Returning Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger, and Evan Longoria to the Rays lineup will be a big bonus but to become the type of offense that can consistently put pressure on the opposition and transfer pressure into runs they are going to need to more production from Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena.
Last Friday I looked at the good and the bad of Ben Zobrist over the past 3+ seasons and asked the question Who Is The Real Ben Zobrist? Almost on queue Zobrist led the Rays to a 3-game sweep of the Marlind with a monster weekend hitting .636 (7 for 11) with 2 homers, scored 5 runs, and drew 3 walks without striking out.
This week, I'd like to look at Carlos Pena who has been in a seemingly season long slump. His April includes a majestic homecoming grand slam off Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia and the game winning hit off Mariano Rivera on opening day and a slash line of .286/.412/.488. Since May 1st a span which encompasses 162 plate appearances he has hit .131/.296/.254 and has struck out in 30.8% (50K/162PA) of his plate appearances.
Overall Pena's 2012 include a slash line of .191/.341/.346 with a .313 wOBA, a wRC+ of 100, and a fWAR of 0.6. Last week I used the 500 plate appearance threshold recommended in the DRB Stats Guide 2.0 to get a better idea of how he has performed for a longer period of time. Over his last 504 plate appearances from July 20, 2011 through June 12, 2012 his overall slash line is .206/.363/.405 an OPS of .767 with a wOBA of .344.
Strike outs need to be balanced by extra base hits and Pena has failed to generate extra base hits while maintaining his usual frustrating high strike out rate. Is fair to wonder if he is in a slump and if he has the ability to raise his 2012 numbers to what levels similar to his last 500 PAs. Is the 34 year old Pena capable of a rebound?
As I was beginning to organize my thoughts a tweet came across my timeline from Jonathon Gantt with the Rays Communication Department that gave me some hope:
In his career, Carlos Pena has averaged 1 extra-base hit per 16.37 AB in 1st half of season. 2nd half: 1 per 7.86 AB. #hangwithhim— Jonathan Gantt (@Jonathan_Gantt) June 12, 2012