Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Conversation: An Overpaid Carlos Pena (with all due respect)?
Carlos Pena got an early Christmas present, and it was a big one too: a 1-year, $10 million contract from the Chicago Cubs after an atrocious season in which he batted just .196. Sounds like St. Nick should have given him some coal, right? Well clearly Carlos got some eleemosynary assistance.
After a career year in 2007 in which he posted a solid .282 average and 46 home runs and 121 RBI, his batting average had been dropping consistently every year by a significant amount and to be honest, there wasn't much surprise that he hit this poorly. At least in my mind.
Carlos Pena was one of the big reasons for The Tampa Bay Ray's historic franchise turnaround. He has a lot raw power and contains an uncanny ability to separate his batting average and his OBP. He hit .196 but held a .325 OBP. A 126 point difference? That is amazing, and to say amazing might just be an understatement. For his career, he is a .241 hitter but has a .351 OBP. So if he can hit around .230, his OBP will do the rest of the job. His ISO was below his career line in 2010 as well as his SECA. A .211 ISO is still above average and his .399 SECA remains sickeningly awesome. But his ISO was 38 points lower and his SECA was 96 points lower then his 2009 campaign. Obviously this is all slightly alarming but his 14.9% walk rate is good and his .222 BABIP shows that got unlucky with his hits in 2010. Fangraphs.com says that he had a 26.6% O-Swing% which is worse than his career 21.6%, which is a pretty big difference.
By the end of May in the 2010 season, Carlos Pena got used to hanging his head at the end of at bats
But here's something else to think about, his O-Contact% was 51.6% even though his career O-Swing% is 43%. But when you look at his Z-Contact%, it was 79%, which was right around his career average. All of this says something very simple about Pena's hitting performance in 2010, he swung at pitches that were out of the zone and hit hard ground balls that were conveniently ended up in fielders mitts.
So essentially, if he isn't as anxious at the plate in 2011, he should experience a rise in batting average to around .230, which is exactly where he needs it. From there, his OBP will rise back up to a .340-.360 range.
All in all, the Chicago Cubs have made a good choice to bring in Pena and it seems that $10 million is the right price for him. A new uniform and a fresh start for Carlos will be very good for him. Don't forget that he is not only moving out of the American League Eastern Division, but he's going to the National League where players tend to do well when they switch leagues. Example: Raul Ibanez's red hot start to the 2009 season with the Phillies.
There is one more thing that could have caused such a bad season for Pena. His hitting mechanics were very off. He did not "squish the bug" on his left foot when swinging. This is something that kids are taught in little league. When one does not "squish the bug", it makes it incredibly hard for them to catch up to fastballs and just as hard to reach out of the zone to hit breaking balls. Thus meaning that the only pitch he/she is able to catch up to is the change-up. Recall that Pena had 16 home runs at the all-star break and 23 after July which would make it safe to say at that point in the season, he might hit about 35 long balls. Well my point is that pitchers could have figured out how to pitch to him and stopped throwing him change-ups. Instead, pitchers threw breaking balls and pumped fastballs right by him and therefore creating a prolonged slump to end the season. Keep in mind that this could be very wrong and the "squishing the bug" thing might not have any effect on his hitting at all but it's just a guess.
Try to expect a .230/.345/.435 line with about 30-35 home runs. Carlos Pena is 32 years old and will be turning 33 in May. The raw power is there, he just needs to get his actual hitting ability back on track.
(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com and fangraphs.com)