Juan Pierre Is Not Hot

As you’ve no doubt heard, Manny Ramirez is hanging out in Triple-A, getting ready to return to the Dodgers after serving his 50 game suspension. Ramirez’s return will certainly give the Dodgers offense a boost, but it has also caused some consternation among some who believe that Juan Pierre has played well enough in Manny’s absence that he should keep playing regularly.

And it’s true, Pierre’s performed admirably well – his .327/.384/.424 line while playing quality defense in left field adds up +1.5 WAR in 240 plate appearances, or about a +3.75 win pace over a full season. If he played that well all the time, he’d actually be worth his contract.

But, of course, Pierre doesn’t play that well with any kind of consistency. And he hasn’t sustained that kind of pace this year, either. Here’s his 2009 season, broken into two chunks.

April 8 – May 28: 133 PA, .407/.470/.542
May 29 – June 24: 107 PA, .232/.276/.283

The first half of Pierre’s season, he hit like a Hall of Fame candidate. In addition to his usual batch of singles, he had 13 extra base hits and drew more walks (12) than strikeouts (10). It was a tremendous stretch of hitting for anyone, much less a guy with a checkered track record like Pierre.

The more recent chunk, however, is more what we’re used to seeing from the guy. No power, few walks (just four, compared with 10 strikeouts), and the ball has stopped finding holes. For the last month, he’s been a sinkhole, making outs in bunches and doing little to nothing to help the Dodgers win.

He’s neither as good as his first 133 PA or as bad as his recent 107, of course. However, based on his full body of work, no one would seriously suggest that Pierre should play ahead of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, or Andre Ethier. Instead, the argument for Pierre staying in the line-up rests on the theory of “the hot hand”. The problem, of course, is that Pierre hasn’t been “hot” for a month now. Why should the Dodgers play Pierre in July because he hit well in May? Even if you believe in the hot hand, June’s performance requires you to admit that Pierre doesn’t have it anymore.

Pierre is what he is – a +1 win player with good speed and range, a terrible arm, no power, and a horrible contract. He’s not the worst fourth outfielder in the world, but despite his remarkably good run earlier this year, he doesn’t belong in the starting line-up for any team trying to win. Especially one with Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier.

Back to bench, Juan. It’s where you belong.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

18 Responses to “Juan Pierre Is Not Hot”

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  1. CH says:

    “no one would seriously suggest that Pierre should play ahead of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, or Andre Ethier.”

    Steve Phillips did exactly that on Sunday night. He suggested that Ethier should be benched, and Pierre should take over in CF while Kemp plays RF.

    Combine that with Joe Morgan’s assertion that David Wright is the NL MVP this year, and you’ve got America’s Premier Broadcast Team.

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    • Michael says:

      ESPN’s baseball broadcast group is terrible. The only baseball people in their entire baseball coverage team that I listen to are Law and Neyer, and they’re the Internet guys. Over the last year, I’ve gone from looking forward to Baseball Tonight to dreading John Kruk and Eric Young’s…analysis, loosely put.

      But enough bashing. I’ve recently gotten into an argument with someone who wanted the Marlins to trade for JP and replace Cody Ross in center. It was impossible, as JP’s numbers all looked better than Ross’s at the time, even after the prolonged slump. But he said Pierre was a better center fielder because he’s faster. Don’t mind his arm out there or anything.

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    • Brian L. says:

      If Steve Phillips says something, you assume the opposite is correct or the more rational statement.

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  2. Will says:

    Oh you don’t want him? We in St. Louis would take him in a heartbeat! A little bit of speed is what that lineup needs.

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  3. AdamB says:

    Good article Dave,

    There are a good amount of Mets’ fans who call up WFAN everyday that want Pierre playing the OF at Citi.

    I almost wrote Shea there.

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  4. Yes, but we Giants fans were hoping no one on the Dodgers would notice this, thanks for ruining it. :^)

    Heck, they didn’t notice when they signed him, one can still hope that they got blinded by that flash o’ goodness.

    Now I did realize that him starting over the young guys was not a realistic dream, but what I was hoping was that because of his good overall numbers, he will continue to see frequent ABs in games, however they might come, for the rest of the season, until his stagnancy shows up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed (and Lou Seal’s fins crossed and Crazy Crab’s claws crossed).

    And PLEASE, no idiot team actually giving the Dodgers some good prospect for Pierre, make the Dodgers give up someone good to take Pierre off their hands!

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    • Paul says:

      and let’s not forget the Dodgers snatched Pierre away from the Giants at the last minute by enticing him with a 5-year deal (I thing we were offering 3). Saved us from ourselves on that one.

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      • scott says:

        Steve Phillips is an idiot who was run out of baseball. The evil 4letter loves to throw $ at these types! Pierre is terrible and deserves to be shipped off to the “chucks” up north by a body of water. Welcome back Rammy.

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  5. Sergey says:

    Good read. I also love ESPN’s baseball tonight (sarcasm intended)

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  6. Jason T says:

    So, we’re in consensus about BBTN and Herr Phillips. How do we feel about Mr. Reynolds + crew on the MLB Network. To me, they seem to certainly be more listenable and not as…stupid? Though Harold is getting mighty close to the ‘get off my lawn!’ part of his post-baseball life.

    Great article, Dave. I knew Pierre season had that bs smell to it, but I hadn’t realized he’d been playing so poorly the last month too.

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  7. wobatus says:

    Andre Ethier isn’t hot either.

    Since June 10 he has gone .174/.296/.239, with an admittedly low babip.

    And yes, that isa very small sample size. kinda like Pierre’s June.

    And Pierre’s 2009 is small compared to his career.

    But consider: Pierre’s line against lefties this year. .365/.444/.460. Ethier-.188/.286/.363.

    Again, small samples. last 3 years against lefties, Pierre .297/.341.344, Ethier .281/.335/.401. Pierre usually doesn’t have much platoon split, and he does seem healthier this year. And he has had mildly productive healthy seasons in the past.

    Pierre isn’t a stathead’s dream. But his WAR this year is 1.5. Ethier’s is 0. Ethier is not a great rightfielder. Pierre is ok in left, mediocre in center somewhat.

    Ethier in right and manny in left is not a pitcher’s dream from a fielding standpoint.

    You can see where I am driving this, and I might not agree with the choice either, but I bet Pierre plays against lefties and Etheir sits unless a deal is made. I can see Torre doing that. And Pierre occasionally spelling Kemp as well, and Manny even.

    And no, I am a Met fan and don’t want him patrolling Citi’s vast expanses. But given LA’s lead I don’t see why they wouldn’t rest players. I wouldn’t see Pierre getting 1/4th the 3 of position at bats, but a few less than that. Sure, Ethier is a better player, but not exactly a world beater against lefties.

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    • wobatus says:

      also, if you exclude last year for Pierre (he was hurt part of the year), his war per year since 2003 averaged 2.8, versus Ethier’s 2.4 last 3 years (and of course ethier didn’t play every day that whole time). This year he is 1.5 to zero. Now, I don’t actually believe his d makes up as much difference as this suggests, certainly not in cf. And I prefer Ethier myself. But you can make the case for platooning them, and using Pierre to spot the other guys sometimes as well. They have the lead and can rest guys anyway. keep them fresh and Pierre sharp.

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    • wobatus says:

      ha ha, Ethier said screw you Wobatus, I saw what you posted on fangraphs, take that, homer off lefty Vargas, 3 homer game, booyah!

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  8. NBH says:

    On his podcast, Matthew Berry (the Talented Mr. Roto) didn’t know what FIP meant. I’ve only been playing fantasy baseball since 2008 and even I know what that is.

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