Did Astros Win By Replacing Correa with Peña?
By Paul Conlon
Did the Astros win replacing Carlos Correa with Jeremy Peña? Let’s take a look at six key stats to dive in.
Halfway into the season, both the Astros and Twins sit at first place in their respective divisions with lofty playoff aspirations. And now, following a key off-season decision for Houston to not ink Carlos Correa to a blockbuster deal, it becomes easier to gauge Jeremy Peña’s value as a contributor in Correa’s absence. Before comparing the two shortstops, let’s take a look at the salary difference each player commands—a key point in potentially disallowing the Astros from securing other quality players should they have retained Correa.
Jeremy Peña’s base salary with the Astros this season is $700,000. Meanwhile, the Twins will pay Carlos Correa $35,100,000 to play shortstop in his first year with Minnesota. In math terms, Correa’s salary this season is slightly more than 50 times Peña’s—50.142 to be exact.
What’s particularly interesting is how both Peña and Correa have virtually identical amounts of playing time this season. To show how close the sample size is for them, consider the following. Correa has featured 303 plate appearances to Peña’s 297. In effect, both players have a nearly identical sample size right after the All-Star break. Breaking this stat down further, the difference between both players’ amount of at-bats is only five. What’s more—for their respective teams, both players have scored exactly 39 runs on the season.
Let’s take a look at six key categories to see which shortstop holds an advantage at this point into the season.
1) Home runs
Peña, at this point in late July, barely edges out Correa by having blasted 13 long balls to Correa’s 11. In eight seasons, Correa has gone deep 144 times, flirting with the possibility he could reach the 400-home run club—or better—if he continues playing for another decade or so.
When it comes to extra base hits, Peña and Correa have nearly identical slugging percentages of .449 and .450, respectively. Peña also holds a slight lead in earning total bases due to his extra base hits leaving the yard a little more frequently than Correa’s this season.
2) Stolen bases
Correa, who has swiped 33 bags in eight seasons of work, has not attempted a steal since the 2019 season. Meanwhile, Peña has stolen six bags for Houston and been thrown out once up to this point in the season.
Peña represents an on-base threat. With Peña as a base runner, pitchers have to prepare for the possibility that he will steal, affecting their timing and focus on the batter; whereas, pitchers can discount Correa on the basepaths and focus solely on pitching—until Correa proves he is willing to attempt to swipe a base again for the first time in multiple seasons.
Correa barely tops Peña on paper in what appears to be a dead heat. The former Astro has notched 75 hits to Pena’s 72. As both players have nearly identical plate appearances at this point in the season, Correa achieving only three more hits than Peña really speaks to how strong Peña has been in contributing offensively for Houston in Correa’s absence.
Correa, a former AL Rookie of the Year who has finished as high as fifth place in MVP voting, has put the league on notice. Pitchers respect his potency at the plate. Perhaps this accounts for why Correa features 31 walks to Peña’s 14.
However, this could also speak to the veteran Correa’s experienced plate discipline. To put this further into perspective, Correa has struck out six fewer times than Peña so far this year.
Moreover, Correa’s ’22 on-base percentage of .353 appears demonstrably higher than Peña’s .307. Though Peña remains only three years younger than Correa, Correa has faced major league pitching for seven more seasons than Peña. In effect, Peña might become more polished with his plate discipline, increase his on-base percentage, and earn more walks as his career progresses. For now, though, that isn’t the case.
5) Batting Average
For the Twins, Correa has achieved a .279 batting average this season, hitting at a more efficient clip than Peña, who holds a .263 average for Houston. That stated, when Peña does put the bat on the ball, he does do a good job at avoiding the least desirable outcomes: he has only grounded into three double plays this season compared to Correa, who has grounded into 12.
6) Fielding percentage
Correa has committed five errors in 242 chances and holds a .979 fielding percentage. Meanwhile, in 289 chances, Peña has committed 13 errors and holds a below average .955 fielding percentage. Among starting shortstops in the American League, Peña sits third-to-last in fielding percentage while Correa ranks second behind Boston’s Xander Bogaerts.
Reflecting mid-season after Correa’s departure
While Correa edges out Peña in some key categories, the offensive output appears very similar from both players. The Astros’ front office appears to have dodged a bullet paying for Correa’s services—a financial decision 50 times more expensive than Peña’s ’22 salary that could hamper Houston securing other contributors that could help them win playoff games.
Moreover, Correa has only played in at least 140 games twice in his seven previous seasons of action, leading to questions of the 2012 first-overall draft pick’s on-field durability.
But when it comes to defense, it remains too early to tell if Peña will become stronger and more consistent with fielding and throwing. Defense can win championships, but errors can lose them. The question remains—can Peña’s defensive fundamentals improve as his career at shortstop continues?