It’s less than a week to MLB UK’s Battlegrounds event in Hyde Park, and that means it’s time to acquaint ourselves with the second of the trio of former MLB stars who will be making an appearance. Last time we got to know Cliff Floyd, now it’s Carlos Peña‘s turn.
Career Statistics (per Baseball-Reference):
Plate Appearances: 5893
Batting Average: .232
On-base Percentage: .346
Slugging Percentage: .462
Home Runs: 286
Stolen Bases: 29
Wins Above Replacement: 25.1
Career in the Same Number of Words as Peña’s Total Home Runs
Born in the Dominican Republic, Peña moved to the US when he was 12. He later played college ball at Northeastern University. Selected 10th overall by the Rangers in the 1998 draft, Peña hit at every level of the minors and made it to the big league club in September 2001. Peña was Baseball America’s fifth-best prospect coming in to the 2002 season, which he started in California after being traded to the A’s.
Peña didn’t spend long in Oakland, as Billy Beane traded him mid-season to Detroit in a three-way deal with the Yankees to acquire Ted Lilly. Peña was an above-average hitter for his entire stint with the Tigers, hitting 75 home runs with a 112 OPS+, but a slow start to the 2005 season saw him demoted, and he was released in spring training of 2006. After struggling to find major league playing time, Peña was signed by the Rays in early 2007.
The move to Tampa marked the best stretch of the first baseman’s career, as he would hit 163 homers with an .843 OPS over more than 700 games for the team. The first three of his years with the Rays were the finest, as Peña hit more than 30 home runs each season, including leading the AL with 39 in 2009, and drove in over 100 runners every year.
In his age-33 season in 2011, he signed a one-year deal with the Cubs and provided 28 homers, before returning to Tampa Bay for a year, then rounding out his career with brief major league stints in Houston, Kansas City and Texas. He signed a one-day contract with the Rays in September 2015 so he could officially retire with the team.
2007. Peña was a real bargain for the Rays, signing a minor league contract after barely playing in the majors in 2006, then featuring as their regular first baseman for almost the entire year. He posted career highs in almost every offensive category, slugging 46 home runs with a .282 average, .411 on-base percentage, and an overall 172 OPS+. He won Comeback Player of the Year in the AL and a Silver Slugger award, and finished ninth in MVP voting.
Peña was a key part of the Rays’ run to the World Series in 2008, with an OPS over 1.000 in both the ALDS and ALCS. His ALCS was particularly notable, as he hit three home runs, scored eight runs and drove in six as Tampa Bay beat Boston 4-3. Unfortunately his bat went quiet in the World Series and he could only muster two hits against the champion Phillies. His only other postseason series was another impressive ALDS in 2010, when he had a 1.126 OPS and came up big in the late innings of a must-win Game 3 when he hit the game-tying single in the eighth, subsequently scoring the go-ahead run, and then provided the insurance with a two-run homer in the ninth. Tampa Bay would ultimately lose the series in 5. Overall, Peña has a .910 career postseason OPS in 80 PA.
Best Homer(s) on Youtube
With bonus commentary from Carlos himself.
Best Baseball Card
This seems appropriate for next week’s festivities.
Peña’s trade from Oakland to Detroit was featured in both the book and film Moneyball, although a considerable amount of creativity with the sequence of events and Beane’s opinion of Peña is employed in the latter, which suggests that Peña was traded in May to prevent manager Art Howe from using him in the lineup over Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was playing DH most days so it wasn’t as though Peña playing first was keeping him out of the lineup, and Peña was actually traded in July, after spending several weeks in the minors following a slow start. The book states the trade was simply made because Beane thought Peña had become overvalued and he would be able to get more out of other GMs than he believed Peña was worth.