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White Sox Fri Feb 04 2011

White Sox Preview: Part Three -- A.J. Pierzynski

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifPart of a series previewing the 2011 White Sox.

When it comes to fan loyalty, the White Sox benefit not only from winning Chicago's only World Series in generations, but also from having fans who seemingly never let go of the players they love. Just last fall, while Juan Uribe was on the verge of his second ring, this time with the San Francisco Giants, Sox fans all over the country were teeming with excitement for him. Aaron Rowand still has a following of South Siders wherever he lands and the thought of losing Paul Konerko this winter was unthinkable. Truly the '05 Sox have a cherished place in the memories of their lifelong fans. No one has benefited from this more than one Anthony John Pierzynski.

Last year we witnessed a rough season for the infamous catcher, particularly at the plate. While his .270 batting average was just slightly under his .284 career average, the rest of his stats paint an unfortunately distressing picture. The most concerning was a .300 on-base percentage only a hair higher than his batting average, which tells us what we all remember watching: Plate discipline was not Pierzynski's specialty . He also slugged .388 to finish with a mediocre .688 OPS, his career low for a full season and well lower than his .755 OPS in 2009.

Looking at his wins above replacement, he was right on par with backup Ramon Castro. Starters should have a 2.0 WAR, according to baseball-reference.com, but A.J. was at 1.2 and Castro at 1.0. This means that Pierzynski added 0.2 wins more than Castro despite having played 101 more games than him. This doesn't even take into account how much stronger a slugger Castro (.504) was in a season when the Sox were desperate for more power hitting.

Yet despite the fact that he was only a fraction better than the journeyman backing him up last season, Pierzynski received a fairly lucrative contract for a 34-year-old catcher. He stands to take in $8 million over the next two seasons and will no doubt see the lion's share of the playing time. Unlike Konerko, who was fantastic last season, regression towards his career averages is something we should all be begging for with A.J. this summer.

Granted, an ongoing infatuation with A.J. is not something that affects me, so I would like to think I am looking at him a little more objectively. I don't think he is a bad player, just one who could do a little more to help with his bat, especially when the Sox are in tight spots. A.J. is definitely as competitive as they come, and his dedication to winning is something I admire. Remember how he took advantage of that dropped third strike in the 2005 ALCS? (Of course you do.) He brings out the best in his teammates and the worst in his foes. He has certainly contributed his fair share of intangibles and personality to win his fans' hearts, so here's hoping he can also put up the numbers this season.

 
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