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Juan Pierre, a look back and into 2006


Marlins2003
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In 2005 the diffference between Juan Pierre hitting .300 and .276 turned out to be approximately 16 hits in 656 plate appearances. That's less than three, count'em three hits a month over the season, or roughly one less hit every ten games.

 

For that, Juan Pierre's 2005 season has been castigated and disparaged in the media and trounced here at MB.com.

 

For this post I am not going to address his injuries or use them as an excuse or explanation for the numbers he put up. Every major league player has injuries and has to play through them, as JP did and hopefully coming into spring training 2006 they will be behind him.

 

Pierre had one horrendous month, May, where he hit a dreadful .226. His next worst month was .248 in August, but even there if you look at his preformance the last ten days of the month, he turned it around and was hitting well over .300 when the final push started in earnest.

 

Down the stretch, September and October, when the Marlins were battling for a playoff spot, with Castillo mainly on the bench and the infield generally racked with injuries, Juan Pierre stepped up and hit .318 with eleven stolen bases and only eight strikeouts.

 

Juan Pierre is hardly a complete ballplayer and there are flaws in his game, most notably his below-average arm. But for every runner than advanced on him (and the argument could be made that runners would advance on ANY CFer in cavernous PPS who caught a ball in deep CF) there's another who never reached base because he ran down an otherwise impossible to catch flyball. So for me, I'll take the trade off. Others are free to disagree.

 

But back to hitting.

 

I've alluded to this several times during the season but for those of you who are unaware of it, many if not most teams employed a defensive shift against Juan Pierre in 2005 that rivaled the one thrown at Carlos Delgado.

 

When Pierre was at bat, the rightfielder actually played in centerfield (several steps left of a line drawn from third to second and out into the outfield and by several steps, about twenty to thirty feet or so from where RFers stood generally) while pitchers pounded the strike zone on the outside and down and away. The second baseman usually played in shallow RF, the shortstop in shallow leftfield, the third baseman on the infield grass.

 

When combined with the atrocious condition of the infield at PPS most of the season (not just during football season), especially along the third base side, the effect was to a) take away his ability to bunt on his home field where it should have been an advantage, and b) to force him to hit to a crowded left field, effectively taking away a third of the playing field.

 

Unlike Mike Lowell, whose season and a half offensive swoon and loss of power remain unexplainable and deserves to be criticized, in Pierre's case, it seems to me his problems are fixable.

 

First, the Marlins, if Pierre is in fact part of the team in 2006, have to work with the grounds crew to improve the condition of the infield from Opening Day and throughout the season, especially down the infield lines and in front of the plate. By giving Pierre a better surface to work with you'll see more infield hits and that in itself will start to undo the shift described above. Secondly, with a new hitting instructor on board, JP (and this is as much his responsibility as the coach's) has to widen his strike zone either through using a different bat or employing a different stance or generally his altering his approach in the batter's box, but the guy has to be in a position to pull more balls in the air to right field regardless of how he's pitched. That's job #1.

 

If he can succeed even modestly at the latter, the shift falls apart and teams will have to play him more or less straight up, giving him more opportunities in more places, to scratch out a hit, or double up the middle.

 

While I know alot of people here have written off Juan Pierre, I'm not one of them. I believe not only is he salvagable, I believe his best years are ahead of him and trading him will only weaken the team, not strengthen it. That said, like Luis Castillo, if trading him brings some tremendous talent you won't hear me complaining, but to trade him for not ready for primetime prospects or someone in the twilight of his career with limited ability to contribute, in my mind would be a mistake, even if the Fish save millions in the process. Like Castillo, he is a valuable, non-core commodity, and if the Marlins do trade him, they should be amply rewarded for doing so.

 

When the Braves played the Fish late in the season ESPN gave us a look inside MLB scouting reports and here's the link to JP's scouting report.

 

http://espn-att.starwave.com/mlb/pdf/ManHMPierreJuanlp1.pdf

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Very thorough in your opinion 2003. If my memory serves me correctly, I recall having a discussion (I believe it was with you actually) about the state of our infield maintenance signaling the "end of an era" regarding our team speed. Given that every other team in our division poses a greater threat to bunting for a base-hit, and possesses greater team speed, it seems that the sloped baselines are deliberate more than accidental.

 

While I'll agree that it seems that Pierre's problems are more fixable than Lowell, the one thing you overlooked (or perhaps didn't fell was significant enough) was that Pierre struck out ten more times this year than last year, and while that may not seem like enough, it was an increase of 30%, and he seemingly was never comfortable with 2 strikes, something that's very un-Pierre.

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Very thorough in your opinion 2003. If my memory serves me correctly, I recall having a discussion (I believe it was with you actually) about the state of our infield maintenance signaling the "end of an era" regarding our team speed. Given that every other team in our division poses a greater threat to bunting for a base-hit, and possesses greater team speed, it seems that the sloped baselines are deliberate more than accidental.

 

While I'll agree that it seems that Pierre's problems are more fixable than Lowell, the one thing you overlooked (or perhaps didn't fell was significant enough) was that Pierre struck out ten more times this year than last year, and while that may not seem like enough, it was an increase of 30%, and he seemingly was never comfortable with 2 strikes, something that's very un-Pierre.

 

I think JP will be fine, but I'm with you on the strike out thing. I don't have time right now but if there was a way to figure out how many of those K's came Close and Late or with RISP I think it would the majority of them.(Although he did hit pretty well late inthe season in the 7 spot) Then again it just could be him pressing to get a base hit because well no one else on the team except Cabs and Delgado were driving in runs

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My concern with the field was and is the absence of grass (lots of brown spots, dead grass from day one of the season) and the length at which it was manicured and maintained around the plate area and down the infield lines.

 

I remember vividly what happened in other parks, most notably Wrigley, when JP had something to work with. While I'm not an advocate of slowing down the entire infield because that would work to our disadvantage, my feeling is that a better overall surface should work to the Marlins advantage, not against them.

 

As for his ten more strikeouts, sheesh, ten more strikeouts in 650+ ABs? For what a total of 45 for the season when you've got major league players who strikeout a hundred, 150, 200 times a year? It's so insignificant that yes, I ignored it, especially when you look at how he was pitched to last season.

 

Respectfully, striking out 45 times, or ten more than '04, in 162 games and probably 700 plate appearances is hardly the problem.

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As for his ten more strikeouts, sheesh, ten more strikeouts in 650+ ABs? For what a total of 45 for the season when you've got major league players who strikeout a hundred, 150, 200 times a year? It's so insignificant that yes, I ignored it, especially when you look at how he was pitched to last season.

 

Respectfully, striking out 45 times, or ten more than '04, in 162 games and probably 700 plate appearances is hardly the problem.

 

 

Well, when you're a guy who "never" strikes out, a jump of 30% in your strike-out rate is eye opening. I'm not saying the world is ending because he struck out 45 times, but it sure seemed like more than that (I'll be honest, when I looked at the stat, I was expecting to see over 50), and this was the first year that I thought that Pierre looked exceptionally uncomfortable at the plate.

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He hit for over 200 hits in 03' and 04', some people act like that was 10 years ago and that he will never do that again because he had a calf strain, his fielding too is not so bad and magnified by PPS like Marlins2003 noted, and imo is an average fielder at worst, even if his defensive efficiency rating has him below average.

 

Pierre is an excellent, 2-tool player and great addition to any team as a leadoff man or batting 8th/9th.

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Swifty, I think you're missing the point, or at least my point. Teams defensed and pitched Pierre much differently in 2005 than they did in previous years.

 

I also think you're using a percentage change to make an invalid point. Yes, his strikeouts were up 30%, but statistically he struck out less frequently than any starter on the team. If Luis Castillo, for example, had the same number ABs as Pierre he would have struck out 48 times.

 

Pierre's number in 2004 was absurdly low, if I remember correctly either lowest in the NL or the entire MLB, or close to it and no should expect him to repeat that feat year after year.

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Swifty, I think you're missing the point, or at least my point. Teams defensed and pitched Pierre much differently in 2005 than they did in previous years.

 

I also think you're using a percentage change to make an invalid point. Yes, his strikeouts were up 30%, but statistically he struck out less frequently than any starter on the team. If Luis Castillo, for example, had the same number ABs as Pierre he would have struck out 48 times.

 

Pierre's number in 2004 was absurdly low, if I remember correctly either lowest in the NL or the entire MLB, or close to it and no should expect him to repeat that feat year after year.

 

 

Well, maybe it's unfair to expect him to keep his absurdly low K numbers (he did, after all strike out 35 times in '03 and '04), however, this is the first time with the Marlins that he struck out more times than he walked, but I'm not arguing against Pierre being a good player. His arm gets too much flak considering he runs down a lot of balls no other player on our team would get to, but I'm ambivalent towards his presence here next season. I'd love to have him back, and I'm not advocating giving him away, but if a team such as the Yankees (who have made no secret for their need for a center-fielder) over-values him to the point that we can somehow get some impact player from a three team trade, I'm all for it.

 

The hot/cold nature of Pierre's '05 season really make me question what kind of player we'll be getting in '06, and to be honest, I don't know if we can afford to have that many question-marks on a team that is expected to be competitive.

 

Again, I understand the point you're making, and I agree that a rebound season for Pierre is not a long-shot, but I also believe that another season like '05 isn't entirely impossible either, given his reluctance to take a walk and his stubbornness to take what other teams are giving him on defense.

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I think Pierre had an moderately good year. You can't really say he played horribly, simply because a .276 average doesn't warrant such speculation; but at the same time, you can't deem his '05 compaign a thorough success because of his obvious drop in production from '04.

 

While Pierre's pertinent numbers (hits, BA and OBP) went down, other notable numbers actually rose with the '05 season:

 

Triples: 12 in '04, 13 in '05

 

This may seem like a relatively unimpressive or insiginficant increase, but its main purpose is to prove that Pierre has not fluctuated in hitting prowess. If you can get 13 triples, I don't care who you are--you deserve some credit.

 

Stolen Bases: 45 in '04, 57 in '05

 

This is the most drastic difference between 2004 and 2005 for JP. While his OBP dipped nearly 50 points in the two years, his stolen base numbers AND percentage both went up significantly. He was caught stealing just 17 times in '05 compared to 24 in '04. Even though he wasn't getting on base as much, he was getting himself into scoring position at a higher rate. I don't know the numers, but I can almost guarantee you that it all evens out.

 

Outfield assists: 3 in'04, 7 in '05

 

While many people constantly downplay Pierre's mediocre throwing arm (and even that's kind), his assists more than doubled in '05. The only other year that he recorded more than 4 asissts was in '03. Yes, seemingly insignificant number--a 4 assist differential doesn't seem like much...But like his Triples output, the 7 assists simply proves that his defense isn't suffering, and he is, in fact, excelling in that aspect of his game.

 

Overall, Pierre did have a sub-standard '05 year, and there is no way around that. I just don't understand why you would all like to see Pierre shipped off. He is a top 3 base stealer, the fastest player in baseball, and just now within his prime. Let's keep the kid.

 

If not for his production, then for his damned work ethic.

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He's not our best leadoff hitter. The redundancy at the top of the lineup has hurt us as much as it has helped. How many times was the bat taken out of Luiy's hands because he or his manager decided Pierre needed help advancing? That type of foolish smallball should not be attempted with some your better hitters.

 

He gets horrible reads on fly balls that make it necessary use that burst of speed nature gave him to get to routine balls and make it appear as a "web gem". Coupled with his deep position he sets himself in centerfield, the only balls he can reach are essentially sacrifice flies with his arm. Consistently he has ranked near the bottom among starting centerfielders in all advanced metrics to measure range and opposing baserunners advanced. Granted that's observed range and arm ability but over a few 162 game seasons...

 

Additionally he has been very slow making adjustments, whether it be at the plate, on the basepaths (anyone remember 2004?!?) or the field. I'm not questioning his effort or drive to succeed. Not at all. Although I think some people give him too much praise for that, ignoring the hustle and hard work nearly every major leaguer displays and ignoring the negative effects such as throwing a hissyfit when asked to relinquish the responsibility to another player. Baseball is a game of adjustments. This is a statement of his ability of a baseball player. Good players make the right adjustments and they do so in a quick fashion.

 

He's due to make close to $5 million this upcoming year, and more when he reaches free agency next year, where he'll be seeking a long-term deal that his legs probably will not hold up or perform at the price commanded. Toes, heels, arches, ankles, knees, hamstrings, hips can all be easily brusied or sprained or broken and weaken a player's ability to run as does age. This risk isn't quite as great for a player who relies on his wrists and upper body strength in his game.

 

With Conine, Hermida and LoDuca on this team we have the two-hole hitter we need. If you can trade him with Lowell, which I don't think you can (or should seeing as JP's potential trade value when he's at the top of his game), you'll find more teams in need of an infielder and outfielder than two infielders (the rumored Castillo + Lowell trade plan reported in the press). He's not an untouchable. His re-signing past next year is not a priority.

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My concern with the field was and is the absence of grass (lots of brown spots, dead grass from day one of the season) and the length at which it was manicured and maintained around the plate area and down the infield lines.

 

I remember vividly what happened in other parks, most notably Wrigley, when JP had something to work with. While I'm not an advocate of slowing down the entire infield because that would work to our disadvantage, my feeling is that a better overall surface should work to the Marlins advantage, not against them.

 

I agree completly with this part.

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He gets horrible reads on fly balls that make it necessary use that burst of speed nature gave him to get to routine balls and make it appear as a "web gem" ...

 

Additionally he has been very slow making adjustments, whether it be at the plate, on the basepaths (anyone remember 2004?!?) or the field...

 

 

 

If I remember correctly you were the guy who complained he when Juan Pierre hit a homerun.

 

He does not "get(s) horrible reads on fly balls". Chuck Carr got horrible reads on fly balls, Preston Wilson gets terrible reads on fly balls, but JP, if anything occasionally gets too good a jump and gets beyond the optimum position fielding. If anything his instincts are too sharp. He gets to the point of impact (for lack of a better word) before the ball and sometimes catches flat-footed whereas the perfect catch would give you momentum toward the base or infielder setupto relay his throw.

 

And as for being slow to make adjustments, I realize after reading your comments for two years now how you loathe the guy, but he is playing against another team out there every night, and through scouting reports and first hand experience all of them are getting better and better at defensing and pitching to him. And while baseball is a game of adjustments to be sure, to suggest only he is failing (so blind is your hatred of the guy) then why did he steal 57 bases this season, because all the catchers, and all the middle infielders and all the pitchers failed to make their adjustments? I could make a list of his successes and point to the "failures" of an opposing pitcher, catcher or fielder but that isn't how the game works.

 

It's a chess game as much as a sport.

 

As I said above in my intro post in this thread, Juan Pierre is hardly the complete, perfect player. He's a flawed as the best and the worst in baseball.

 

But to suggest he can't field his position or is a detriment to the team on the basepaths is sheer folly. Trust me, you'd rather have Juan Pierre in a Marlins uniform than a Preston Wilson or most other CFers in the game today. There are better, but there are alot worse too.

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No, it was a double. A fly ball - which he's been hitting far too many of - double. When there was a crucial runner on third base and huge gaps in the infield. While the result was good, it was a terrible decision by him to wait back on it and swing for the fences instead of attacking the pitch and slapping it past. Attack the opinion please.

 

You obviously have seen him play the outfield more often than I have, but I think your eyes are deceiving you. Your analysis makes no sense. He has few problems catching the ball when he's in the area. It's getting to the spot on time that's the problem. That's most likely caused by a slow jump or bad read. The stats say he's a terrible fielder, and when it comes to discussing a player who has a physical tool that all too often viewed as a baseball skill, I'll lean on the side of the emotionally-blind numbers.

 

A chess game is turn based while the opposition played on for a long while as Pierre was still adjusting his lead to the new lean approached learned at the Cris Carter speed school, playing through injuries or to opposing defenses. That's the problem. I don't consider it taking a full year to reestablish his command of the basepaths a sign of a successful player.

 

His best place on this team is on 7th or 8th place in the lineup. Not an exactly critical position. I haven't given up on him, in fact I've stated on countless occasions that I feel Pierre will bounce back and only then should we trade him. However for reasons stated above and my past posts I'm not sold on how long he can perform at the level we saw in 2003, and thus should not be re-signed for a long expensive deal or made a player to count on in future seasons.

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He gets horrible reads on fly balls that make it necessary use that burst of speed nature gave him to get to routine balls and make it appear as a "web gem" ...

 

Additionally he has been very slow making adjustments, whether it be at the plate, on the basepaths (anyone remember 2004?!?) or the field...

 

 

I realize after reading your comments for two years now how you loathe the guy

 

Seriously, man.

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Guest Moneyball

When you started talking about how horrible the infield grounds was, I stopped reading.

 

The infield at DS is at MLB standards, and the grounds crew we have is bar none the best in baseball.

 

Its not the grounds crews fault that Pierre is not getting infield singles.

 

 

They might be the best but the field looked like sh*t the last month of the season.

 

And yes it is their fault. You cannot bunt on that surface. A bunt that would die and any other MLB stadium just bounces and rolls to the fielder at DS.

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When you started talking about how horrible the infield grounds was, I stopped reading.

 

The infield at DS is at MLB standards, and the grounds crew we have is bar none the best in baseball.

 

Its not the grounds crews fault that Pierre is not getting infield singles.

 

 

Not to be disagreeable but I sit upstairs (front row, third base side just off home) and from game one the field looked significantly different than previous years. Another member here and I discussed it during Opening Day. Later in April, with my kid (LL stuff) we spent some time on the field and you could clearly see how sparse the grass was in the infield.

 

Throughout the season the grounds crew kept resoding the third base line and the seams were clearly visible. The grass kept dieing and the GC kept resoding it. Several times during the season twenty feet or so of the grass edge along on third base was clearly dead.

 

I'm not suggesting that JP would have hit .320 with a better infield but I am saying the sparseness and condition of the grass did it make it more difficult for him (and other teammates) to effectively lay down bunts. And if you think the grounds crew did such a marvelous job last season, ask Damion Easley what he thought of their work.

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A quick point I'd like to make is that Juan Pierre is not productive enough if he's only hitting .300. You say 15 more hits would have put him at .300, well we need him to hit around .350 to be a productive leadoff hitter. His inability to draw walks as a leadoff hitter is as large an offensive liability as his weak arm is on defense IMO. You also mentioned that if Castillo had as many AB's as Juan then he would strike out 48 times, but I feel confident saying that is unfair without looking it up. With Luis, you have to look at PA's, not AB's because many of his PA's result in walks. So translating that number upwards is unfair to Luis....

 

I think it's time to find a new CFer. I like JP, but I think he's got too many shortcomings to validate his lineup spot on this team. His arm is horrendous, he gets bad reads on balls, and his OBP is probably near the bottom of the league for leadoff hitters. When you throw in that we have maybe baseball's best leadoff hitter on our team (Luis) to replace him and that as a small market club a 5 million salary makes him one of our highest paid players, JP represents little value to us.

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Vini, my only complaint with handing Castillo the leadoff spot is his chronic lower body problems and where that leaves the Fish when he's injured again. Other than that you make some valid points regarding AB vs PA and JP's lower than desirable OBP.

 

That said, I just can't agree about his defense. Sure his arm is below average but this thing you and Rferry suggest that he gets bad jumps on balls is from my experience simply not true. I've seen him play about 150 games so far and I just don't find that to be a valid observation. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. I've watched him pull down too many balls that most centerfielders wouldn't get near to accept the notion he can't play CF with the best of them.

 

BTW, if I did my math properly, using PA (AB+BB), Castillo, if he had the same PA as Pierre (704) would have struck exactly the same number of times as Pierre, 45. In any case, the strikeout number for both players is ridiculously low. And while it brings us all great joy to watch Castillo torment an opposing pitcher and ultimately trot down to first base the fact is JP has had three 200 hit seasons in the past five years while Castillo has yet to have one, his best being 187 hits in '03 and that number has declined for two consecutive years.

 

Once on base though the picture changes completely. Castillo stole 21 bases in '03 and '04, and only 10 in '05, while Pierre stole 65 in '03, 45 in '04 and as we all know, 57 in '05. That's 167 SB vs. 52 for Castillo.

 

I like both players and I'd trade both players if the deal was the right deal. But when the two of them are both on their game they are devastating at the top of the lineup and I wouldn't want to be the one to chose one over the other.

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