Wily Mo Pena of the Arizona Diamondbacks is greeted by Gerardo Parra after hitting a solo home run in the 5th inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 21, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
It had been a long time since the Major Leagues saw Wily Mo Pena. On Tuesday night, he reminded everyone of what they had been missing.
I promise we're not going to keep writing about Wily Mo Pena at length every day. He is, after all, a bit player on a relatively unheralded team and probably won't have a job in the majors for more than one or three weeks. But after what Pena did on Tuesday night, I feel like writing about him more than I feel like writing about, I don't know, Wilson Ramos or Jason Motte. Wily Mo Pena is an interesting man.
One of the problems with player scouting is sample size. At the prep or collegiate level, scouts may see a given player for just a handful of games. Sometimes scouts may only see that player for one game. And players aren't always showing their entire skillset all the time. A power hitter may not hit for power while being observed. A pitcher with a good curveball may not have a good feel for his curve while being observed. A pitcher with a bad curveball may have an unusually good day while being observed. A player might be sick. A player might be hurt. In short, over the course of a limited assignment, scouts won't always be left with an accurate impression of the player they came to see.
But if someone who'd never seen or heard of Wily Mo Pena before watched him against the Royals on Tuesday night, he'd have come away with a perfect understanding of what Wily Mo is. Players don't always pack their entire skillsets into one game. Wily Mo Pena packed his entire skillset into one game. Observe:
Pena batted four times against the Royals, and saw 15 pitches. He swung at nine of them. Six of those swings came on pitches clearly out of the strike zone.
Pena struck out in two of his four plate appearances. Of his nine swings, five of them missed the ball entirely, while two went for fouls.
Hit Tracker Online measures that blast at 441 feet. That's 441 feet just to the right-field side of center, by a right-handed hitter. The ball cleared the seats and neared - or possibly splashed into - a waterfall. My favorite part of this is the center fielder. Watch Melky Cabrera. He takes a few well-intentioned quick steps, then slows to a walk as the fly ball clears the fence by practically a whole extra baseball field. You see a lot of outfielders give up on home runs in left and right. You rarely see that in center. That's because players rarely hit 440-foot home runs to straightaway center.
Wily Mo Pena was the DH.
Wily Mo Pena had been waiting a long time to get back. Until Tuesday night, he hadn't played in the Majors since July 12, 2008. And immediately, he reminded everyone of what they'd been missing. He reminded everyone of the good, and he reminded everyone of the bad. He came through with a classic, Wily-Mo-Pena-in-a-nutshell performance as if to say "Hey, I'm still me," and personally, I'm glad he still is. I'm glad he hasn't changed, because players like this are a hoot.
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