Time for the outfield! We’re going a little bit out of order on this one and starting right in the middle, and Vin will be back to recap the corners this week.
So I get to do center field? Sweet! I almost don’t know where to start on this one, so strap in – this one might get long, kids. Let’s preface this by saying that from absolutely everything I’ve heard, Juan Pierre is a fantastic human being and an exceptional teammate. He’s the first one there in the morning, and the last one to leave – no one outworks him. He kisses babies and rainbows and then the babies love rainbows and then the sun smiles and drops sugar cubes on everyone, and the sugar cubes turn into kittens who then frolic in dandelions. Juan Pierre is Mother Teresa reincarnate.
Juan Pierre (D-)
(.293/.331/.353 0hr 41rbi 64sb 15cs)
A D-? Oh, that’s right. We’re not paying him to be goddamn Bono. We’re paying him to do one thing: play baseball. And despite all of his superb human attributes, there’s one thing he’s really not all that good at: playing baseball.
Let me count the ways…
Juan Pierre can’t hit. Well, let me rephrase that. He can get hits. He finished just short of 200 hits (196) and just short of .300 (.293). Here’s the problem with that, folks. Getting a lot of hits just isn’t as impressive when you step to the plate 729 times, 3rd in the NL. Hitting .293 is all well and good, except it illustrates the fundamental problem with batting average: it doesn’t tell you just how empty that .293 is.
What’s really important for a player like Juan Pierre, above all else, is on-base percentage. You don’t expect or require a lot of power from your top of the order guys, and that’s fine (though he is of course, far below average at that too.) What you need is for him to just get on base. He’s good at one thing, and that’s running. It’s really really hard to run around the bases and cause havoc from the dugout.
It’s not really important how he gets on base – having a mixture of walks and hits would be the best, but honestly I don’t care. Just that he gets on. Basically his goal at the plate should be, “get on base through any means possible. Don’t make outs.”
Juan Pierre, 2007 – 519 outs made, 3rd in NL
Crap. Well, it’s not like we should have seen that coming.
Juan Pierre, 2006 – 532 outs made, 1st in NL
Blerg. My mind grapes hurt. Seriously, by just about every meaningful statistical measure you can think of, Juan Pierre is a terrible offensive player:
EQA: .249 (league average is .260), 21st among MLB CF
OPS+: 76 (league average is 100)
VORP: 16.2 – just behind two Rockies CF’s, Taveras and Spilborghs
And just to throw in a new super-fancy stat that I just now learned:
MLV (basically, how many extra runs over the course of a season a player would add if you had a lineup of completely league-average players. For example, Curtis Granderson was the best MLB CF, adding 40.2 runs over average.) Pierre: -13.5. We would have been better off if he never showed up to the park; this ranks JP 65th of 70 MLB CF’s this season, by the way.
Just because I can’t overstate this enough – his OBP was .331. The National League’s average OBP was .334. He is paid to get on base, he is paid a lot of money to get on base. This is what we needed him to do more than just about anything. And he is worse than your average player. And we gave him 5 years and $44 million for the pleasure.
Juan Pierre can’t field. Fielding stats are notoriously wonky and hard to evaluate. You can’t really read a fielding stat and say “this player is good or bad” the way you can with hitting stats. But what you can do with them is compare players to other guys at the same position and at least get an idea of who’s showing up. In 2007, there were 18 MLB CF’s with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title (a good way of sorting everyday players from part timers).
18. Remember that.
Juan Pierre, 2007 fielding stats:
Fielding %: 15th
Range factor: 17th, next to goddamn last
Zone rating: 11th
Great. So now not only can’t he hit, he’s mediocre to abysmal at fielding, too. Worse, he’s sort of getting off easy here, because these stats measure how well he fields his position, but it doesn’t take into account throwing arm. In fact, I don’t know of any stat that does, which is good news for Mr. Pierre, because this is by far his worst attribute. I can’t tell you how many singles got turned into doubles because absolutely no one is afraid of his arm – or the fact that guys would tag up from 1st base on sacrifice flies. Seriously, that doesn’t happen. Except to him. You don’t need me to tell you this; if you watched any Dodger games this year you’d know that he can barely outthrow Steven Hawking right now. It’s gotten to the point where just one year into his five year deal, there’s already rumors of him moving to LF to hide the arm a bit.
Juan Pierre is the epitome of bad timing. Okay, this one I can’t kill JP on. He got offered an absurdly rich deal, and he took it, same as the rest of us would. This is squarely pointed at Ned Colletti, and while it may belong more in his review later, I’m writing it now anyway – we did not need to sign Juan Pierre to a 5 year deal last year! If you remember, Kenny Lofton was the Blue’s main CF in 2006, and while he wasn’t superb, he did pretty well – outperforming Pierre in most important categories, anyway. So when Lofton’s one year deal ended, the Dodgers had 3 choices to man CF:
1) sign one of the only two wildly overpriced mediocre CFs on the market last year, JP or Gary Matthews, Jr., to longterm deals out of desperation.
2) resign Lofton or someone similar to a one year deal; see if Matt Kemp could take the job by year’s end
3) resign Lofton or someone similar to a one year deal; wait for 2007-08 free agency class which includes a rich crop of CFs – Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, Ichiro (at the time, he was coming up on free agency), Mike Cameron
#2 is the route I’d have gone, and considering how Kemp turned out, we might well have been set there cheaply for years to come. #3′s very reasonable too and shows some nice foresight.
Oh, but of course.. we got the absolute worst option of the three, and we’re paying for it for years to come. Superb.
And might I add, Juan Pierre turned 30 this past August, which means his Opening Day ages for the remaining 4 years on his deal will be 30-31-32-33. Juan Pierre has exactly one above-average attribute, and it just so happens to be almost universally the first thing that goes downhill when a player hits 30: speed. What happens when he loses a step and all of a sudden he’s not beating out as many infield hits or stealing as many bases? We’re just on the tip of the iceberg here, people.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness