Common knowledge suggests Carlos Pena is a very nice man. A class act even, he's humble, kind, and articulate beyond the average person of his profession. During the post game show when Todd Kalas told him to go enjoy the fireworks with the family Pena looked genuinely thankful towards Kalas for the generic wishes. I'm not accusing Kalas of not meaning the well wishes, but I think he would've said it to any player.
It was a small moment, but it reminded me of how amazing Pena's 2007 was. The humble giant with the powerful swing and the surreal summer bombing fest. Through July 4th Pena had 19 homers and an OPS over 1.000 last season, many were starting to think a 40 homerun season was possible. Pena ended up with 46 and a three year 24 million dollar extension in hand, completing the Disney movie.
This year has been more along the lines of a Michael Bay movie, at times it seems Pena's bat is nothing other than a computer generated image. When Pena has connected though the ball is either exploding with a catwalk, colliding with a shifted fielders glove, or obliterating a fan's hand in the bleachers. Tonight he sent one cowhide to the deep abyss of the center field batter's eye, but in his prior at-bat flew one to the warning track.
The only difference between these two swings seems to be the pitch and the result. Pena's homerun came on an 88 MPH fastball on the outside of the plate after a B.J. Upton walk. His sacrifice fly was on a 85 MPH changeup which was similarly placed on both, Pena's bat, and the plate. One flew more than 404 feet and the other just shy of 322.
Outside of Pena's homerun per flyball ratio falling even below his career average, something that should progress to the mean, nothing seems inherently flawed about Pena's game. His walk rate isn't that far off from his career and his strikeout rate will seemingly come down. Pena is likely going to end up with an OPS near .840 and with 30 plus homeruns.
If that prediction comes to tuition Pena will rank in the third tier of first baseman production with Prince Fielder, James Loney, and Miguel Cabrera. The first tier featuring four with OPSes over .900 and the second tier with five players over .850. There is no shame in being a top 12 first baseman in this league, not when your production is coming at a price of roughly 8 million annually.
Pena's BABIP on the road is a measly .222 which will soar up following the all-star break and his home BABIP is .329, which may or may not sink slightly. One thing we did learn from last season is that Pena will hit roughly the same on home as he will on the road, so there's no dome bias.
Tonight Pena went 2-4 with five runs batted in and only a single strikeout and Pena increased his OPS by .018 points. Perhaps more importantly though, we got to see Pena smile again which means things are going right.