Within a 162-game regular season, there’s gonna be adjustments, there’s gonna be underperformances, and there’s gonna be disappointments. And that’s exactly what happened to Jeremy Peña in the middle of his first MLB campaign, after three good months to start his career.
To put you in context, Peña was arguably the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award before Julio Rodríguez was. When everything was said and done in May, Peña was slashing .281/.329/.490/.820 while playing a Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop and showing off his wheels on the basepaths.
However, that did not last as Peña began struggling offensively as days went on and Rodríguez began playing so well that he raised comparisons with baseball’s greats.
I’ve split Peña’s stats throughout his different offensive stages. Take a look…
From April 7 to July 5: 62 G, 249 PA, 63 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 36 R, 13 BB, 6 SB, .276/.327/.483, .809 OPS
From July 6 to August 28: 43 G, 178 PA, 33 H, 7 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 16 R, 6 BB, 1 SB, .195/.219/.308, .527 OPS
From August 30 to October 2: 29 G, 125 PA, 34 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 19 R, 3 BB, 4 SB, .288/.311/.466, .777 OPS
That’s exactly what you want to see from a good young man if he gets into the regression stage at some point of the season. He was good from the beginning, then fell off the Earth, and climbed up again. That’s when hope arises.
And speaking of adjustments, Peña went from being awfully bad against breaking pitches to destroying those deliveries after putting up some work.
In the second mentioned span, he was a .162/.171/.297 hitter against 76 breaking deliveries with 26 strikeouts and two home runs over 74 at-bats. But since August 30, Peña has posted a .289/.289/.600 line against the same offerings with 12 punchouts and four homers across 45 at-bats.
And there’s more – pay close attention to the launch angle number…
From July 6 to August 28 against everything that’s not a fastball: 83.0 EV, 1.9º LA, .146 xBA, .248 xSLG
From August 30 to October 2 against everything that’s not a fastball: 89.3 EV, 11.3º LA, .279 xBA, .429 xSLG
Now, Peña’s hitting pitches he couldn’t hit until a couple of months ago – FOUR of his five home runs came against those deliveries!
And the key to everything is that he made adjustments to put the ball in the air more often and smack it harder as you can see below…
From July 6 to August 28: 15.2 LD%, 55.2 GB%, 29.6 FB%, 7.1 Barrel%, 31.0 HardHit%
From August 30 to October 2: 24.4 LD%, 45.6 GB%, 30.0 FB%, 10.6 Barrel%, 39.4 HardHit%
Even though Peña is not the frontrunner for the ROY award anymore, he’s adding more value to an Astros team that is going to need him badly in the postseason – when the kids separate from the grown-ups. Jeremy Peña is evolving and becoming a better player as time passes and his time to prove that is now.