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.