The thought of Carlos Pena launching balls out of PNC Park in a Buccos uniform is certainly exciting, but we don’t see it adding up. We have drooled over the thought of Pena in black and gold on a few occasions as we stare at the Clemente wall in PNC Park. In fact, Doug pointed out on Twitter outside of the studs named Fielder, Pujols, Texiera, and Miguel Cabrera, nobody has hit more home runs the past five years.
Pena has hit 95 in his past three seasons with 31 in 2008 and 46 in 2007.
But the Pirates might have their own cheaper version of Pena, and we all know that dollars are very important to the budget-first Bucs. Taking a look at Pena it’s easy to see those big home run numbers and think, “What if?”
But when you look closer, you see a different player. A player that might need a platoon partner as pointed out here. Pena rips right handed pitchers, so well in fact that he has a .255/.388/.504 line, but when the lefties are on the mound, Pena’s numbers shriveled to a .133/.260/.333 with 16 hits in 120 at-bats with three doubles and seven homers.
Sure, Pena destroyed NL Central pitching on numerous occasions last season – so much so that we were tempted about three weeks before the deadline last year when we wrote this:
Our major argument for making a move for Carlos Pena is what we felt he could provide for the Pirates against the big three. We watched Pena produce throughout the year against the teams battling the Bucs for the NL Central lead, but we had no idea the production was this strong.
Look how Pena has produced against the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals this season.
Against the Reds, Pena has played eight games. He has made 33 plate appearances and produced ten hits, four homers and is slugging .880 with an OPS of 1.395.
Against the Brewers, Pena has played six games. He has made 23 plate appearances and produced five hits, one homer and is slugging .500 with an OPS of .848.
Against the Cardinals, Pena has played six games. He has made 26 plate appearances and produced seven hits, one homer and is slugging .524 with an OPS of .947.
It all made sense to us back then, but after the season Pena had, it just doesn’t now. Sure, Pena destroyed Reds pitching in 2011–crushing six bombs to go with a 1.180 OPS, but his numbers dipped against the Brewers and Cards. Damn small samples always get ruined, here is how Pena finished up the season.
Against the Reds, Pena had 55 at bats (his highest of the season) with six bombs, eleven walks and a 327 average.
Against the Brewers, Pena had 44 at bats with nine hits, four doubles and hit one homer. His OPS fell to a 678 thanks in large part to 15 strikeouts.
Against the Cards, his OPS was 753 with one homer and 13 walks, he struckout 14 times.
So here is the bottom line for us:
The Bucs won’t spend the money on a powerful left handed bat who could benefit a great deal from PNC Park, because he would need to give up at-bats against left-handers. The Pirates already have enough players that struggle against lefties.
Prince Fielder is holding up where several powerful first baseman will end up this year. The delay makes one think that it might take less money to land Pena than it has in the past and one team might be moving in Pena’s direction: the Tribe.
So, it looks like the Bucs will go with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee at first. But we all know, Garrett Jones is one of the Pirates that struggles against southpaws. In fact, Jones was worse than Pena last year with just ten hits (3 doubles, two bombs) in 68 at bats for a 147/181/279/460 line.
Ugly? Sure, but the price is right.
Ready for the scary part? McGehee struggled against lefties last year too. He had just 21 hits in 124 at-bats, it was an ugly 169/228/185 line with just one extra base hit, a triple.
So let’s just say that Pena doesn’t add up. We will miss the power and the solid leather.
So the big question is how confident are you in Jones and McGehee faring much better this year? Two projections for Jones show a slight improvement to go with 17.5 homers, while McGehee projects to bounce back from his 2011 struggles.