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Entries in A.J. Pierzynski (3)

Tuesday
Aug132013

AJ & Darvish were right

This weekend, I was at a wonderful wedding talking baseball with one of the smartest guys I know on the subject. One of the first things he wanted to talk to me about was the use of replay on baseball.

When proponents of replay talk about its expanded use, they always buffer it with the phrase, "We'll never use it to call balls and strikes. We'll never take that human element out of the game."

My buddy Irv asks, "Why not?"

He pointed out the recent ejections of David Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera as reasons why an electronic calling of balls and strikes, adjusted by batter, would take the argument out of the accuracy of calls.

As a traditionalist, I initially found the idea repellent. But once the reflex subsided, I thought about lines calls in the U.S. Open, which have become accurate to the point where it almost appears that judgments can be verified almost to the degree of whether the fuzz on the tennis ball is on the line.

So, it was no surprise this morning when Irv wrote, "Think AJ and Yu appreciate the human element?"

Perfection lost

Irv, of course, was referring to the two-out 6th inning at bat of Houston's rookie Jonathan Villar amidst Yu Darvish's bid for perfection. Villar drew a six-pitch walk. But it was not the deciding pitch that drew the ire of A.J. Pierzynski who ended up being ejected for arguing with plate umpire Ron Kulpa on the breaking ball he called low.

"Was it a strike? I don't know," Pierzynski told reporters after the game. "Obviously I thought it was and Ron didn't, and I was upset we walked the guy and I said a bad word and I was ejected."

Was it a strike? We know.

Here are the six pitches:

  1. 0-0 - Strike Looking on a 78 MPH Slider - Over the Plate
  2. 0-1 - Strike Swinging on a 82 MPH Slider - Low
  3. 0-2 - Ball on a 78 MPH Slider - Low
  4. 1-2 - Ball on a 95 MPH Four Seamer - Outside
  5. 2-2 - Ball on a 80 MPH Slider - Over the Plate
  6. 3-2 - Walk on a 81 MPH Slider - Low

Here are the six pitches:

The video can be seen here.

Kulpa-ble

"Pierzynski didn't like the pitch that I [called for a ball]. We had words about the [2-2] pitch," Kulpa told MLB.com. "And then [Darvish] walked [Villar] on the very next pitch and [Pierzynski] continued to argue on the pitch before. And so he got ejected."

But, Kulpa was wrong on the call and considering the circumstances, he was very wrong on tossing the Rangers catcher.

The bottom line is that AJ was right. Darvish was right.

So was Irv.

Friday
Nov302012

Why the Yankees need to sign A.J. Pierzynski

I can understand why Yankee fans would be wary to sign anyone who goes by the name "A.J." but the ancient New Yorkers need to add the soon-to-be 36-year old A.J. Pierzynski as their catcher for the next couple of seasons.

Here are some reasons...

Let's start with the fact Pierzynski is a horse. Since 2001, Yadier Molina has caught over 100 games eight times, second among active catchers only to A.J. who has done it for 12 consecutive seasons.

Over the last five seasons, A.J.'s hit .283, only Yaddy at .296 has a better average.

A.J. in his career has thrown out 24% of the baserunners attempting to steal compared to the league average of 28%. This past season, he threw out 26% compared to 25% for the league.

Over the last five seasons, Pierzynski's pitchers had ERAs of 4.17, 4.08, 3.95, 4.04, and last season 4.06. Over the last five seasons, Martin's pitchers had ERAs of 3.63, 3.36, 4.04, 3.70, and last season 4.03, so the Yanks probably will take a bit of hit in that area.

But here's why the Yanks need to sign Pierzynski and he will be a huge step-up over Martin: Martin is righty and A.J. has a left-handed swing made for the Yankee Stadium short right field porch and jetstream.

Take a look at the location of Pierzynski's 2012 hits

Of Pierzynski's 27 homers, 23 were to right and right center

Here are the fly balls and liners that Pierzynski pulled for outs last season

Reportedly, Pierzynski's clubhouse presence is "interesting," to say the least. In an article in ESPN, The Magazine, Tim Keown wrote that the catcher loves to win, a characteristic admired in Derek Jeter's clubhouse.

"I don't know what people expect me to be like," he says. "I think the media can decide you're either a bad guy or a good guy, and they can keep pounding it until everyone thinks it's true. I get tired of the crap. Every day you read the newspaper, you have to hope that somebody didn't say something or write something that'll make you have to defend yourself."

Pierzynski is a good-natured bad boy, more mischievous than mean. He consistently worries that his mother, Mary Jane, a loyal subscriber to Google Alerts, will be calling to ask him, yet again, to explain himself. He needles teammates and annoys opponents, and he does it with a sideways grin and a tongue-in-cheek manner that doesn't always translate well into baseball's militant code of ethics. And although he's had problems with teammates in the past, his personality seems to get more appealing the closer you get to it.

Or, in the inimitable words of Ozzie Guillen, "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."

A.J. seems like a good fit for the Yankees and a great fit for the back pages of the New York tabloids.

Tuesday
Sep112012

Pierzynski Punishing Lower-Half Pitches

A.J. Pierzynski has been a surly metronome behind the plate for the White Sox since 2005, averaging around 10-15 homers per season with a slugging percentage in the low .400s. But A.J.'s power, pretty good given his punishing defensive position, appeared to be on the wane as he entered his mid-30s. Pierzynski popped just eight home runs in 2011, his lowest total since he was a Minnesota Twin back in 2002.

Instead of falling further into the offensive abyss like so many others who spend a decade-plus squatting in the majors, Pierzynski has turned in a career year at age 35. He leads all backstops in home runs (26) and trails just Buster Posey in slugging (.528). Pierzynski is enjoying a late-career power surge by blasting lower-half pitches.

Last season, Pierzynski was pretty ordinary against pitches thrown to the lower half of the strike zone. He killed pitches tossed low-and-in and those that caught the middle of the plate, but his overall slugging percentage on lower-half offerings (.394) was well south of the MLB average (.420).

Pierzynski's slugging percentage vs. lower-half pitches, 2011

This year, he's making Hawk Harrelson swoon when pitchers give him something at or below the belt:

Pierzynski's slugging percentage vs. lower-half pitches, 2012

Pierzynski's .560 slugging percentage vs. lower-half pitches places fifth among MLB hitters, trailing just Mike Trout (.608), Adrian Beltre (.586), Edwin Encarnacion (.578) and Melky Cabrera (.567). Seventeen of his 26 bombs have come on pitches thrown to the middle or low portion of the plate, just one shy of matching his homer total in that area from 2009-11 combined. It's almost enough to make A.J. crack a smile. Almost.