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Juan Pierre’s been taking a beating all year for playing to a standard that would make some men take up pitching. But it’s hard to pile on him this week after he launched the decisive blows in a stirring 6-4 comeback win over the Rockies, and was easily the most dominant White Sox hitter this series in Colorado. In fact, he’s 9-19 in his last four games and knocked in 4 runs (while scoring just once, because the Sox offense is still quite bad). And he nearly hit a grand (In Coors Field) slam!
What does such a incredible stretch teach us about rushing to judgment? To not do it after four games, of course!
Contrary to what a fan base that watched Scott Podsednik wear down with time might expect of their speed players, Pierre’s traditionally a second-half player (here would be a link to post that didn’t survive the WordPress transfer), and can be expected to mount just as worthy of a campaign to finish near a respectable traditional-leadoff-man batting average as…well, last year.
But that shouldn’t mean much. Pierre’s made it through almost 11 seasons thanks to speed. And also knowing how to use his speed, a great feel for base-stealing, but really, speed.
It’s gone though, or at least, quite significantly diminished if his 52% stolen base success rate and all his defensive range scores rocketing in the wrong direction are any indication. That leaves him capable of being someone who at his best can hit for a slightly above-average OBP, no power, and provide average defense, or below-average even, because he can’t throw.
That’s a player you replace if you can, but not necessarily someone who’s DFA’d at a press conference at State & Lake while the city cheers, celebrates and tosses Goose Island in the air. The language that’s been used about Juan has suggested that he would need to reach the depths of the latter scenario to be moved at all.
But Juan’s performance on Thursday isn’t indicative of nothing. Coming into the game the White Sox were the worst-hitting team in high-leverage situations in baseball by a good portion, to the point where it just didn’t make sense. The White Sox certainly aren’t a great hitting team (they’re bad), but they’re below-average total of 93 wRC+ and their god-awful 55 wRC+ when the leverage index is over 2 just didn’t jive.
Even if every player on the White Sox was shaking at knees, closing their eyes and flailing in fright during every at-bat 7th inning or later, they were bound to start running into more balls, or in CQ’s case, being hit by them. A recovery of sorts came Thursday, as Juan’s blazing 10th-inning wall-single marked a 5-14 day for the Sox when the game was on the line.
Now, luck regression doesn’t fix Adam Dunn, or make Jake Peavy’s slider start to break like it’s used to, but like Dayan Viciedo, it’s useful.
And while I continue discussion on the situations that make me nervous, the Cubs–this weekend’s opponent–just had their bullpen pitch 12 innings. They’ll switch a fresh Kerry Wood onto their roster, saved rookie Chris Carpenter, and have the thrill of victory to ride on…but that’s it, everyone else got used. So if the White Sox have a mind to continue any sort of timely-hitting ways, doing it against a team that just burnt up most of a bullpen that already ranks 26th in baseball in xFIP in a series where they’ll miss both Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano–and face Rodrigo Lopez!–well, there’s not a wave of better opportunities rolling around.