Another Look at Carlos Pena's HRs
Before the season I looked at HR rate by pitch location and noted batters who hit HRs in locations most do not. One batter I profiled was Carlos Pena, as he hits HR predominately on pitches away while most batter hit them on middle-in pitches. Part way through the season he was one of the league leaders in HRs so I did a follow up. Now he is out for the season with two broken fingers, but is still leading the AL in HRs. So I thought it I should check on where the pitches he hit his 39 HRs were in the strike zone.
Here are all of his HRs plotted over the grayscale rate for all LHBs.
Most of his HRs are the outer half of the plate, with a big number on the outer quarter where most LHBs hit very few. In the middle-in section where most LHBs have the most HRs he has surprisingly few.
I talked in the original post about one problem with this method. I am comparing the rate of HRs hit by the average batter to the actual number for Pena, not his rate. Maybe he has few HRs inside because he gets few pitches there. To get around this below I plot the HR/FB rate for an average lefty and for Pena based the on horizontal location of the pitch.
So it does in fact look like Pena gets much more power on the outside of the plate than the average lefty, and actually less than the average lefty on the inside quarter. In my post in the middle of the season Rich asked how he did this. Most batters have more power on pulled balls and pull more inside pitches. So is Pena's outside power from opposite field power or from an ability to pull outside pitches? To examine this I took inspiration from Max's work looking at relationship the between the horizontal location of a pitch and the horizontal angle of the resulting ball in play. In this case I just looked at Pena's HRs. Remember that -45 is the third base line and 45 is the first base line.
Pena has hit only a handful of opposite field HRs, all from pitches away (I checked those are all on fastballs). But the bulk of his power is from hitting pitches on the outer half and even quarter of the plate to right field. He routinely pulls HRs on pitches on the outer edge of the plate.
Pena is a great story. He kicked around for years before busting out with the Rays two years ago. We will see if the lead he has in HRs in the AL holds up over the next couple weeks.