Friday, March 26, 2010

Carlos Pena - Continued Force for Rays?

By most standards of today's new statistics, Carlos Pena had a productive and valuable year last year. He had an OPS+ of 130 and hit 39 homers and drove in 100. PECOTA projects him this year to have a line of: .252/.366/.532. If he does that and hits the 35 homers PECOTA projects, then he will be a valuable player again. But those projections look a bit hopeful to this writer.

For one thing, Pena batted .227 in 2009 after batting .247 the year before. His batting average has dropped nearly 60 points since his big year in 2007. His OBP has dropped two years in a row too and he finished out at .356 last year. After batting .247 and .227 in the last two years, is it realistic to think he's going to hit .252 this year? If Spring Training is any indication (and it usually isn't), he won't hit .252. He's been awful this spring with a batting average below .100. He is a year older at 32 and it just doesn't appear as if he will get better as PECOTA predicts.

There are a couple of factors that could alter that feeling. First, Pena is in the last year of his contract and will have even more motivation to produce. At 32, Pena will want to score one more good deal before all is said and done. The problem for him will be that most teams are set for first basemen/DH types. He might be a good fit for the Dodgers who have Loney at first and he is not that productive. Seattle is another possibility. It will be super unlikely if the Rays sign him to continue his career there...not at over $10 million a year.

The other positive on his side is that his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was pretty low for the year (.250) last year and really low in the second half (.221). Plus, his power has been consistent no matter how many base hits he has. Nearly half of his paltry 107 hits last year were for extra bases. So there is every reason to believe his power numbers will continue. Plus, Pena walks a lot. He walked 87 times last year. But then again, that number dipped for the second year in a row too.

According to most fielding stats the Fan looked at, Pena isn't that impressive in the field. His RTOT are in the minus numbers and PECOTA has him a a negative 1. That isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. The Fan watched a number of Rays' games last year and Pena seemed pretty nimble and effective over there, but the numbers don't back up the observation.

The Fan's gut says that Pena will drop off some more this coming year. Meanwhile, Zobrist is the next great player in the league and can play anywhere and this kid, Sean Rodriguez, has been outstanding at second base for the Rays all spring. It seems the best scenario for the Rays would be to play Pena against right-handers and when a lefty starts for the other team, put Zobrist at first and Rodriguez (who bats right-handed) at second. Those latter two could take over after the trade deadline if the Rays can find a suitor for Pena to get a little value out of him before free agency.

Pat Burrell looks done too with a terrible spring. The Rays should cut their losses and release him.

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