player but especially important for those players hitting higher in the lineup.
McLouth OBP .356
Pence OBP .318
McLouth also out slugged Pence.
McLouth SLG .497
Pence SLG .466
Almost half of McLouth’s hits were for extra bases. McLouth’s 2nd most often spot slotted in the batting order was 3rd. I think that was where he was batting for the Buc’s that day when they played Houston.
As far as homers go McLouth hit 26 while Pence hit 25, so I’ll call that one a wash.
McLouth stole 23 bases and was caught stealing 3 times while Hunter Pence stole 11 bases and was caught stealing 10 times! Looks like McLouth was better around the sacs as well.
As an Astros fan, and a Hunter Pence fan, I got to watch Pence go through some struggles at the plate last year. By the end of the year it seemed as though he was more comfortable and striking out less.
Pence has got to let that plate discipline carry over into this season if he is going to be successful and progress as a player.
McLouth dominates Pence in the strike out category with Pence striking out 124 times last season and McLouth 93. McLouth also walked almost 20 more times than Pence last year, hence the edge in OBP.
How is each player doing in spring so far?
Nate McLouth: In 40 at bats 13 hits, 2 doubles, 3 homers, 8 RBI, 6 BB, 12 SO, and a .413 OBP.
Hunter Pence: In 54 at bats 15 hits, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 2 RBI, 6BB 12 SO, and a .350 OBP.
Both are showing the same strike out to walk ratio but considering Pence has 14 more AB’s, McLouth again seems to be showing better discipline at the plate with more walks in less at bats. But, McLouth also has as many strike outs in 14 less at bats. All in all, they are pretty close this spring.
Who will perform better in 2009? The numbers say Nate McLouth. As an Astros’ fan and a Hunter Pence fan, I think he has a chance to bust out this season. Check back with me at the All Star break and again in October.