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!