Ugh……the title of this article alone is making me reach for the Pepto. Yet, we here at MCB have vowed to look at all the possibilities out there that have been raised, legitimate or otherwise. Of course, we here at MCB are not responsible and not willing to take credit for this one. I am not sure there is a writer on this site that would be a proponent of bringing Juan Pierre to the Tigers. But it’s out been put out there in the land of internet, this time as part of the speculative musings by Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio. We’ve already talked about bringing Johnny Damon back here, so that’s nothing new. That move makes a little sense. Pierre? Not so much.
Pierre, as the article above suggests, could be added as a “table setter” type to help offset the loss of catcher Victor Martinez for the 2012 season. In theory, the replacement for Martinez doesn’t have to be a left-handed hitter, or even be a DH. It could be a top of the order presence that could push guys into different spots in the batting order. I mean, it’s not inconceivable that Brennan Boesch or Alex Avila could produce runs batting behind Miguel Cabrera. Terms like “top of the order” and “presence” don’t necessarily describe Juan Pierre though.
The truth of the matter is that I can’t believe that David Dombrowski and the Tigers are even considering Pierre. I have to think this is a case of pure speculation on Bowden’s part, or if there is some truth to it, it has to be the Tigers floating this information out there to get Johnny Damon or someone else at a more reasonable price. It could also be Pierre and his agent floating the information to Bowden as well to spark some flicker of interest around the majors for his services. The reasons for staying away from Pierre are fairly obvious, but I will give you some anyway.
First, I will approach the “top of the order” fallacy as it pertains to Juan Pierre. Juan Pierre is fast. There is no doubting that. He is the type of guy whose entire game revolves around the fact that he is fast. He beats out infield hits, he beats out bunts, and he makes up (sometimes) for his lack of quality instincts in the field by sometimes outrunning a baseball and making a catch. But speed in and of itself doesn’t make you a top of the order hitter.
Juan Pierre just doesn’t get on base enough. His career OBP is respectable at .345, but a deeper look tells us in the past 7 years, Pierre has only topped the .340 mark twice. In 2011, his OBP was just .329. Doesn’t seem like much of a threat as a top of the order hitter. You can live with OBP’s in that area if the hitter provides a decent amount of pop to go with it. Pierre provides absolutely no extra base power with the bat. His slugging percentage hasn’t topped .400 in 8 years. In Pierre’s defense, power has never been his game.
But this is also a problem.
Yes, Juan Pierre can steal bases. Just 2 years ago, he stole 68 bases, and was caught 18 times. That’s quite a good percentage. Last season however, he stole just 27 bases and was caught 17 times. Not a good percentage at all, and kind of just defeats the purpose of running in the first place. Maybe “Father Time” is just catching up with Pierre at this point. He is now 34 years old.
So if Pierre does get on base just 33% of the time in 2012, then wipes himself off of that base, he isn’t really contributing offensively. In fact, I would think that the Tigers could easily get more production from Andy Dirks and Ryan Raburn in LF, and not have to pay Pierre for his replacement level WAR. Andy Dirks suffered from a pretty rough .273 BABIP in 2011 and still posted a wOBA of 15 points better than Pierre. Raburn was 26 points better in what was a down year for him.
Defensively Pierre isn’t that great either. Despite his speed, he takes bad routes, gets bad jumps, and has a poor arm. Johnny Damon’s left arm even laughs at Juan Pierre’s arm strength. In the past nine years, Pierre has only been above average defensively twice according to Baseball Reference.
I don’t really believe there is anything to what Bowden suggested, but if there is, count me on the side of thinking that is kind of ridiculous. For a team that has gone into the off-season already looking for a lead-off hitter, the Tigers aren’t going to fix that issue by signing an aging Juan Pierre.
Let’s just hope this is just another in a series of “nothing to see hear” suggestions that have floated around the internet this season.