Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oui Oui Pierre

All the cool kids are talking about Juan Pierre. I guess it's my turn.

The first thing that struck me is that his name sounds like it's randomly generated from a computer game. As someone at Yuda's pointed out, they usually produce wacky names like Hirohito Sanchez or Guillermo O'Rourke. So why has Juan Pierre gotten a pass? Anyway...

The speculation around Pierre sort of ignores one thing. He's not a free agent. He slides just under the required six years of service time. But, and it's a delightful but, there's a pretty good chance he will be non-tendered. (That is, he won't be offered a contract because he'll make too much freakin' money in the arbitration process.)

Florida is in desperate straits. A penny-pinching small market to begin with, the ugly thumb-breaking collection man is starting to demand payment on the Carlos Delgado contract. He goes from a below-market $4MM salary last year to $13.5 million. Jeffrey Loria would have to sell a lot of Peanuts books to recoup that.

Pierre, whose head is strangely small for the size of his body, made $3.4 million last season, and will probably find himself in the $5 million range next year if Florida holds on.

Unless they trade Delgado (a very STRONG possibility) or sell off Mike Lowell and the $16 million he makes over the next two years to some Columbian drug cartel (be honest, don't you think "drug mule" when you see him?), Pierre is likely to get the axe.

So is he worth it? Distinguished Senators, apparently fully awake from his Augustian slumber, chips in with a lukewarm yes. Curly W expounds upon his YES! from yesterday with something even more resounding: YES, BABY, YES!

So what do I think you might ask? And if you're not, please pretend you are. My fragile ego can't take the blow.

I'd give him a lukewarm yes as well. With all sorts of caveats, of course.

Pierre would be a useful hitter in RFK. His slap-happy style is different than Guzman's; he actually drives the ball on a line. Playing the last few years in Joe Robbie/Pro Player Park/ Pro Player Stadium/ Dolphins Stadium, he's adapted well to one of the best pitchers' parks in the game.

He has a short, line-drive swing that doesn't generate a lot of power. He's hit just five homers over those last two years -- but 25 triples. The triples appear to be more a function of speed, however, as he has just 41 doubles over the last two seasons.

That swing, though, produces a lot of hits. He had a very disappointing season last year, hitting just .276, but is typically over .300, giving him a .305 career average. And, although he doesn't walk much (45 or so a year), his skill at hitting for average compensates, giving him a decent .355 career OBP. That's not oustanding, but it's not bad for a leadoff hitter.

The thing that jumps out when people think of Pierre is his speed. Even in a down year, he still stole 57 bases. He's not a dominant base stealer though, having been caught 17 teams. For his career, he has a 74% success rate, which is solid, but not spectacular. (But certainly better than this team's!)

Conventional thought is that the value of a SB breaks even with a 70% success rate. But given RFK's role in dramatically preventing runs, the break-even rate is probably lower -- it IS worth the risk because it's that much harder to score runs. So Pierre's an asset there.

Defensively, the picture is cloudy. Our mal-adjusted friends at Baseball Prospectus see him as below-average. Yet play by play analysis that I've seen show him as average to slightly above. His reputation is good as well. Regardless, he's probably better out there than Preston Wilson, the man he was once traded for.

Wrap it all up, and you've got a pretty good player who would be a pretty good fit on the team. But, like all things, it depends on the cost.

Prototypical leadoff hitters don't come on the market too often. And I would suspect that if he's free, that he'll command a decent salary. I can envisioning the Yankees getting involved. They desparately need a centerfielder, and Pierre, incorrectly, was regarded as the key factor in their World Series loss to the Marlins in 2003.

But why do you need a prototypical leadoff hitter? In what was an extremely disappointing year, Brad Wilkerson still batted circles around Pierre. They both set career lows in on-base percentage, and Wilkerson still outpaced him by thirty points. Depite playing with a forearm injury and in a brutal park for hitters, Wilkerson outslugged him by fifty points as well (60 extra-base hits to 34!).

But the strikeouts! Wilkerson's a K machine, but I've NEVER understood the argument that Ks from a leadoff hitter are bad. Wilkerson sees a lot of pitches, works the count. Sometimes it results in a K. A lot of the time it results in a walk -- which is how someone with a career-low .248 batting average can still get on at a .351 clip.

So as the offseason trudges forward, I think the Nats should be a player in the Pierre sweepstakes (if it occurs!), but I wouldn't break the bank. Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd are probably capable of producing similar, probably better, numbers than Pierre, and they'd come at a cheaper price. But if it looks like they can get a bargain with him, sign him. Pencil his name in the lineup every day and enjoy his style of play -- it's a fun one.

With or without him, the Nationals have options. But it would be nice to have a new toy to play with.

6 Comments:

  • He DOES have a crazy, disproportionately sized head! It freaks me out every time I see him. The Nats should pick him up if only for the awesomeness of a Juan Pierre bobblehead day at RFK.

    By Blogger Brandon Kriner, at 10/05/2005 11:17 AM  

  • I'd rather trade for Delgado (with the Marlins picking up a decent amount of salary) then pick up pierre.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 10/05/2005 11:30 AM  

  • I can't say that I disagree with that, but while we're shooting for the moon, why dont' we see if the Yankees would trade us ARod? ;)

    The problem is that Delgado's contract is heavily backloaded. There's just no way this team coulf afford him unless florida was paying 8-10 million of the contract.

    The Mets will give a better offer than that.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/05/2005 11:32 AM  

  • Yeah, I know it's not likely but maybe, just maybe a new owner will come in and save the day.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 10/05/2005 11:36 AM  

  • You're funny! :)

    That's what worries me -- and I really need to do a post on this. New owner or not, we're up that ol' creek.

    Currently, we don't have a paddle. With a new owner, we'll have a small one.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/05/2005 11:38 AM  

  • But it would be nice to have a new toy to play with.

    That's an important point. Juan Pierre is fun. Stolen bases are fun, and even funner when the opposing catcher flings the ball into center and the runner scampers into third and the crowd is exhilirated by its team's success and the abject humiliation of the enemy. That's not worth five mil or anything, but fun is fun.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 10/05/2005 1:21 PM  

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