Friday, December 10, 2010

Can Pena Thrive in Chicago?

On December 8th the Cubs signed free agent 1B Carlos Pena to a one year deal worth $10 million.  The Cubs filled a major gap in their line up and on the field defensively, but the signing is also a bit of a gamble.  Yes, Pena did hit 28 home runs last seasons with 84 RBI.  However, he also hit below the Mendoza line, registering a pitiful .196 batting average.  Pena's best season came in 2007 with Tampa Bay, when he hit .282/.411/.627 (avg, obp, slg) with 46 homers and 121 RBI.  However, every season since 2007 Pena's batting average has gone down, culminating in the .196 average from this past season.

So why sign a guy who hit .196 to a $10 million contract?  While Pena's batting average has gone down, his power numbers have stayed roughly the same and he still has walked at least 87 times in every season from 2007 to 2010.  Also, according to, Pena's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was 50 points below his career average, dropping to .222 (career average of .272).  This could signal that last season was just a little bit unlucky and that he could bounce back this upcoming season.  His ground ball rate also rose, as he hit 45 percent of balls in play on the ground, compared to his career average of 36.9 percent.  If Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, considered one of the best in the business, can help Pena cut down on his ground balls and his BABIP rises back towards his career average, expect Pena to have a solid season (well worth the money) for the Cubs.  Also, playing 81 games in Wrigley Field, a notorious hitters park, should help Pena sustain his power numbers and provide a solid presence in the middle of the Cubs' order.

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