FIRE JOE MORGAN: Beating A Horse That Died Like Six Years Ago


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Beating A Horse That Died Like Six Years Ago

You guys know how we feel about Juan Pierre. We like him as a dude. We like the way it looks like he's borrowing a giant man's helmet. We like calling him John Peter. And we think he stinks at baseball.

Just for giggles and shits, I plugged the phrase "Juan Pierre" into our Bill Simmons 1980's Movie Reference Software (available at BestBuy), and here's what I got:

"In the world of out machines, Juan Pierre is the WOPR." Not bad for $24.95!

And now, take it away, Jayson Addcox of!

What is it about the on-base percentage that a player like Juan Pierre -- who leads the Dodgers in at-bats, runs scored, hits, stolen bases, triples and games played -- gets knocked for not having his higher than .350?

So much to digest, so quickly. Let's chuck the grammatical wonkiness out the window and just try to deal with the question at hand: Why does Juan Pierre get knocked for having an on-base percentage below .350? I made a list!

1) Because he's a lead-off hitter.
2) Because he has no power to make up for his lack of OBP.
3) Because he's being paid $45 million by the Dodgers.
4) Because his OBP isn't just a hair below .350 -- it's .324 this year.
5) Because .324 is good enough for 134th out of 171 eligible MLB batters.
6) Because there's a massive conspiracy against Juan Pierre.

By the way, why didn't he just say "gets knocked for not having his higher than .400"? It would have made Pierre look a lot better to anyone who was too lazy to look up his actual OBP.

Of course, Juan Pierre leads the Dodgers in triples, so I'm supposed to let it go, I guess. I'm supposed to forget that he's a lead-off hitter who doesn't walk for a second, and give him credit for leading the team in AB's? Wait -- hold on -- I'm supposed to be giving him credit at all for leading the team in AB's when in the same sentence you're admitting that he can't get on base? Ba-wuh?

He's batted in four different spots in the lineup this season. When he's hitting well, he's in the leadoff or No. 2 slot, but when he's slumping, manager Grady Little hasn't hesitated putting Pierre in the seventh or eighth slot.

I know I'm opening myself up to "you wouldn't know because you never played baseball" criticism here, but is it really so difficult to hit in different spots in the line-up? Does Juan Pierre's head explode when he sees that he's batting in the 7th spot? Is he suddenly going up to the plate and trying to catch the ball in his mouth because he has no idea how to hit 7th?

(Incidentally, I did play baseball, at least when I was young. Played 3rd base for my little league team. My coach encouraged me to play 3rd like a hockey goalie, and ended up earning the nickname "Reggie" that year thanks to late 80's Bruins goalie Rejean Lemelin. What were we talking about again?)

The issue with Pierre is that he doesn't walk. Plain and simple, his OBP suffers because he averages one walk every 21 at-bats. On the season, he has just 24 walks in 510 at-bats, which is the lowest in the Majors. On the flip side, Pierre doesn't strike out often, either. He has struck out just 32 times this season, which is once every 15.9 at-bats, making him the hardest batter to strike out in the Senior Circuit.

In the red corner: walking. Getting on base. Not getting out. Making the pitcher throw at least four pitches to you. Getting to first base so you can do the one thing you do well: steal bases.

In the blue corner: not striking out. In Pierre's case, finding other ways to get out. If you believe us, not really a good thing. Not a bad thing, just not a good thing.

Not striking out isn't "the flip side" of not walking. It's a different goddam coin. A coin that you keep in your pocket when talking about baseball because it's not really relevant, unless you want to talk about the virtues of the coin itself in a vacuum. You know what I mean. (Hopefully. Because I don't.)

Also, those of you who like not-striking-out-ability usually point to things like productive outs and "good things happening when you put the ball into play." Of course, Pierre's a lead-off hitter, so more than any other player in the line-up, he's going to have the lowest percentage of opportunities for "productive outs" anyway.

This season, Pierre leads the Dodgers with 147 hits. He is fifth in the NL with 45 multi-hit games, he leads the Majors with 14 sacrifice bunts and he's second in the Majors only to Jose Reyes with 50 stolen bases, and yet his OBP supposedly isn't cutting it.

"Jayson, it's Darryl. Just going over your copy for the latest article...No, yeah, it's fine. One thing. Looks like the word 'supposedly' somehow got into the last sentence of paragraph eight...Right...No? You sure?"

"He's a disruptive force when's he's on base," Little said. "The other team has to be concerned with him regularly and it disrupts the pitcher. The whole key is for him to get on base and that's what we like."

Write it down, kids: When writing an article in support of Juan Pierre, it's okay to admit that he has a low OBP, as long as you quote the manager of his team saying that the whole key is for him to get on base. A thing, which, you've already pointed out, he does poorly.

Compared to some of the elite leadoff batters in the game, Pierre's .324 on-base percentage is considerably low. Reyes has an OBP of .375, Hanley Ramirez is at .392, Chone Figgins is at .392 and Ichiro is at .396, so the consensus is that a No. 1 or 2 hitter in the lineup needs to have a .350 or higher OBP.

But like Pierre said, "It is what it is."

Can't argue with that.

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posted by dak  # 4:01 AM
Thanks to readers David Y and Vinnie, among others, for the tip.
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