Royals part ways with decade's worst hitter

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New acquisition Yuniesky Betancourt came off the disabled list
yesterday and the Royals cleared room on the 25-man roster for their
new starting shortstop by designating Tony Pena Jr. for assignment.

After years in the Braves’ front office Dayton Moore became the
Royals’ general manager in mid-2006 and brought Pena over from Atlanta
the next spring. Pena was the team’s shortstop as a 26-year-old rookie,
starting 145 games while hitting .267/.284/.356 for the third-worst OPS
in the league. Last season his starts dropped to 61 and his hitting
line fell to .169/.189/.209, and this year he went 5-for-51 (.098) in a
part-time role.

Add it all up an you get a career line of .228/.248/.300 in 870
plate appearances. Baseball-Reference.com has a great stat called
adjusted OPS+ that measures offensive production relative to the
league, ballpark, and era someone played in. An adjusted OPS+ of 100 is
considered average and Albert Pujols leads MLB at 209 this season.
Pena’s adjusted OPS+ is 44, which ranks as the seventh-worst mark of the past 50 years:

                    OPS+
Angel Salazar 36
Donnie Sadler 39
Luis Gomez 40
Mario Mendoza 41
Mick Kelleher 42
Jerry Zimmerman 42
TONY PENA 44
Luis Pujols 44
Rafael Belliard 46
Luis Alvarado 46

Any time you can get on a futility list with the man behind “The
Mendoza Line” you’re really doing something. It’s also worth noting
that the next-worst adjusted OPS+ this decade belongs to John McDonald
at 56, which makes him look like Babe Ruth compared to the above list,
so Pena stands alone as the worst hitter of the 2000s. And the beauty
of the whole thing is that he batted .252/.285/.332 in 2,748 plate
appearances as a minor leaguer, so realistically he probably hit better
than should have been expected. Seriously.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.

Video: Aaron Judge sends a baseball into the upper deck at Citi Field

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.

The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.