There’s nothing surprising about A.J. Pierzynski’s declaration. His appetite for playing time has long been apparent (over 800 games in 6 years), even if it’s been aided by a lack of competent backups from 2006-09. He’s intensely competitive, unscrupulously so (which has come in handy in a pinch at times), and as reckless as it might make him, A.J.’s drive probably has a lot to do with him making the major leagues at all. Hard to fault him for it.
Naturally, A.J.’s response to pretty conclusively the worst offensive season of his career and concerns that 11,000+ innings of squatting had gnawed away his remaining ability, is to try to emphatically assert that he’s as physically up to game as ever….perhaps even by drastically overcompensating and catching all 162 games. He’s not entirely serious, but mostly because he knows it will never happen, not because he doesn’t mean it. And It’s admirable sentiment, really. But something being admirable, doesn’t preclude it from being the dumbest plan possible.
First off, no one should catch 162 games…unless you’re trying to clear
off his salary from the budget by ending his career. Games off are
crucial for keep players fresh…especially players in their mid 30s,
especially catchers, and that sure as hell means catchers in their mid
30s. Even if A.J. were the greatest hitting backstop in the history of
time (to note; he’s not), his workload behind the plate should be
getting discreetly siphoned off at age 34.
Because it can’t be reiterated enough, A.J. had a pretty darn subpar
offensive year in 2010 (You just really don’t see someone posting a 78
wRC+ get handed 500 plate appearances very often), so there’d be
temptation to sap his PT on that alone, even if a platoon with Castro
didn’t offer itself up so perfectly.
Castro was pretty aces at the plate last season (.278/.328/.504, 8 HR in
128 PA), but anyone who’s seen him field a bunt, or run the bases, or
checked his career stats and seen he’s never played 100 games, knows
that a big increase in use might not only be disastrous, but it
might not even be wanted by a 35 year-old Castro, who has probably grown
to cherish his 5-day weekends.
But the platoon seems like an obvious way to split things up. Castro
killed lefties (.953 OPS), and A.J. was a little bit worse than usual
against them (.642). Ramon will probably never rake quite like last
season again, but it wouldn’t be hard to exceed Pierzynski’s career
numbers against southpaws (.681). Seriously….A.J. should never, ever
hit lefties. We could platoon him and change the slogan from ‘All In”
to “The Year We Don’t Do Dumb Things”.
If the Sox ran a strict lefty-righty platoon at catcher, it wouldn’t
even change the workload all that much. The split between lefty-righty
starters last season was 40/122, and while that won’t stay the same (it
was 65/97 for whatever reason in 2006), it should pretty easily achieve
both the goal reducing the physical demands on our aging backstop, and
using a hitter that was over .300 points better in OPS versus lefties.
If you want to imagine how big of a difference that is, compare Mark
Buehrle’s hitting to that of….well…something that is dead.
The problem is, Ozzie has committed to a stance on the catcher position,
and it isn’t a platoon; it’s A.J. While he’s come out and said that
A.J. can expect similar amounts of time off as last year, that level of
rest only came as Pierzynski had the worst offensive year of his
career. Any sort of recovery could result in A.J. breaking the 130 game
measure quite easily again.
Paul Konerko cited the time off he got at 1st base–even if it did come
from Mark Kotsay–as a big factor in his 2010 resurgence, and proved
again the necessity that rest and recovery is for players at this age.
Let’s hope that Ozzie was taking notes on that, because even if A.J.
was, he won’t be telling.
Jim marvels at the work ethic that has kept Juan Pierre in the league.
Melissa has news and notes from spring training.