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.