All White Sox fans remember the day GM Kenny Williams made a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire the services of Juan Pierre. Since that point in time, everyone has been very critical of Pierre and his playing ability. People have said that Pierre is a horrible defender, and he will make left field a liability. Others said he can’t hit the ball anymore, and isn’t able to be a solid lead-off hitter for any team. Everyone complained and complained and wished the White Sox had Scott Podsednik back because he would contribute much more to the team than Pierre ever could.
Offensively, both players had a few stats in their favor, but they hit relatively the same. Podsednik posted a line of .297/.342/.382 while Pierre posted a line of .275/.341/.316. The slugging percentage really doesn’t mean much because neither guy is a power hitter so that stat can be thrown out the window. Podsednik did have a higher batting average, but again that stat isn’t extremely important. Podsednik hit more triples and home runs, Pierre hit more singles and doubles, and Podsednik drove in 4 more runs than Pierre.
Defensively, both Podsednik and Pierre are equally matched. Both players have the ability to use their speed to catch up to hanging fly balls. Both players have the ability to make diving catches. Both players have the speed to get to a ball quicker than most. Both players have poor throwing strength and can’t make certain plays without throwing to a cutoff man. So they are essentially the same player in that regard, and judging them off of those aspects wouldn’t give much of a picture either.
So the easiest way to do this is to look at the things that leadoff hitters are there to do better than anyone else. First is on base percentage. It doesn’t take a genius to know that a leadoff hitter’s primary job is to get on base for the power hitters behind him to get him around and score. In 2010, Scott Podsednik had an OBP of .342, and Juan Pierre had an OBP of .341. Those are almost identical and don’t really give much of a picture now does it? So that requires digging just a little bit deeper. Pods walked 40 times this season while Pierre walked 45 times so advantage Juan Pierre. Pods also struck out a whopping 83 times; way too many for a leadoff hitter in any league, while Pierre struck out just 47 times. It’s pretty clear that while Pierre took pitches to get walks, Pods was just free swinging at anything close to the plate.
Runs scored are also a huge deal when it comes to leadoff hitters. If you’re not scoring, then you aren’t doing your job. Podsednik scored just 63 times, the lowest of his career when playing 130+ games. Pierre scored 96 times on a team that had no other players that consistently drove in runs besides Alex Rios and Paul Konerko, so that’s saying something.
Leadoff hitters are known for their speed, so stolen bases tend to be a big factor in this conversation as well. Podsednik stolen just 35 bases, while Pierre stolen 68, nearly twice as many as Pods. That helps to explain how Pierre scored 96 runs and Podsednik scored just 63.
People can go on and on about Pierre not being good enough as a leadoff hitter all they want. They can come up with all the differences in the world when it comes to stats and speak until they turn blue. The fact of the matter is Pierre did better as a leadoff hitter whether anyone cares to agree with it or not.
So for all you White Sox fans that bad mouthed Pierre, especially when Pods got off to a hot start to the season, this is what you need to do. You can grab your foot, stick it in your mouth, and be glad that we have a leadoff hitter that is capable of doing his job better than most.
(Remember, we all know you’d take Pierre over Jerry Owens, Brian Anderson, Dewayne Wise, and Josh Fields as leadoff hitters……… *shudders* bad memories am I right?)