The one-year, $7.25 million contract that Carlos Pena signed with the Tampa Bay Rays during the offseason seemed like the rare kind of deal could be described as both sentimental and savvy. Pena, the top prospect-turned-transaction-pinball who finally busted out in his late twenties, returned to the city where he slugged .516 and had a 135 OPS+ from 2007-2010. The Rays got a relatively cheap power bat to patch a position that produced a .388 slugging percentage and an 89 OPS+ in 2011. Everybody wins, right?
No exactly. While Pena's second stint as a Ray began with a walk-off blast against the Yankees on opening day, the clouts that once frequently followed his vicious upper-cut swing have been in short supply. Pena has career lows in slugging (.347) and OPS+ (91), besting only the bitterly disappointing Eric Hosmer, Casey Kotchman and Justin Smoak in the latter category among first basemen. The lefty hitter has long had platoon issues, but he's not drilling right-handers either (.363 slugging) and has lost most of his playing time to Jeff Keppinger.
Pena has lost some serious loft since his 2011 campaign with the Chicago Cubs. Take a look at his average fly ball distance by pitch location last year, and then in 2012:
Pena's Fly Ball Distance by Pitch Location, 2011
Pena's Fly Ball Distance by Pitch Location, 2012
Pena's fly balls traveled an average of 284 feet in 2011, topping the MLB average by 17 feet. This year, Pena's flys are averaging a mere 257 feet -- that's one foot farther than former teammate Darwin Barney. Talk about power-hitting devolution.