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NL West: The Plague of Pierre
Ever since their team hired Billy Beane disciple Paul DePodesta as GM, traded Paul Lo Duca and acquired Hee Seop Choi and J.D. Drew in 2004, Dodger fans have been split in two camps: Those who believe that statistics predominantly tell the story of a player’s value, and those who believe stats undervalue hustle and team chemistry.
Here in 2007, Juan Pierre can serve as the uniter.
After 44 games, Pierre has met the low expectations of those who thought he would be an offensive Three Mile Island, producing a .305 on-base percentage and .314 slugging percentage. The man with the five-year, $44 million contract entered Sunday’s games with the 11th-worst OPS among qualified batters in the National League, and neither his 10 net stolen bases (15 stolen bases, five caught stealing) nor his reputation for friendliness do much to boost his value. How often can you race from first to third on a single when you’re barely on first base to begin with?
But distaste for Pierre has been bipartisan. Even many of those who might have been swayed by his conventionally laudable .277 batting average and 100-run pace (the latter fed by his never sitting out a game) have shielded their eyes from his feeble swings, bad routes to fly balls and dental floss throwing arm.
Even if both sides were to concede that they haven’t seen the best Pierre might offer this season -- that the career .302 hitter will get it in gear once he stops hitting the ball in the air so much (his ratio of ground outs to air outs is 1.33 according to MLB.com, which would be by far the worst of his career) and that his defense will improve as he gets used to picking up the ball in Dodger Stadium -- the signing has every chance to be the first true albatross of GM Ned Colletti, who took over for DePodesta after the 2005 season.
Though the team was embarrassed by the Angels over the weekend in a three-game sweep -- its power and clutch-hitting vulnerabilities exposed for all to see -- the Dodgers still have much going for them. Russell Martin has arguably been the NL’s best catcher, the Takashi Saito- and Jonathan Broxton-led bullpen has scintillated, shortstop Rafael Furcal snapped out of his per-usual early season slump by going 14 for 16 in one stretch, and the starting pitching has for the most part held together while waiting for Jason Schmidt to return from the disabled list -- which may be soon, after an encouraging side session Sunday.
On the other hand, Pierre, who hasn’t missed a major league game since 2002, has been a constant -- that is, a constant problem. The suggestion that he has been a net positive does not withstand scrutiny, no matter which side of the stats vs. scouts fence you set up camp.
Colletti has cut his losses before. Last July, he sent one of his first pickups, reliever Danys Baez, to Atlanta after a miserable attempt as Eric Gagne’s understudy, and this month, he tacitly welcomed the benching of one of the players he picked up in that trade, Wilson Betemit, when he called up third baseman Andy LaRoche from AAA Las Vegas.
And it wouldn’t be fair to say that Colletti is uninterested in improving the Dodgers’ power. He always intended to get a slugger this past offseason, then settled for Pierre and left fielder Luis Gonzalez when none would come his way. The unsurprising result is that Los Angeles is 28th in baseball in home runs and 27th in slugging percentage. (It isn’t helping that first baseman Nomar Garciaparra has one home run and a .361 slugging percentage.) Colletti likes his pitching staff, but he doesn’t like it that much, and rumors have already started that he has renewed his power pursuit.
Still, nothing in the tea leaves currently suggests he would endorse even a periodic benching of Pierre. Even with the slow start, Pierre is on target to get 191 hits and 60 stolen bases, which may be all Colletti wanted out of him.
Should Colletti part with one or more of the Dodgers highly regarded prospects in a trade for a power hitter, some will be left wondering whether what stopped him from the easiest solution to the Dodgers’ biggest offensive problem was that it was a problem of its own making? The offseason knock on 22-year-old farmhand Matt Kemp was that he was too vulnerable offensively and defensively to hold center field, but his potential compares too favorably against Pierre’s stagnation to be ignored. One is left feeling that Kemp could hardly do worse than Pierre’s .619 OPS or hard-on-the-eyes defense -- and has much more of a chance to keep the Dodgers in first place.
The bottom line is that Dodger fans will grumble quietly as long as the team remains atop the division. But if this weekend’s slide were to continue, the grumblings against Colletti and Pierre will grow louder -- from all sides.
“Because team officials didn't want to release Callaspo -- ‘That would have gone against our belief in second chances,’ Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said -- they agreed to abide by the recommendation of an independent counselor," Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported.
“Hall said the Employee Assistance Program counselor concluded that Callaspo was ‘fit for work’ and recommended he undergo counseling, which Callaspo agreed to do."
Labels: NL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Why do GMs keep giving Juan Pierre Money? Every statistical measurement shows he's a slightly below-average player and his speed hardly makes up for it due to the fact that he gets on base so rarely. The guy is an out machine, and as a Giants fan, I was thrilled when Ned signed him to that ridiculous contract.
Colletti must've learned from the master of bad deals, Brian Sabean.
Signing Pierre only cost Colletti money, it cost Hendry, of the Cubs, 3 pitching prospects for a 1 year rental
Giant fans shouldn't talk. They pay 20 million to a part time, controversial left fielder who doesn't know how to spell Team.
Pierre is awful. He made the eleventh most outs in a single season in baseball history last year. He won't earn 3 million a year much less 9.
In terms of ROI, the battle of Pierre vs. Bonds isn't even close. Even in his current slump, Barry is worth his money ($16M, not $20M) in PR and additional ticket sales alone, let alone his OBP and runs scored. Juan doesn't have anything to redeem himself or his contract.
Hes played the majority of the games this season. And with young studs like Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Noah Lowry, and Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants can afford to pay him and zito whatever they want. Rafa Furcal was a horrible pickup, as was pierre and schmidt. Schmidt is earning all his money sittin on that DL. Schmidt is soo washed up its hard to watch him anymore.
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