Pierre's best bunting days may be behind him

Over at Beyond the Box Score, Lucas Apostoleris posted the first of a fascinating two-part series on bunting, and it is none too kind to Juan Pierre.

With a swing like this, you can see why Juan Pierre bunts a lot. But he really should cut down.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to people who watched the Sox closely in 2010, but the one-sentence summary is that Pierre is all about quantity, not quality. Pierre’s the only player in MLB who tried to bunt more than 100 times in 2010 — he finished with 111.
But when it comes to percentages, Pierre faltered. Only 55 of those bunts were fair (49.5 percent, compared to Scott Podsednik’s 81.8 percent fair-bunt clip), and when they were fair, they resulted in outs more than half the time (52.7 percent). As a result, when adding up all the bunt results with weights for various outcomes, Pierre amassed more negative bunting value than anybody else in baseball.
That doesn’t mean Pierre’s the worst bunter in the league. He’s like the Olive Garden — way too much of not good. And while we don’t know exactly what Part II will say (it’ll deal with bunting data from the past couple of years), the FanGraphs info on Pierre tells us that 2009 will be equally unimpressive.
Oddly enough, that’s actually OK. Pierre’s bunting may have hit rock bottom, but the rest of his game as rebounded after collapsing in 2008 — a year where it looks like he bunted well.
In 2009, he benefited from a great hot streak as Manny Ramirez’s replacement. Even with a prolonged cooldown period, he still hit .308/.365/.392 over 406 plate appearances. Regression hit Pierre hard as his sample size increased, but while he hit a career-low .275, his .341 OBP was his best full-season finish since 2004. Taking a page from Carlos Quentin’s playbook helped – he was plunked by 21 pitches.
No matter how he reached base, Pierre proved useful even without what was supposed to be a primary skill. If he’s able to bunt a little better — or if he just bunts less — there’s a good chance the Sox can squeeze out one more useful year that will be well worth what they’re paying him. Going beyond that year will be a risky proposition, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
I’m going to be on the radio this morning!
I’ll be joining Rob Hart on WGN Radio at 7:39 a.m. CST to talk about the Oney Guillen controversy.

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Going beyond that year
Is this an option being considered? Erk.


Unless Jordan Danks learns to hit, yes?
Open to suggestions, as always man. As it stands, he’s a marginally plus defender at left and a lead-off hitter good enough to keep Ozzie from playing someone like Pablo Ozuna.


He’s also 33 and any age-based regression of his skillset will send him toward replacement level pretty quickly, even as his gaudy SB totals mean he’s bound to get overpaid.
I hope they look at the dozens of free agent options that will be available next year.


Kenny Lofton did pretty well for a good while past 33.
Aging’s not always a set and sure thing. I’d obviously love a better player, but we’ve hit the free agent trough plenty this winter already, and of our holes coming up, LF would not be one of the bigger ones if JP could be extended relatively cheaply, maybe 2 years $6M.


i agree. if we have the power elsewhere, the cheaper options of de aza or danks can be used. i know danks is big league ready defensively, but how bad is it for him offensively?