Why Juan Pierre?

The White Sox are a team on the rebound. After a dismal April in which they went 10-18 with a -34 run differential, they’ve turned things around and have gone 27-21 since, bringing them to within two games of .500 and to within 4.5 games of the AL Central lead. They still face a number of problems, including four starters with wOBAs below .300. But given how good their top guys have been, they can mask that for a bit until the trailers either pick up their performances, or GM Kenny Williams swings a trade for upgrades.

In the meantime, the Sox should be maximizing their resources by playing the guys who are actually hitting, and putting them in prominent lineup spots. Unfortunately, Ozzie Guillen has continued to hit one of his worst hitters atop the lineup, and doesn’t play another who has produced in his limited appearances.

The White Sox list of problems starts at the top of the order. In 72 of the Sox 76 games Juan Pierre has hit leadoff, and he has produced a .274 wOBA (.314 OBP). Of the White Sox with at least 200 PA, only Alex Rios has produced a lower wOBA. The .314 OBP isn’t quite as bad, since it’s close to the .320 league average. But that’s still poor for a leadoff hitter, and it’s made even poorer by Pierre’s nine caught stealings in 19 attempts. That, along with his complete lack of power — just eight extra base hits this season — puts his wOBA in perspective.

Even from this quick glance it is clear that Pierre does not belong atop the White Sox lineup. Guillen doesn’t have many good options for replacing him, since only five of the White Sox starters have OBPs above the league average and three of them clearly don’t fit as leadoff hitters. But he could easily slot in Alexei Ramirez or Brent Lillibridge as the leadoff man in order to give the big producers, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, some base runners. Beyond the case for removing Pierre as leadoff hitter, there’s also a strong case for removing him as a starter completely.

It’s always tricky playing with small samples of defensive data, so the knock on Pierre’s defense this season isn’t necessarily indicative of his talent in the outfield. Yet both of our major defensive statistics, UZR and DRS, rate him natively in left field. If it were just UZR it would be one thing, but this is both sets of data, and both come to similar conclusions. It could be that he’s in a slump in the field, but that doesn’t help recoup the value he’s already cost the team. Regardless of what might happen later in the season, he has been a liability on both sides in 2011. A team scrambling back from a slow start can ill afford to continue trotting out a player like that.

In Lillibridge, Guillen has a ready made replacement. It’s silly to pretend that he’ll keep up his .390 wOBA or his .277 ISO, but even with a decent degree of statistical correction he still amounts to a better player than Pierre. He has displayed ability in the outfield this year as well, making him a wholesale upgrade over Pierre. He also has some speed and some semblance of discipline, making him a fit atop the order. Even if he regresses to the .270/.330/.378 level he hit in AAA in 2010, he’d provide well more than Pierre. If he hits to his previous major league levels, well, then it’s still a worthy experiment because of Pierre’s performance to date.

The White Sox have every opportunity to rid themselves of Pierre’s poor production. If, because of depth issues, they want to keep him on the roster, they can shift him down in the order. If they feel that someone such as Lillibridge, or an outside replacement, can slide in there, they can just get rid of him. His contract is up after this season, so they lose little by letting him go. That makes his struggles quite different to those of Alex Rios, who is under contract through 2014. It seems awfully odd at this point that the Sox, so close to becoming relevant again, haven’t done anything about their most glaring issue.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


54 Responses to “Why Juan Pierre?”

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  1. baty says:

    The opportunity is with calling up Dayan Viciedo to take over LF.

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  2. juan pierre's mustache says:

    Q: Why Juan Pierre?
    A: Ozzie.

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    • James says:

      I think it’s in Kenny’s hands… If Viciedo were on the roster, he’d be playing every day and Pierre would be on the pine.

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      • Eminor3rd says:

        No chance. Ozzie loves Pierre. He wouldn’t bench him regularly. THe only reason Vicedo isn’t up is because Ozzie told Kenny that he wouldn’t be able to find a place for him every day, and both of them agree that Vicedo shouldn’t come up until he’s going to play every day.

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  3. Telo says:

    “rate him natively in left field”

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    • GiantHusker says:

      The rest of us also saw that typo, but we know what he intended.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        the forthcoming site fangraphsgraphs will feature daily updated stats and charts covering the typographical and grammatical ability of fangraphs writers

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    • Telo says:

      Hey, it’s fun for me to heckle how horribly written and edited Joe’s articles are. Plus, I didn’t even make a snarky comment. That’s upward progress.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        no one is making you read his articles if you dont like them. You just read them so you can be an asshole in the comments? He isnt the best writer, but he is in no way terrible. At least he doesnt get a kick out of insulting other peoples work like you do.

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  4. brendan says:

    trade pierre to the brewers for mark kotsay. kotsay would be perfect in LF and is also a great part-time DH.

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  5. craigws says:

    he has lost a step and that has pretty much deprived him of any worth he previously had.

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    • Karl Dilkington says:

      This is the most accurate statement of all time. Speed doesn’t slump, but when it goes, it’s gone forever.

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  6. FanGraphsAHoleCommenters says:

    The forthcoming site FanGraphsAHoleCommenters.com will feature daily articles discussing things like:

    “effect” vs “affect”
    when does “i” come before “e”
    who shoved this stick up my rear
    how many commas is too many commas

    No wonder mla.org readership is down, they’re all over hear criticizing the grammar of baseball articles.

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  7. OzzieGuillen says:

    Pierre’s contact % and swinging strike % are at his career levels. He is hitting more fly balls than usual which has dropped his BABIP somewhat, but I do think it’s the loss of speed that is killing him (both at the plate and on the bases).

    Pierre did a similar thing last year, struggling to get hits before July. He turned it on in July and August, and that must be what Ozzie thinks will happen this season as well. The difference again, in my eyes, is the speed, as Pierre had 29 SB by the end of June last year.

    I would bench him, but I am only pretend Ozzie.

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    • Karl Dilkington says:

      I think there is something to be said about the way defenses now play Pierre. They use a shift on him that’s as drastic as anything used on Ortiz, Dunn, etc.

      The infielders move up slightly and the outfielders move up drastically. Now I could be very wrong, but this seems like a newer alignment versus Juan. I didn’t notice it last year.

      But anyhow, those little pathetic flyballs that used to drop are falling right into mitts. I think this is why the fly ball rate has increased as he is trying to now hit the ball over the outfielders heads. A skill he does not have because he isn’t very good.

      I think this, along with his declining speed have coupled to lower his BABIP and make him one of the worst players in the game as opposed to his usual consistent just badness.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        juan pierre is arguably a test case for how difficult a little person would find it to get hits against an intelligently positioned defense

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  8. TheGrandSlamwich says:

    But Ozzie is a “baseball person!” He don’t care ’bout no sabremetrics.

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    • mikecws91 says:

      I implore you to find one major league manager that does. Players and former players are allergic to any statistic that requires more than one mathematical operation.

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      • TheGrandSlamwich says:

        Francona and Maddon are the first two that come immediately to mind.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        joe girardi is constantly made fun of for managing with his little binder. He actually looks at numbers the whole game and is one of the few managers to change his lineup for lefty or righty starting pitchers (beyond just platoon guys). And yes he realizes that gardner instead of jeter should be leading off, but hes decided that the benefit of jeter getting fewer PA is outweighed by the scandal of moving him down.

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      • baty says:

        I’ve always seen it as the job of a manager to determine when probability may or may not be telling the truth. Ozzie is awfully stubborn, but to say that sabermetrics isn’t a caring part of this lifestyle nowadays is self indulgent.

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  9. mikecws91 says:

    I agree that a decline in speed seems to be Juan’s problem. In April, he dropped a whole lot of routine fly balls, but even since he’s fixed that problem, the defense just hasn’t been what it was last year. He also looks totally lost on the basepaths; he’s been caught stealing EASILY in nearly half his attempts, and picked off on several other occasions.

    Juan Pierre’s value in his career has come from putting the ball in play, stealing bases, and catching the ball (certainly not throwing it). And since he doesn’t have any of those working now, he might as well be Andy Gonzalez.

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  10. Steve from Rockford says:

    I was at the game yesterday, its obvious Pierre is really upset with himself and is struggling.

    The guy goes into yesterdays game hit 390ish off of Doug Davis, then proceeds to not get a single hit off of Davis. He reached base on an error. Davis was not all that great yesterday either.

    Its really sad, but right now Sox fans are so frustrated with him. I have zero idea on how anyone can justify playing him at this point. I understand Ozzie wanting to protect his guy, but enough is enough, he not only provides nothing… he actively hurts the team.

    Kenny is at fault as well, he is the GM, he needs to tell Ozzie “tough crap, don’t play him”. Lillibridge is a plus defender at the very worst, Pierre is not.

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  11. Steve from Rockford says:

    Also, Rios is very quickly pulling himself together and has had some very big hits over the past week. Soon Pierre will be dead last on the team in wOBA.

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  12. The Jam says:

    Not like Viciedo’s obs will be much better, but at least he’ll give you a better average and more pop. Despite what Buddy Bell I’d like to see Viciedo play in Rf before believing Bell saying he could be a major league RF right now.

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  13. Sox2727 says:

    In my sick and twisted baseball world, I have no use for corner outfielders that can’t give me a MINIMUM of 20 homers. I didn’t check but I’m fairly certain Pierre’s career total wouldn’t even qualify. When you’re claim to fame was base stealing, which he can no longer do, there is no justifiable reason to keep him on the roster….other than the fact that Ozzie romanticizes about the 20th century concept of the “fast, slappy, lead-off hitter.”

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    • Jason B says:

      Carl Crawford? TAKE A SEAT!

      (I would hope that single example would show the absurdity of your random, arbitrary cut-off point.)

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      • Sox2727 says:

        Juan Pierre had 22 extra base hits in 160 games last year, and has 8 in 73 games this year. Carl Crawford has never had numbers that putrid. I deem 22 extra base hits the definition of slappy, I hope your brain can function enough for you to realize the ABSURDITY of comparing Carl Crawford to Juan Pierre.

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      • Jason B says:

        “I hope your brain can function enough for you to realize the ABSURDITY of comparing Carl Crawford to Juan Pierre.”

        Says the guy who set a ridiculous arbitrary HR minimum that was just totally deflated with a single, off-the-top-of-the-head example.

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    • delv says:

      Brett The Jet Gardner says hi, and slaps a single right into your face.

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    • jrogers says:

      And the past 10 years of Ichiro.

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      • Jason B says:

        Obviously your tiny mortal brain can’t comprehend the awesomeness of his point…move along, move along. I’ve already been summarily dismissed even though I was just pointing out an obvious flaw in his logic.

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      • Sox2727 says:

        So there’s a flaw in logic when a guy’s career high in wOBA is .343?

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      • Jason B says:

        Umm…yeah? You would have “no use for” Crawford since he doesn’t homer 20 times a year. I will happily take him and his 34.1 cumulative WAR over the past seven seasons (or 4.9 per).

        Am I saying he’s the best player, or even the best corner outfielder, ever? Or even playing currently? Not at all. Worth his contract? Jury is still out. Worth playing on a contender? Definitely, in a heartbeat. Can’t believe that we’re even having this mind-numbing discussion…

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      • Sox2727 says:

        Are you this simple that you can’t understand what the issue is here. Let me refer you to my previous comment where I said “…I hope your brain can function enough for you to realize the ABSURDITY of comparing Carl Crawford to Juan Pierre.” So clearly there I’m stating I would have no use for Carl Crawford. I’ll type this s l o w l y so you can c o m p r e h e n d. When you’re a corner outfield you essentially have to be one of two types of players: either hit 20+ homers and have a .360+ wOBA, or steal 50+ bases while playing stellar defense. Juan Pierre is NEITHER!

        My previous point was that I personally prefer corner outfielders that hit for power, the examples of Crawford, Ichiro, and Gardner are not of that mold obviously, but they make up for it with the other aspects of their game. JUAN PIERRE DOESN’T…I had no idea I had to be so detailed in my explanation so you could understand that Juan Pierre blows.

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    • Dann M says:

      Actually, Carlos Zambrano has more career home runs than Juan Pierre. Z has 22 in 696 career PA (.240/.250/.391), while Pierre has just 15 in 7128 PA (.296/.345/.363). And it should be noted, as far as Pierre’s speed goes, that this is the logical conclusion to a career that has seen him pilfer 537 bases, but be caught 182 times. He has thrice led the league in SB (01, 03 and 10), but he has been #1 in CS 6 times, including all 3 of his top-thief seasons and each year from 03 through 06. His career success rate is 74.6%, which is pretty much the conventional cutoff point for whether or not a guy should run to begin with. As far as slappy goes, Pierre’s only at 16.8% on his XBH – 321 of 1916 hits for extra bases. As the Cubs found out when they gave up the farm for him, he’s overrated because he was speedy. Now, he’s just a tenured Tony Campana.

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  14. MikeS says:

    I disagree with your conclusion that “…there‚Äôs also a strong case for removing him as a starter completely.” He shouldn’t lose his starting spot, he should lose his roster spot. DFA him, he’s done.

    Viciedo is hitting 324/364/520 at AAA and has even upped his BB% to 5.3%.

    Lillebridge is fine where he is, playing him much more will expose him.

    -DFA Pierre.
    -Give Viciedo his PA’s.
    -Keep Lillebridge where he is or use him a little more for defense for Quentin and Viciedo.
    -Hit Ramirez leadoff. If Rios picks it up a little he can lead off too.

    Those four moves can’t possibly be worse than running Pierre out there six days a week.

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