Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bon Voyage

Barring a bizarre and unexpected return to the Dodgers, this is a farewell post to Juan Pierre. This was never a personal attack on Mr. Pierre, who is by all accounts a great guy. This was just a place to vent about overvalued veterans. It was a place to discuss the clash of old and new ways of evaluating baseball talent. A place to discuss how much better power and patience are than speed. And mainly, a place to point out how silly using counting stats are to evaluate a player, especially one given more at bats than any other on the team.

For those following along, it was clear this blog was done in mid-2008. The arrival of Manny Ramirez (and the previous rise of Kemp and Ethier) put a final nail in the Juan Pierre playing-regularly coffin. Manny going down for PED abuse led to a brief resurgence in Pierre playing time and also a brief resurgence in the outfield starters controversy, as Pierre arguably had one of the greatest months of his career. Thank you Juan Pierre. Without you I am not sure the Dodgers make the playoffs, as the team was definitely psychologically vulnerable at that time. You picking up Manny's offensive production let the team regain its footing.

And thank you , Joe Torre, for having the common sense to understand that Super Pierre could not last forever. And he did not. That second month of replacing Manny was decidedly mediocre. The bench was where he belonged on the Manny-Dodgers, and Joe knew it.

So good luck, Juan. I don't know if the Sox will start you, bat you lead-off or what. From what little I saw looking around, it is not unreasonable that they put you in left field, with Rios in center, and Quentin in right. I will say one last time that Juan should never start any position except for centerfield. It is ridiculous to give up power from the left fielder. While Juan is a mediocre center fielder (because of his rubber arm) he actually stacks up ok offensively there. And some teams have really awful CFs. But move him to left and you are just shooting yourself in the foot. OK, that was the last time, Juan. I swear.

So let me end with our favorite crazy Juan Pierre conjecture: The Hall of Fame. Juan Pierre has 1663 hits over his career. If he were to make it to 3000 hits it would give everyone the tizzies and hizzies trying to keep him in or out of the Hall. Juan always had only an outside chance at this, riding mainly on his strongest virtue: his durability. The guy can play virtually every game. Being relegated to the bench cost Juan about 600 PAs during prime years, or probably around two hundred hits. So if he makes it to 2800 hits he knows who to blame (himself for signing an untradable contract). It also cost him about a hundred runs (he has scored 804 in his career).

Even under the best scenario, if Juan gets to bat lead-off and stays healthy, next season he is going to be 32 so he just can't have that many 200 hit seasons left in him. So let's say two years from now he is at 2063 hits and starts a long decline then. Playing 34-40, he will need to put
up ~950 hits over those 7 years where his playing time will be shrink, shrink, shrinking. Comparing him to another speedster who aged very well, Ricky Henderson. Ricky hit 816 hits over those years. Ricky was arguably the greatest lead-off hitter of all time, so Juan has a tough road to climb. I wish you luck, because if you could do it, that would be one crazy fun argument.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Getting Hard To Ignore

When last we left you kind and gentle reader, the monster mashing team of Kemp, Ethier, and Ramirez were in full effect and good ole Juan Pierre was riding a lot of pine. Well, the seasons turn turn turn and things look a fair bit different now. It turns out that Manny did in fact continue to be Manny and that means he also shoots 'roids into his private parts. Or used to. OK, I am not exactly clear on what he shot where, except he is clearly a fool for getting caught at this late date. In addition, Ethier has gotten ice cold and Kemp, while still rolling along ok, is not quite banging them out as often as we would hope.

So is the team in the doldrums, languishing away while we await the return of the ManRam? No, we are in first place. By a lot. Not only do we lead the NL West by 8.5 games, but we have the best record in all of baseball. We are 18 games above .500 after only two months. This team is kicking ass, taking names, and then kicking the ass of all those names.

And... as much as it pains me to say it... Juan Pierre deserves a lot of credit.

Yes, the pitching staff has been astonishingly good (2nd lowest ERA in MLB at 3.78). Yes, the Dodgers in general have been amazing at getting on base, a .375 clip that leads all of major league baseball.

But Juan Pierre was asked to step in and take over the position of future Hall-of-Famer[sic] Manny Ramirez, someone whose absence had the potential for causing a great deal of mental anxiety. One big losing streak and everyone might have started doubting themselves. What has Mr. Pierre done with these at bats?

How does .404/.469/.544 sound? Thats an OPS+ of 165. And it is not just luck, although he certainly has had that. His patience is improved a bit. More importantly, his power, which had appeared to be completely gone (he slugged .341 over the past two years), has jumped way up. And anecdotally I can say I have seen him hit far more balls hard, on-the-screws, and into the gap than I ever saw him hit before. You can knock out .050 points of lucky singles and he would still have an OPS over .900.

Now don't get me wrong. This is not about to become the Juan Pierre LoveWatch. His lifetime OPS is just over .700 and he has really only had two good years in his career (2001 and 2004), where he managed to get his OPS close to .800, so this kind of jump will simply not be sustainable. He only has 129 Plate Appearances so far this year. We will wait and see if he can keep up anything like this kind of hitting for the remaining month until Manny returns.

But we bashed and bashed and bashed poor Pierre for being an out machine and this year he has really come through in the clutch, so we give him kudos, props, and whatever else you want to toss his way. For the first time since the signing of the deal, I am not cringing to see him starting out there, even in Left Field.

Good job, Juan.

But know if Slappy McPopup returns, so will we.

Dun Dun DUN!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Recognition of What Is Already Evident

Juan Pierre is not a regular starting outfielder and therefore this snide and often rude blog really has no purpose. Back-up outfielder is really a perfect role for Mr. Pierre, despite what he or his agent might think. I hope he steals 20 bases coming off the bench.

I imagine Juan could even be a useful starter for a team with bugger-all for outfielders (compliments don't get much more back-handed than that) and I sincerely hope he gets a chance to prove that and that we don't have to pay all his salary to make that happen. He still has a lot of time and money left on that contract, though. If Juan were to make a sweet farewell we might note it here, but I find it highly unlikely that we would continue to hound the man. We are primarily Dodger fans and while the goal of getting people to recognize what baseball skills should be most valued is a laudable one, that quixotic quest is just not ours. We got other windmills to fry.

In the meantime, as of today the Dodger outfield (Ethier, Kemp, and Manny) have an OPS of 1.078. That is patently ridiculous. Individual players having the greatest seasons of their careers can manage that sort of number, but for three guys to average it among them? Yes, only 13 games. Yes, it will certainly drop. But if the three outfielders can just average .900 OPS... that is a lot of offense, especially assuming the rest of the team does something besides pick at their belly buttons.

Anyway, this poor blog was consistently criticized for being pessimistic and a bit of a buzzkill. I can tell you that right now we are thoroughly pumped up for this season and may just be getting our hopes up a bit. Go Dodger Blue to Infinity and Beyond (Possible Toy Story 3 tie-in???). So expect this blog to stay dark and get dusty, unless they start playing Juan everyday again.

Let us all pray to the Gods of Strong Hamstrings and Well Connected Shoulders.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Holy Fracking Shit!

Juan Pierre hits a -- you heard it right -- real, honest-to-god Home Run in Pittsburgh. His first as a Dodger and the 13th of his career.

You could knock me over with a wet paper sandwich bag.

Congrats, Juan! Your reward will be two months with no posts at the Outwatch.

This reward will be granted retroactively, of course.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Picking Scapegoats

Everyone knows the primary purpose of this blog is to blame everything that happens to the Dodgers on Juan Pierre.

OK, that's not true. The purpose of this blog is to point out that Juan Pierre is an overvalued player and should not be played or paid as much as he is. It just happens to be that when one spends all their time looking at the Dodger club through those particular goggles, it often ends up sounding like we blame everything on poor Pierre. Well, maybe Humma does, but I don't. As Humma has not deigned to post since opening day, we'll just leave him out of this for now.

I also don't blame everything on Ned Colletti. I found several of his trades truly baffling. Lugo? Navarro (now all-star Navarro) for a bag of balls? Loaiza? But none of those were team killers. Here is what has been team killing (or at least wounding): Jones, Schmidt, Furcal injured for most of their contracts (or, as in the case of Jones, playing as if they were horribly injured). I don't care how much money McCourt has, with 50 million a year tossed away it is amazing we have even a .500 ball club. The funny thing is, assuming Ned did his due diligence regarding injuries, I agreed with all three of those signings. Furcal, when healthy, is great. Both Jones and Schmidt were premier players signed to very short term contracts. It is difficult to fault Colletti for not predicting the future better. I wish Ned had pushed his managers harder to play the younger players, but generally I still find his term at GM mediocre with a healthy does of unluck. Of course one colossal Kemp/LaRoche trade blunder will probably change all that, but until he does it, I can't hate Ned because he might do something so dumb.

No. Clearly we need a good scapegoat in these Pierre-less days. I pick Mark Sweeney.

Mark Sweeney so far this year batted .094/.181/.125. Thats an OPS+ of -18. Clearly, horrifically awful numbers. Makes Andruw Jones (version 2008) look like an MVP. Now wait a minute, someone is probably huffing (You know you were huffing. Breath. There you go. Nice and easy.), he may have been titanically, super-awfuleese with cheese on top, but for only 64 at bats. How much impact could he possible have had?

True, 64 at bats, but he hit them over the course of 60 games. That is a very high game-to-atbat ratio. Recall that he was our premier pinch hitter. The guy we always brought in to hit in the highest leverage situations possible. Late and close? Runners in scoring position? Mark Sweeney was the guy at bat. And striking out a third of the time. Getting a hit less than one time in 10.

As I am generally screwing around I am not going to go back and figure out the number of men he actually left in scoring position. He did manage 3 RBIs on 6 hits and 1 SF. If Sweeney could have just hit .250, getting 10 more hits with an accompanying increase in power, he could have probably driven in 5-7 more runs, most in the late innings of the closest games. How many 1-run games did the Dodgers lose?

As of today we are tied for first. So tell me honestly that Sweeney being that bad had a negligible impact.

OK. Clearly Sweeney is the not the reason we are not in sole possession of first. And this was one of those things that was not anybody's fault. Sweeney has been a great pinch hitter his entire career. It took some time to figure out something was really wrong and not just a fluke. Can't blame Torre for that. Did he play injured and hide it, hurting his team? Maybe.

I just wanted to point out that the generally overlooked go-to pinch hitter can have an effect on their team beyond just the small number of at bats they represent, exactly because they end up always being used in the highest leverage situations. Not on the scale of an injury to your starting shortstop, but probably has a much greater effect than what utility infielders you carry on the bench.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Juan Pierre Injured

As much as we here at the OutWatch would like to see Pierre benched, no one deserves to be injured. Pierre will be out four to six weeks with a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. We wish Pierre a rapid recovery. We also wish Delwyn Young a chance to show what he can do. But enough about that for now.

By the way, that now makes 10 players on the Dodgers' DL. We are six games under .500, but still in 2nd place and only 3.5 back of the Diamondbacks. Go NL West! The pitching just seems to get better and better, so we just need to get some hitters hitting. So hit already! (I am looking at you Jeff Kent...)

For obvious reasons there may be fewer total posts or at least rants about non-Pierre topics, for I'd say about a month and a half.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just Some Numbers

Here are some bad numbers from Juan Pierre:

.280/.332/.323/.655 ; OPS+ = 72 ; EqA = .251

That OBP and SLG are just painful. Consider again this is our starting LEFT FIELDER and it really makes you sigh.

Here are some decent numbers:
29 SB, CS 7, for a 81% success rate

His success rate has taken a little dip, but he still above his career rates. He was caught stealing just 5 games ago. With numbers this small (7 CS) one has to be careful not to make too much of minor variations caused by just how recently he was last caught. Base stealing still looks very solid for Pierre and I would not be surprised to see him finish with a very respectable 85% success rate. It does not, however, even begin to make up for his terrible OPS.

Here is a less numbery tidbit:

Juan has not taken a walk since June 5, losing 20 points off his patience which puts him right back near his career averages. His ability to take walks, which had persisted for two straight months is apparently over. With his power (such as it ever was) completely gone that does not leave Juan with much to offer.

But what choice do we have, I hear you cry?
Delwyn Young:
.286/.333/.414/.747 ; OPS+ 94 ; EqA =.262
Not quite achieving replacement player, but still nearly 100 points of OPS more than Pierre. And this is with extremely irregular playing time for a young (excuse the pun) player who needs it. His career numbers (WARNING, very small number stats) indicate even more potential.

One last set of numbers:


The Dodgers record since Juan became a regular starter on May 1. Clearly it is ludicrous to blame all of that on one player. Penny has sucked, several key players have gone through significant slumps, Hu and Berroa are mere shadows of Furcal, etc. But come one. Look through the list of losses. Would 3-4 more HR and a similar number of doubles have won some more games? Recall even with all the awfulness, we are still only 4 games back of Arizona.

Think about that number.