In March, the greatest stopping point in Houston Astros history occurred with another team.
Over the course of seven seasons, Carlos Correa has averaged .277/.356/.481 with 133 home points. He was one of the best defensive players in baseball. He helped Houston win her first World Championship title. Correa has been a core member of the greatest Astros teams in franchise history.
But when he became a free agent, James Click allowed him to walk away and join the Minnesota Twins. The Astros were confident that their next great stopping point was indeed in the organization. A 24-year-old client named Jeremy Peña was tearing up the minors, ready for his debut in the league.
Peña started the 2022 MLB season strong, hitting the ball well and playing exceptional defense in a short period of time. The transition from franchise icon to bright-eyed novice was as smooth as can be. Peña hit .278 by 128 wRC+ during the first two months of the season, and the Astros Correa hardly missed at all.
Since returning from a brief spell on the injured list at the end of June, Peña hasn’t been quite the same. It hits .228 with 68 wRC+. The walk-to-strike ratio, which was already modest, was completely reduced. He totally dropped out of the Rookie of the Year race.
Peña’s struggles are not cause for much concern yet. Adapting to major league offerings isn’t easy, even for top potential players. Growing pains are normal. And the Astros had no problem getting it.
Houston has one of the best teams in baseball, whether Peña shoots or not. They will easily sail to another title in the second division. Plus, Peña is still an important contributor to his gauntlet, so Dusty Baker isn’t losing any games by continuing to play his short one.
However, if Peña is able to find a foothold in the board and regain his form early in the season, he will make a huge difference in the post-season. The Astros are the best MLS team on paper, but every advantage they can get will help in the playoffs.
So, can Peña warm up back in time to help the Astros run another World Series?
Peña has retreated at the plate
The chances of Peña returning to his form at the start of the season are not good. Simply put, he hasn’t been a good hitter since June 26th. It failed to produce, and its core numbers don’t provide much reason to be optimistic.
In 249 board appearances, Peña managed to walk only seven times. He hit 67 times. His hard calling rate decreased and his soft call rate increased. It hits fewer line drives and more globes.
Its average exit velocity dropped by more than three miles per hour, and its average launch angle dropped from 12.4 degrees to 5.2 degrees. None of these are good signs. Peña was not only unlucky. It’s not just stagnant. It has regressed significantly since its hot start.
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Over the past few games, Peña has been inspiring hope for a resurgence. Since August 30, the rookie hits 355. He has 11 that’s at 31 bats. These are good numbers. very well.
Unfortunately, only one of those hits went for extra bases. Peña did not have a single outing at the time. BABIP is an unsustainable .524, and he’s hit a whopping ten times. The hard call rate and line drive rate also continued to drop.
In short, Peña doesn’t really seem to turn things around. He’s had more hits to land than usual, but he hasn’t addressed the root of his problems. Until he does, his hot streaks won’t last.
Pina wasn’t hitting as hard as he used to
While there are many aspects of his game to work on and improve, Peña’s struggles this season can really be related to one simple thing: difficult contact, or a lack of it.
The following chart shows the rate of hard contact and the rate of soft contact throughout the season. As the year went on, more and more of his balls got hurt playing quietly. In general, balls that are hit lightly are less likely to result in hits, extra base strokes, and home runs.
Furthermore, since opposing bowlers realize that Peña is not hitting the ball as hard as before, they no longer have to treat him as a major threat. The hit rate he saw on the first court, not coincidentally, went up, and so did the hit rate.
The problem could be partly related to the thumb injury Peña suffered in June. His mission in IL coincides with the time when his offensive numbers began to decline.
However, the injury was not considered serious, and MRI showed no ‘significant damage’. The injury also doesn’t explain why Pena’s rate of injury continues to drop, rather than slowly improving while his thumb heals.
In order to improve performance, Peña needs to hit the ball more aggressively. He has to hit more thrust lines and fewer balls, and he must prove to rival shooters that he is not an easy target.
Peña has the skills to grow into a strong hitter, and at just 24 years old, he has a bright future ahead of him. However, it may take some time to figure it all out. For now, the Astros will have to rely on the rest of their fearsome squad to lead the offensive in October.
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- Jeremy Peña is not competing for the Rookie of the Year award, and that’s a good thing
- The Houston Astros are preparing for another World Series
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- The Astros beat the New York Yankees as the best team in the MLS
- Alvarez of Astros stopped striking and became the best hitter in baseball
- ‘Tracking Like Wheels Up’: A Long Back Trip by Astros Prospect McKee
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