Juan Pierre has, since he came into the league in 2000, been the sort of player who who will be praised by a certain type of fan or writer while being maligned by those that are, shall we say, differently inclined. The former camp will point out his base hits, the latter will focus on his lack of power. Some will look at his scrappy play, others the numbers that say his defense is overrated. Whatever your opinion of Pierre may be, his offensive profile is as predictable and consistent as it gets. Other players may see their batting average fluctuate wildly or produce the odd season with a spike in power, meanwhile Pierre keeps trucking on year after year.
Given his skillset, Pierre has to be hitting .290+ to be a useful contributer. Fortunately for his career that is one thing he has proven very adept at. .310, .327, .287, .305, .326, .276, .292, .293, .283, .308, .275, .279, .306. That’s Pierre’s batting average by year since he was called up by the Rockies.His value as a hitter is clearly all tied up in his average so any drop would likely have seen the end of his MLB career, however Pierre’s ability to keep hitting every year is impressive. The year’s where he dropped below the .290 or so batting average he was a poor major leaguer as his OBA and SLG numbers fell with it, but his ability to keep hitting, even when his declining foot speed made those valuable infield singles more difficult, is worth acknowledging.
My intention isn’t to make Pierre out to be some sort of under the radar MVP candidate – far from it. His two appearances in the MVP voting were likely a result of voters overrating batting average and raw stolen base totals. What is worth pointing out, is how a player with a skillset that could easily have collapsed as he entered his 30s has managed to continue to be a useful contributer in the big leagues. The Dodgers overvalued those attributes when they gave him $44 million over 5 years, leading to Pierre becoming a punchline at times. Just because a team experienced the perfect storm of miscasting Pierre and getting his two worst years at the plate, doesn’t take away from Pierre’s ability to maximise his baseball ability over his career.
In the right role Pierre is a nice player to have around. The Phllies may not be contending this year but their left fielder has done his job. Health is often an underrated skill for a player and Pierre’s ‘ability’ to avoid the disabled list has it’s own value. 2012 is also the best base stealing career of Pierre’s career. Often his big stolen base totals came packaged with a similarly high total of caught stealings; he led MLB in caught stealing in 2010 and 2011. This year he’s swiped 28 bags and been caught just 4 times. Pierre isn’t exactly rivaling Mike Trout in the excitement stakes, but it’s worth appreciating that he’s stayed around, and more importantly stayed useful, for this long.