My gut reaction when I read that the Cubs had signed Carlos Pena this off season was a Nancy Kerriganesque wail of "whyyyyy?" After all - the guy slugs some homeruns, but he batted Augie Ojeda's weight last year.
More to the point, over the past two seasons, Pena has batted .212. Quick - name the last team that won a World Series whose power hitting first baseman batted .212! It's cool, we'll wait for you to look it up. Go on, find that information. Or...
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's never happened. So, since we can all agree that no team is going to set the baseball world on fire through the intense play of a guy who strikes out nearly twice as often as he gets a hit, then we'll have to agree on this, too: Carlos Pena needs to do a helluvalot better if the Cubs have any chance in 2011.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm exactly an opponent of this signing. After all, the guy is only one year removed from his 2009 campaign in which he led the AL in homeruns while batting ... .227. Oops.
But chin up, Cub fans. That .227 AVG was a real drop off from 2008, when Pena hit 31 homeruns while batting ...uh, .247. That's a .224 AVG over the past three seasons, and the Cubs paid how much for this jabrone?
It's cool, though, because while Pena couldn't hit his way out of a piñata, he's not entirely one dimensional. He won a Gold Glove at 1B in 2008, which means, undeniably, that he is an extremely solid defensive first baseman. He also has walked an amazing 373 times in the past 4 years, for an average of 93 times per season for those of you who passionately hate math too much to figure it out on your own.
What's really impressive about his walks total is that Pena actually came within 7 walks of having as many BB in 2010 as he had hits. That's kind of crazy for a full time starter whose name isn't Barry Bonds.
So where does that place Pena and the Cubs in the '11 campaign? ...well, apparently he's a "calming influence" in the dugout, so he's got that going for him. But beyond that, I get the feeling that Cub fans will be lamenting for Derrek Lee before too long. Or even for Matt Stairs, or perhaps Ron Coomer. Because odds are, Carlos Pena is going to suck the big donkey.