Looking Further Inside Pena's Bad Snap

I guess am I going to be beat on a thrice beaten dead horse. Tommy got us started with the Carlos Pena "O-fer" streak subject on Tuesday, followed up by FFreeZo giving us Pena's rolling 40 at bat batting average since 2007 and then later by pitcher handedness. For my analysis, I will attempt to be a little more process-oriented using the data from pitch f/x to see how much Pena has changed his approach at the plate during this bad stretch.

I divided up the data into three periods the first being 2008 and 2009, the second is this season before April 30th, and the third is April 30th and onward.

Period rv100 rv Strike CON Swing OSWING InPlay BABIP
2008-2009 1.16 52.99 56.7% 68.5% 44.4% 20.9% 13.6% .274
Pre Bad Streak 1.22 4.32 56.1% 77.7% 46.4% 27.8% 15.6% .275
Bad Stretch -3.18 -6.31 62.1% 66.0% 50.5% 33.0% 11.1% .091

I see his contact rate in this bad stretch is actually near levels that he had prior to this season with Pena making contact way above average in April which Fan Graphs has my backing. But remember the small sample size rule (another dead horse). According to Pizza Cutter (who is now with the Cleveland Indians), contact rate stabilizes in about 100 plate appearances. Pena now has 138 PAs and his contact rate is up about 10% from last season and about 4% from his career average. Other than that, Pena has had more swings at pitches outside the zone while maintaining an insanely low BABIP during this funk. I'll stay with BABIP right now for my analysis and try to find out if Pena has been unlucky in this extremely small sample.

My method is somewhat inspired by Jeremy Greenhouse and his short look at BABIP by pitch location based on the player handedness. Although I will have to ignore the platoon splits right now, again due to the small sample.

What I did was find the estimated BABIP based on location for Pena prior to his bad stretch and then plot the location of twenty-two balls in play he has during the stretch. This should gives a little more insight and possibly see if he has been unlucky.The darkened circles are the two doubles he hit with the empty circles being every other BIP.

Carlos_pena_babip_heat_medium

There is a lot to take in right here. Pena has a career BABIP of .286 which represented by all the green. When the plot shows blue-green is where it starts to show the BABIP around and under .200. Most of that is around the inside part of the plate and even up in the middle part of the plate. Of the 22 BIP, 12 are located in the blue shading in which two of those were actually his only base hits. As far as the rest goes, eight were located around the heart of home plate and two were up and away. Just eyeballing it, I would say Pena missed at least 2 base hits on those pitches around the heart of the plate, maybe he could have gotten a third. Of course a batter would have more chances for base hits if he would strikeout less and put the ball in play.

I just wanted to check out the luck portion of his current bad streak. Of course pitch location alone won't suffice as opposing defenses usually shift for Pena which may be evident in this spray chart as a there a lot of outs made just out of the dirt towards the second baseman. But Pena has been striking out more with 18 in 40 at bats compared to only 20 Ks in his first 75 at bats so he may be pressing more or is not seeing the baseball as well as usual. Here is how Tommy summed it up earlier this week:

Even with the day-off (mostly) to clear his head, there is a chance that the next few weeks could be as equally as frustrating as the past few for Pena, but if history repeats itself, by mid-June everyone will be all smiles.

Mid-June seems like a while, but no worries. Navarro is having the third best wOBA in May for the Rays.

 

Pena could be the spark the offense and the team to put on another little winning streak this weekend and then into New York mid-week next week. Why now? The Yankees have been stuttering recently and it is possible the Rays could get up on the Yankees 3 or 4 games after the series in the Bronx if the Twins play like the Twins.

 

Data from MLBAM, FanGraphs, and Baseball-Reference.

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