Friday, May 14, 2010

Pena's power outage

Carlos Pena's .183 batting average got you down?

We all knew going into the season the Tampa Bay Rays slugger wasn't going to win a batting title - after all, he hit .227 last year and carries a .245 lifetime average. But you still had to figure Pena would at least hit his weight (He's listed at 225 pounds, for the record). It's gotten so bad (he was in a 1-for-37 slump entering Friday night's game) that he was benched earlier this week, in part to get a mental break.

Of course, every player goes through slumps, especially one as hot-and-cold as Pena. But the thing that really bothers you is this season's power outage. Pena's got five homers this year, or one per every 23 at-bats. In the past three seasons (his coming-of-age years with the Rays), he's gone deep every 12, 15 and 10 at-bats, respectively.

It's a bit puzzling, considering Pena, a notorious strikeout artist, is still whiffing at just about the same rate he always has. However, he's hitting many more ground balls compared to fly balls than usual, and only 12% of the fly balls he does hit have gone for home runs, compared to 21% last year.

Is Pena pressing, as this week's benching suggests? Is the free-agent-to-be worried about his contract status for next year, as chronicled by Sports Illustrated? Could be. But ultimately, I'm not going to worry about it too much. Pena's one of the league's elite home run hitters and is still in his prime. I believe this is just an unfortunately timed and prolonged slump, and he's still capable of approaching 40 homers this season, which is exactly what you expected out of him. I just pulled off a straight-up trade for him in my main league for Francisco Cordero, and I feel pretty good about it. Pena's power will come.

Photo by The Associated Press

No comments: