As we all know our AL Central leading Kansas City Royals are off to a hot 6-2 start. As we also know, our starting shortstop has not gotten off to such a hot start. I've been down on Pena for awhile but after looking at the statistics I don't see how a club with any hopes of contending (we do, believe) can afford to carry him in the line-up on an everyday basis.
For example, TPJ's carrer major league batting line is 254/273/341. To put this into proper perspective his OPS last year was 6th worst in the major leagues. His career minor league line which spans over 7 seasons is 252/282/332. He his already 27 years old so I think it's pretty clear what we've seen so far is what we're going to get. Not helping his cause is that he is a below average base-runner and a terrible bunter.
What about the defense? Good question. His defense in 2007 according to the 2007 UZR ratings was the best in the AL with a measure of -10 (saved 10 runs compared to the average AL shortstop). So the question becomes does his glove and the runs he saves outweigh his abysmal hitting. If not, what other options do we have?
Albert Callaspo is the other options friends. He would be a significant upgrade at the plate. I averaged the various 2008 projections for him and came up with the following line: 296/334/392. This is a large upgrade and from what I've read his defense is passable. As good as Pena? No. In my opinion his bat would more than outweigh the glove. Especially if Pena was used as a late inning defensive replacement and a spot starter when a groundball lefty (i.e. John Bale) is on the mound. Hopefully by next year we can upgrade the SS position long-term and move Callaspo back to his natural position of 2b. Until then, we're officially in first place and should try to maximize wins.
I offer a few opinions I've read from others to further support my argument:
"Tony Pena's ugly blooper that won the game on Opening Day is still his only hit of the season. Bale goes tomorrow, and Pena should be out there for his defense. Come Friday, it's time to give Alberto Callaspo another shot." Rany on the Royals.
"I'd like to see the Royals begin the season with Callaspo at SS. If he brings average defense to that position, his bat means he would be a huge upgrade over TPJ." Craig Brown, Royals MVN