In praise of Jeremy Pena

This is the kind of post that can make one look foolish when the subject of early-season praise turns into a pumpkin by mid-season. But something about the way Jeremy Pena carries himself tells me he is the real deal.

Sure, he has not even made his way around the majors one time and the other teams will force him to adjust, but his fielding is top-notch, which should not go away and there is no reason to expect his bat to turn into a Martin Maldonado clone. (Sorry, Maldy but a clutch bases-loaded double does not undo the fact you don’t hit in about 88% of your at bats).

So, how do we love Jeremy Pena, let me count the ways…..

His Fielding. He has made too many errors to date (6), but hopefully he will work to reduce that, most of them have been on routine plays. That can be fixed. And even though he does not have Carlos Correa‘s gun (who does), he has an above-average arm. But what is exciting about him is that he is so quick and seems to get to more balls than his predecessor did. He is averaging about 4.2 chances per game. Correa averaged about 3.8 chances per game last year, which matches his career average.

His Power. The kid’s bat is electric. The ball jumps off that bat like a politician leaping from a failed policy bandwagon. It is hard to recall any of his 7 home runs to date that was a Crawford Box special and not a deep laser. Will he keep up his current HR pace (28) for the year? Probably not, but remember that Correa topped out with 26 homers and he did that in his walk away year. Also, Pena has room to beef up a bit, though we hope that does not take away from his other attributes.

His Hitting. His slash to date is a solid .277 BA/ .338 OBP/ .851 OPS. Among AL SS’s (for those at bats taken as a SS), his 7 HRs are 2nd and his 21 RBIs are 1st. What would fans have expected out of him as a rookie coming into 2022? Probably a .240 BA/ .310 OB/ .700 OPS with like 15 HRs and 50 RBIs. But he has already shown a decent K rate and BB rate and when needed the ability to hit it the other way.

His Speed. He has only attempted two steals but made it on both attempts, but he has also shown lots of speed on the basepaths in being more than a station to station player. He also appears to have a lot of baseball savvy in his “run” game.

His Ability to Seize the Moment. He hit a home run while the national crew was interviewing his parents in his second major league game. He hit a homer with all his family attending at Fenway Park the home of the team he cheered for growing up. He hit the two-run walk-off in the 10th against Toronto to flip a game they looked like they were going to lose. He looks like he will have many more moments like that along the way.

His Poise. This was not an easy thing to ask someone to do. No matter how much you may tell him to be himself, there has to be a big elephant in the back of the brain whispering that you are taking the place of one of the top shortstops in the game. It probably helped that his dad Geronimo Pena played in the majors for 7 seasons, because he has been a young man who looks like no moment is too large for him.

His Overall Game. His overall value is a conglomeration of all that is discussed above and reflected in that stat number called WAR. (WAR is a number that attempts to show relative value for all the things a player can do on the field and not just hitting). His 2.0 WAR is sixth in the American League (10th in all of baseball) and only trails teammate Kyle Tucker (2.1) for the lead on the Astros.

The young man will obviously face ups and downs over time, but he looks like he will have more ups than downs and will be a fun player to follow along the way.

64 comments on “In praise of Jeremy Pena

  1. It is early, of course, but so far Jeremy Pena has been Carlos Correa all over again except without all the reality TV drama.

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  2. The ball jumps off that bat faster than a politician leaping from a failed policy bandwagon? That’s good ink Dan! Last night he grounded into a DP at a very pivotable moment, but he hit the ball on the button. In the hole, it’s a tie game and a rally continues.. He continues to have good at bats. Right now, the BABIP is too high and he’ll battle, but he’s got 21 RBI’s. He’s played a big role. He looks like he belongs. He does.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some thoughts….
    – Wow OP that was some interesting article about Framber. I guess the only negative there is raised line drive rates against him.
    – Daveb (uncleknuckle) – once in a while I have an inspired analogy to toss in there and politicians are easy targets
    – This link tells us what we already know
    https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/mlb-offseason-moves-paying-off-in-2022
    – Watching the replay highlights this morning – was at my mom’s playing Scrabble and bringing in some Goodson’s to go…. That was one heck of a throw by Tucker in the first inning to cut down the runner and allow Verlander to extend his scoreless streak. With those long graceful strides, Tucker never looks like he is in a hurry (though he covers a lot of ground in a hurry). One thing I noticed is he gets in position and makes sure he doesn’t hurry the throw. It was a laser and got to Castro in the perfect spot. An inning changer that is for sure.
    – The Rangers are a much improved team this season, I would love the Astros to win the game today and move those guys farther back in the rear view mirror.

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  4. The Astros have not hit well since that first inning, five HR outburst in Boston, and they didn’t hit well before that.

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  5. Since this post is about Pena, he got rung up on a pitch that was six inches out of the zone in the bottom of the sixth. That was the worst miss by a home plate ump I have seen this season.

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    • I thought it was an awful call because the ball was not moving much – pretty straight pitch that was riding in about half way between the knees and the ankles

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  6. You won’t see a smoother DP than the one to end the game. Altuve to Pena to Gurriel looked like they had been doing it together for years. Impressive!

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    • Yeah OP when they turned that DP to end it – I texted my sons about how quick a turn that was – both Altuve and Peña barely touched it.

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  7. That was an enjoyable 4 game series for the good guys. They still could use some more consistent and better hitting, but taking 3 out of 4 from a hot Ranger’s team that had taken three straight from the Angels was a good turn around after losing the Red Sox series. The Cleveland (this name for sale) are coming in for 3 at Minute Maid and for some reason they show TBD for all three starts right now. The Astros counter with Luis Garcia, Framber Valez and Cristian Javier.
    The Astros have an off day on Thursday before taking on the Mariners on Friday. They show that as a TBD right now. Would they bring Urquidy back on regular rest and let Verlander get an extra day of rest?
    It is weird to have no Astro batting over .300 on the season, but it feels like it has been awhile since the Astros had three hitters over .280 – Altuve (.283), Pena (.286) and Brantley (.290). So at least some of the hitters are warming up.
    The hitting across baseball is down, even with the universal DH, as the average is .236 BA/ .308 OBP/ .687 OPS. That’s a bit better than it was in April, but still a sign of something (dead baseballs?) going on in the game.

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  8. I have a question. I noticed other teams bring up players from the minors for bench or bullpen strength, I guess. The player may stay for one game and then be sent back down. Does that player get $4,300 +/- for his trouble? The move makes no sense to me, so I may have a second question for the GM. Why?

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    • AC the reason they do it may vary – one reason for sure is that when there is a doubleheader, the teams are allowed an additional player on the roster without making another move. I believe the player would be paid the league minimum about $700,000 (I think that is the new number after the agreement) pro-rated over the number of games he is active – which is the $4300 per game you quoted. So for a doubleheader that is $8600.

      Now what some teams may do – if they have used a ton of pitchers in a short time – they might send someone down who still has options and bring up someone for a spot start or to help in the pen for a short time when the first player would not be usable because of how much they recently pitched.

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    • It is interesting how some GMs handle their AAA rosters. Example, the Astros don’t keep players in the minors (except for rehab) who are into their 30’s. The oldest player is Lewis Brinson (28) and pitcher Zac Rosscup (34) Morgan (32), and Josh James (29). The Braves (5) pitchers 30 or over with Batters (6) to include Preston Tucker and Delono DeShields at (29) . Brewers at AAA have (4) batters over 30 to include Jon Singleton and Tyler White. And (6) over 30 pitchers. Blue Jays have (4) 30 or over batters and (5) pitchers 30 or over to include Joe Biagini

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      • Seriously Chad Donato is the leading pitcher in PCL in batting average allowed at .205 and 7th in WHIP at 1.27. Hensley is 19th in batting average at .296 and 16th in OPS (877). Followed closely by Pedro Leon at (875).

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    • Dan, this means that Pena now has graduated from the list and is not considered a prospect and no longer eligible to be on that list.
      His graduation opened up a spot and Brown got that spot. Congratulations to him, it is his first time in that particular ranking.

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  9. The Guardians are coming [for a 3 game series with our Astros].

    They are slashing .245/.312/.705 as a team; we are slashing .232/.310/.723.

    They are averaging 4.62 runs per game; we are averaging 4.28.

    They’ve been giving up 4.48 runs/game; we’ve been giving 3.14 per game.

    Their pitching staff’s BAA is .228; ours is .222.

    Their staff’s WHIP is 1.19; ours is 1.12;

    Their staff’s ERA is 3.98; ours is 2.84.

    We’ve been hitting more dbls and hrs than them; they lead the league in triples.

    Summary: They’ve hit better than us; we’ve pitched better than them. This series is a toss up. Come on LGon, Framber, and Christian javier – we’re gonna need your best!

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    • Well if it makes you feel any better Mr. Bill, for the month of May….
      The Astros are 16-5, their pitchers have a 2.09 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP
      The Guardians are 8-8 their pitchers have a 4.07 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP
      The Astros are slashing .251 BA/.331 OBP/ .788 OPS with 32 HRs and averaging 4.76 runs per game
      The Guardians are slashing .238/.312/.682 with 14 HRs and 4.68 runs per game

      The Astro hitters are about even with the Guardians in run scoring – slightly ahead, their pitchers are much better than the Guardians – so I say – not a toss-up. And the Guardians are so confident in their starting pitching they haven’t announced any of them for the series.

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      • Good trends, for sure, Dan. But what on earth is up with their ‘don’t announce your starting pitchers’ gambit?

        Still, all that will make me ‘feel better’ is a series win. Till then, I’m committed to be a cross between Eeyore and, as Stevie Wonder said, ‘Very Superstitious!’

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      • The Guardians’ starter options at preset appear to be:
        1. Shane Bieber (pitched yesterday -should not pitch in this series);
        2. Triston McKenzie, 2-3, ERA 2.97, WHIP 0.96
        3. Cal Quantrill, 1-2, ERA 3.48, WHIP 1.19
        4. Zach Plesach, 1-3, ERA 4.42, WHIP 1.34
        5. Aaron Civale, 2-3, ERA 7.84 WHIP 1.52

        These are exactly the kind of guys that we make look like Cy Young.

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  10. The Orioles are bringing up catcher Adley Rutschman who is pretty much the consensus #1 prospect in all of baseball. Something for their poor fans to live for (we’ve been there).

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    • But Dan, they have been there for a VERY long time now lol. I would be surprised if there are actually any Baltimore Orioles fans left.

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  11. Johnny Rizer, a local boy that has been great in hitting in the minors until this year. He has been moved the the Developmental list currently but he can sure play the outfield.

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  12. The object is to win the series with Cleveland. Doesn’t matter how they do it, just that they somehow do it. My first choice would be for the Astros to take the series by playing great baseball.

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  13. As a refresher regarding bringing up minor leaguers:
    If you have to put major leaguers on the Covid 19 lists you may call up minor leaguers to play in their place without them being on the 40-man. When the MLB players come off the Covid list, you send the players back without any service time accrued and they are not on the 40-man roster.
    This applies only to Covid cases. This happened recently with several Blue Jays minor leaguers.
    If an Astros catcher were to get Covid, the Astros could bring Korey Lee up to the club to sub for the sick catcher and not place him on the 40-man, but Lee could actually play in MLB games. Then he would go back down when the catcher is brought back from the Covid IL and would still not be on the 40-man. His stats would count on his career stats, though.

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  14. Altuve
    Brantley
    Bregman
    Alvarez
    Gurriel
    Tucker
    Pena

    I was just listening to 790 Sports Radio, accidentally actually. Blummer was on so I paid attention for a minute. When the 7 guys above all play, the Astros are 14 and 0. That’s pretty remarkable, and pretty surprising they’ve only played together 14 times. Sarge, I’m thinking about your lineup frustrations!

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    • This is baseball – and that means there are powerful forces at work between teh white lines – dark spiritual forces that mortal men do not understand. In another context Stevie Wonder said: “13 year old baby broke the looking glass; seven years of bad luck … the good things? In your past!” In the baseball blogging context he might say “Compliment your own team? You risk a series sweep! Errors, cold bats, bad calls – now you’re in it deep!”

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  15. So much for our 14 and 0 record when we play our best line up. Luis set the tone when he gave up those two unearned instead of turning the easy double play.

    We’ve got a great pitching staff. But our real problem is that our offense is less than mediocre. Our BA is 21st in MLB. Our OPS is 21st too. Our OBP is 17th. I’ve touched on this before. Michael Brantley can’t hit lefties anymore. 11 singles and one homer against them. A .595 OPS. He should not be hitting in the two hole nor should he be the DH against a lefty.

    We might also be seeing what Siri and Chas will continue to do offensively. That’s a concern.

    And I know we’re last in MLB in BABIP, but maybe we’re the most reliable team in MLB to shift against. Those of us watching the Astros regularly know where our guys are making their outs on a very consistent basis.

    At some point, we’ve got to hit more and take some of the burden off our arms. We won’t ever have a long losing streak because we’re got several guys that can shut down any team on a given night, but we’re going to be playing some good clubs and we’ll need more runs on the board.

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    • And let’s not forget Moneyball. How you never give up an out. Never sacrifice. Never do a whole bunch of things. If someone worships at that altar, then you can’t play either catcher because they are both “almost automatic outs” while getting one hit every two or three games.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was going to make a similar post earlier, but looking around the league, the catcher position is pretty awful this year. The CF position is also pretty ugly. Outside Trout, Springer, and Nimmo (NYM) there aren’t a lot of guys you want to pay money to play there (offensively). I’m holding out hope that Click/Crane will have the luxary to eat Castro’s salary later in the year to find us an upgrade…perhaps from Sugarland…but what we see in CF is probably about the best we can expect. That just means Gurriel and Bregman are going to have to earn their money a bit more reliably for us to be real contenders.

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    • This is not a team that is going to claw its way back into a game – so once they get behind, it’s time for John Wayne.

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      • In case anyone is wondering, the number of times this Astro team has come back from 3 or mor runs down to win a game is … zero.

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  16. The team hit much better tonight – would be nice for them to go on a streak
    I enjoy listening to Bagwell – Always a unique take on things

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  17. I know this is not free blog weekend, but I’m going to break the rules today.

    Todays stat: Only about 50% of us favor strict gun control measures in America. Yesterday an elementary school. Last week a grocery store and a house of worship. No other civilized country can boast of the carnage we offer on a regular basis. And we refuse to change. Shameful. Pitiful. Terribly sad.

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    • Trying not to get political on my favorite baseball blog – but the Country is 2800 miles wide and 1600 miles north to south (or south to north for us Texans). There is no single solution that can be made by a Federal Government of any country this size, this problem has to be tackled on local levels. States and Counties have to figure out what works for them rather its stricter gun controls in their area or armed guards or schools that are about impossible to get into – whatever it is they are going to do it themselves and probably foot the bill themselves.

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      • Interesting fact though because its one of the countries that can compare to the US in size and population – but China has 1/10th the murder rate of the US – a place where guns are illegal. They had a schizophrenic man go into a school in April with a knife and kill 2 children before he was stopped. Imagine if he had a gun. Two children is two too many, but its not 20. But we aren’t going to do what China did, which is illegalize almost all weapons – so that is why I think it will have to go to local governments to make their own areas safer.

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  18. We are finally seeing some good OBP numbers in parts of the line-up.
    Brantley’s OBP is now .366
    Altuve’s OBP is now .357
    Alvarez’ OBP is now .352
    Pena’s OBP is now .347
    Bregman’s OBP is now .346.
    Tucker’s OBP is now .335

    Alas, we are still getting any real OBP from either catcher, either centerfielder, or Yuli Gurriel [a terrible (for him).252]

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  19. Minor league report [it’s still UGLY!]

    AAA- Sugar Land Space Cowboys -last place – record 16-27 [11 games out];
    AA – Corpus Christi Hooks – last place – record 15-25 [7.5 games out];
    A1 – Asheville Tourists – last place -record 14-25 [9.5 games out]; and
    A2 – Fayetteville Woodpeckers – 4th place – record 18-22 [11 games out].

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      • Only our minor leaguers are ‘workin on’ things, it appears. In comparison, every other team’s minor leaguers are obviously playing at 100 per cent – and shooting up with steroids – and banging trash cans – and using pine tar – and jumping over the white lines as they go on and off the field.

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      • Fayetteville has made a huge comeback, if I’m not mistaken. At one time I think they were like 4-18.

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  20. The Astros waddle like a duck to a win and Texas slaps the Angels up the side of the head. Two game lead in the west.
    The Astros head out on the road, where they already have played five more games than at home.

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  21. Scattered Thoughts on the morning after:

    1. An ugly win still adds to number in the ‘W’ column.
    2. A REALLY, REALLY ugly win unfortunately only counts as one win.
    3. Offense is almost as hard to find as infant formula these days.
    4. Yuli isn’t going anywhere means that even though he got two meaningless singles (one on an overturned call at first base) last night his BA isn’t going anywhere, his OBP isn’t going anywhere, his SLG isn’t going anywhere, and his OPS isn’t going anywhere.
    5. Blake Taylor is not a good bullpen option right now.
    6. Christian Javier is doing something right.
    7. Perhaps days off during the season are over-rated.
    8. Politics and baseball don’t mix any better than politics and football, basketball, or soccer.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. One of the worst teams in baseball, the Nats, shut out one of the best teams, the Dodgers last night, 1-0. The winning pitcher was Fredde, the same guy who smothered us in our loss to the Nats earlier this season.

    Liked by 2 people

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