It's no secret to even the most casual of Rays fans that Carlos Pena is a batter that can soar through the highest of highs and plummet to the lowest of lows. Like a drive through California you can be taken from the top of a mountain to the bottom of a valley in a matter of minutes. Others try to show this for Pena as a matter of months. The theory is that he'll start hot then pitchers will adjust leading to a down May and so on. Baseball-Reference paints a different picture:
We see that the streaks have tended to even out early in the season, but he traditionally has a strong June leaving his first half numbers at a respectable level. We can look at this in a different way that leaves in the periods of cancellation:
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Here are Pena's triple slash numbers plus wOBA over 30 game averages since 2007. In order to see his monthly performance, each month has been overlaid with a specific color. Think of this as a lens to view his performance using Gregor's finest contribution to society. Red shows March/April, orange for May, yellow for June, green for July, blue for August, and purple for September/October.
His start to this season looks awfully similar to 2011 with all lines below the norm. The current cool streak are on par with similar bad stretches in 2009, 10 and 11. If we see similar bouncebacks that we have following every other cold streak then Carlos Pena is going to be a very exciting player to follow over the next couple of months. We've seen the results, but can we glean anything from the process:
While Los is still walking at a nice rate, his strikeout rate is now climbing towards the level of career highs. He does not seem to be expanding his zone noticeably compared to his recent history, but his contact within the zone is approaching career worsts. We can see a more passive hitter that isn't making contact within the zone leading to elevated strikeout rates. The encouraging thing is that you can see that in the past he has followed these periods of inability to make contact by expanding his zone a bit, getting more aggressive, and seeing his strikeout rates start to decline. Even better is that several instances have seen that his walk rates have also seen a bit of an upturn or no change at worst.
Right now Carlos Pena is not getting the pitches he's sitting on so at some point he's going to need to get more aggressive on pitches that he can still do something with. This should lead to more balls in play, less strikeouts, and a better chance for Los to help the team.