Chicago White Sox: Is AJ Pierzynski a good Hall of Fame candidate?

CHICAGO, IL- JULY 7: A.J. Pierzynski #12 of the Chicago White Sox gets ready to bat against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 7, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Blue Jays 2-0. (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL- JULY 7: A.J. Pierzynski #12 of the Chicago White Sox gets ready to bat against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 7, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Blue Jays 2-0. (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images) /

When discussing Hall of Fame Candidates, not a lot of people think of long-time Chicago White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski who will be eligible to appear on the 2021-22 ballot this December. It’s uncertain whether the ballot will be expendable enough to include Pierzynski, though he will most likely appear on it. I’m here to not only argue that he should be on the ballot, but you can also make a case that he deserves to get some votes as well.

Anthony John “A.J.” Pierzynski spent an impressive 19 seasons in the big leagues as a Major League catcher. Eight of those years came with the Chicago White Sox from 2005-2012, the first of which he helped them win the World Series.

During his time with the Minnesota Twins, he was a better player than his teammate David Ortiz. He is a two-time all-star and should have had a third appearance in 201 but was snubbed and had to settle for a Silver Slugger award instead.

He is one of 10 players to play the majority of their games at catcher and get 2000 hits and has a Hall of Fame monitor score of 108, with the average expected Hall of Famer coming in at 100. His most comparable batter is Yadier Molina, his former teammate and considered by baseball people to be a future Hall of Famer.

AJ Pierzynski was one of the best Chicago White Sox catchers in franchise history.

The 2005 White Sox haven’t got the respect they deserve, which is why one of their players should make the hall of fame. For the Hall of Fame Class of 2022, the two players most likely to make the Hall are Curt Schilling (who received 71% last time) and newcomer David Ortiz.

If two players from the 2004 Red Sox are going to make the Hall of Fame next year, then players from the 2005 White Sox need to get a more serious look as well. The 2005 White Sox were a better team than the 2004 Red Sox as they had a better record in the regular and post-season.

They were just as historic as they broke an even longer curse of 88 years. Despite this, the 2005 White Sox has only one Hall of Famer in Frank Thomas and he wasn’t even on the post-season roster.

To give the 2005 White Sox the respect they deserve, their players need to get more Hall of Fame consideration. Those players could include Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle, and A.J. Pierzynski. If the 2004 Red Sox are going to have three Hall of Famers (Pedro Martinez, Schilling, Ortiz), the 2005 White Sox deserve at least one (besides Frank Thomas).

One thing going for Pierzynski is that he is a catcher who got over 2000 career hits. Of players who appeared in 50% or more of their games at the catcher position, only 10 have reached 2000 hits. All of these players are in the Hall of Fame except Jason Kendall and Yadier Molina (who likely will be).

Now you could say this list doesn’t matter because Jason Kendall isn’t a deserving Hall of Famer but when you change the criteria to 2000 hits and 3000 career total bases, the list is reduced to 9 players, AJ Pierzynski, and eight Hall of Famers.

Players who played 50% of their games at catcher with 2000 hits and 3000 total bases:

Ivan Rodriguez

Ted Simmons

Carlton Fisk

Yogi Berra

Mike Piazza

Yadier Molina

Gary Carter

Johnny Bench

AJ Pierzynski

Pierzynski isn’t as good as any of these players but he’s pretty close to Yadier Molina, at least offensively. 

Pierzynski’s comparison list on baseball reference includes 2 players already in the Hall as well as Yadier Molina. His most comparable batter with a similarity score of 946.9, with 1000 being a perfect comparison. Now, the main difference between Molina and Pierzynski as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned is defense. Offensively, they’re extremely similar to each other with Pierzynski being just slightly better.

The reason Hall of Fame voters might be able to consider Molina a first-ballot Hall of Famer while hand-waving Pierzynski is that Yadier Molina has 9 Gold Gloves and Pierzynski has none. Of course 9 Gold Gloves, even at a premium position, doesn’t make someone a Hall of Famer.

Andruw Jones has 10 and Omar Vizquel and Keith Hernandez have 11. None have made the Hall of Fame yet. It’s a legitimate question to pose to the people who think Molina is an absolute slam-dunk why they wouldn’t also consider throwing a vote towards Pierzynski.

Pierzynski wasn’t great at controlling the running game but he was a good game caller and likely a good pitch framer. Pierzynski caught a no-hitter (Mark Buehrle) as well as a perfect game (Phil Humber).

He also caught the best pitching staff in baseball in 2005. Unfortunately, pitch-framing data only goes back to 2008 but I remember Pierzynski being pretty good at it. At least by my eye test, he was pitch-framing before it was a thing.

Given the incomplete data on pitch framing, I wouldn’t put too much stock into Pierzynski’s statically poor defensive WAR. Pierzynski was likely one of the best at pitch-framing for most of his career but likely declined once analytically-minded teams began to catch on and he was nearing the end of his career. For what it’s worth, Pierzysnki also rarely made an error in the field and that should count for at least something.

Based on Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, Pierzynski scores a 108, making him a likely Hall of Famer. Based on baseball-reference WAR, Pierzynski is at 23.8, which is nowhere near deserving. Of course, the hall of fame monitor is flawed but WAR is as well, especially for catchers. So you can use sabermetrics to argue that Pierzynski is either a likely Hall of Famer or nowhere near deserving. Call it 50/50.

In my opinion, he fits somewhere in the middle, not a likely Hall of Famer but at least one deserving of an appearance on the ballot. Hopefully, some Chicago writers put a checkmark next to his name. If he doesn’t at least appear on a ballot stacked with borderline candidates, I’m going to be pretty disappointed.

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