Carlos Pena And Pulling LHP

About one month ago MrNegative1 gave us a good look at both new power hitting acquisitions, Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, and how they performed against left handed pitchers. I came away noticing the huge difference in power numbers between the two sluggers.

Pena's power dropped significantly from .571 back in his incredible 2007 season to a career worst .333 last season while Luke Scott had only slugged below .480 once since 2007. And, for Pena, it looks as if it were a gradual decline that started after his 2009 season.

MrNeg has tables with every one of Pena's seasons against left handed pitchers but I wanted to focus on the major decline over the past three seasons. Here is a quick look at his triple-slash stats versus left handed pitchers each year since 2009.

Year AVG OBP SLG wRC+
2009 .211 .332 .482 115
2010 .179 .316 .359 91
2011 .133 .260 .333 59

The trend is a bit alarming as he has become a strictly a platoon player over the past few seasons but is it possible for him to reverse the trend, even as he approaches his mid-30s? I think it is possible but he will have to learn to hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field again.

From Pena's 2009-2010 seasons he was roughly a league average hitter against left handed pitching and was more than just a platoon player. He could go the other way and drove the ball with complete authority up the middle. Take a look:

Pena_lhp_09-10_medium

As you can see, Pena hit 20 homeruns versus left handed pitching over these two seasons and nine of them were in between left and center field. You can also see the amount of balls in play that fell in for hits when he would use the entire field. The majority of his outs made on balls in play were when he would pull the ball on the ground.

In 2011, Pena seemed to completely abandon any approach against left handed pitchers and tried to pull everything thrown at him. Take a look:

Pena_2011_lhp_medium

Carlos Pena's spray chart screams one-note here as the only ball he put in play to the left of the pitcher that he reached base on was a bunt that did not even make it to the pitcher. And it is not as if pitchers started working Pena differently. They kept the same middle-to-away approach against Pena but Pena decided to pull everything instead of going with the pitch.

Maybe wishful thinking is part of who I am and believing Pena could regain his ability to drive the ball the other way and up the middle is part of that. It is very possible. Pena is a soon to be 34 year old and maybe he pulled everything last year because he had to cheat on pitches. And maybe we will not get a chance to see if Pena can regain the ability to drive the ball the other way against left handed pitchers.

Spring training is the time veteran pitchers use to deploy a pitch they have been working on or a time for a veteran player to get used to a new position. Maybe this spring is a time when Pena could get at-bats against left handed pitchers to see if he can regain some of his lost talent. Again, this may be wishful thinking on my part but hope springs eternal when players report to camp and I believe Pena may have a little youth left in his swing and all he has to do is change his approach.

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