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White Sox Mon Aug 16 2010

Pierre Stays Hot Despite Sox Stumbles

SoxLogoSmall.jpegReally, I haven't been a fan of Juan Pierre. Nothing personal, but I was about ready to puncture my own ear drums if I had to keep listening to Ozzie Guillen extol the virtues of a leadoff hitter who was years past his prime.

It's not as bad as the White Sox conventional wisdom on Andruw Jones' defensive abilities -- the 10-time Gold Glove winner hasn't been an even average outfielder in three years since leaving Atlanta -- but the Pierre hype has been more than puzzling. To hear Ozzie and others tell it, the 11-year veteran hasn't lost a step since he was taking over games for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004.

But those two glorious seasons in Miami were six and seven years ago, when Pierre was in his physical prime. After that, he had four underwhelming seasons for the Marlins, Cubs and Dodgers -- OBP: .326, .330, .331, .327 -- before succeeding in Los Angeles last year in a limited role. I mean, he somehow managed to lead the league with 204 hits in 2006, his lone season as a Cub, and post an Adjusted OPS of 82, which means he produced about 82 percent of the overall offense of the average major-league hitter.

pierre.jpgThis year, Pierre's return engagement in Chicago didn't start especially well, but a curious thing has happened of late. In the past three weeks, he has been a holy terror atop the Sox lineup.

Put simply, Juan Pierre has been fulfilling the primary duty of any would-be table-setter: He's been getting on base. He's reached base in each of the past 22 games, going 1-for-3 in Sunday's 13-8 loss to Detroit -- a loss that capped a disappointing homestand for the Sox and dropped them three games behind the first-place Twins heading into this week's three-game series in Minnesota.

Pierre, of course, is doing it largely with base hits. He has a .349 batting average and 30 hits during the streak (including 26 singles) and only eight walks underpinning a .429 on-base percentage.

He also has 10 steals in his past 12 attempts. WhiteSox.com has more on Pierre's gradual ascent of the career steals list, an achievement that holds less interest for me.

It's somewhat unconscionable to have a leadoff hitter who averages 39 walks per season. (Even in his two great years in Florida, Pierre drew only 55 and 45 walks.) No walks and no power can work if you have the bat control of Ichiro or Tony Gwynn -- both of whom actually had a lot more power than Pierre -- but it's hard to get on base enough if you're a slap hitter who doesn't walk. Even with this hot streak, Pierre's .341 on-base percentage ranks 82nd in baseball.

But heck, the hits are falling for him these days. He even has 12 RBIs in these 22 games.

At 33, Pierre's bloom as an elite player is long gone, no matter what Ozzie might remember from their days together with the 2003 World Series champions. For now, though, the White Sox should enjoy the ride.

 
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Jim Manfre / August 17, 2010 10:50 PM

Party is over for the White Sox, it's a shame but they just can't hang with the Twins!!

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