Juan Pierre’s been playing better, and that’s a good thing.
Since that fateful Colorado series where he became the best clutch hitter ever or something, Juan’s hit .386/.429/.457 in 77 plate appearances, and even gone 5 of 6 stealing bases while clearly employing an quality-over-quantity approach. There’s no way in which this hot streak from the top of the order hasn’t been of tremendous benefit.
It probably shouldn’t be a source of concern.
A .415 BABIP over this time has helped, and now Juan’s OBP is up to .333 on the season. That’s not a super-duper leadoff man supreme figure, but it’s significantly above the league-average in this new era of baseball where no one scores runs and we chase off every casual fan with a broom while speaking in tongues. Pierre won’t be getting moved for an in-house upgrade playing like this, and he probably shouldn’t be. For Dayan Viciedo to get on base at a .424 rate for 77 plate appearances, he’d probably have to hit .386 too.
I think Viciedo has a higher ceiling than Pierre regressing to his career averages, but who can fault Ozzie while Pierre’s wOBA is over .380 for the month?
But if his reputation with Ozzie Guillen and White Sox management as the ideal leadoff man and make-things-happen guy is enough to sustain him through career-threatening struggles while he’s on contract and entrenched, why wouldn’t he still be organizational favorite if he pulls off another kinda-good OBP, no-power season?
There seem to be two things on the side of Pierre coming back provided he doesn’t transform back into Mike Caruso in the next two and half months.
-He’ll be preposterously cheap. For a team that already committed almost $100 million to next season, this cannot be overstated. Sure, Viciedo is cheap too, but that leads to the second point.
-There just isn’t a clone of him milling about Triple-A. The White Sox clearly value the slappy-scrappy leadoff man player-type or else they wouldn’t have reached out for flawed, aging ones in ’10 and ‘o9. Coco Crisp is a highly similar player, two years younger and going on the market this winter, but that’s about it (here, look) . The fact that I’m perusing the outfield of the moribund A’s for Pierre comps is not the greatest.
The deciding factor has to be stolen bases. Even if Pierre finishes with his normally above-average OBP, and the White Sox assume his defense normalizes, his unique value to the team is tied up in taking extra bases. A mild 5 for 7 hot streak has only taken his success rate to 57.7% at a drastically reduced volume. He doesn’t have the top-end speed to beat out good throws anymore, and there’s no reason to expect a bounce back in a speed category from a 34 year-old.
Perhaps it’s dithering about nothing to worry about the White Sox buying in on the decline phase of a solid player’s career, but it’s not exactly uncharted ground, and the continued lionization of his efforts from team management calls into question how critical of an eye they take toward his play.
Especially when it’s been so great.