Difference Maker: AJ Pierzynski
As a career .284 hitter with a better than average strikeout rate, Pierzynski’s ability to put the ball in play is key to his success. He doesn’t see a lot of walks, but mostly because he’ll get a hit. Or two or three. Catchers may not be the best offensively, and that’s okay. They call games. They work well with pitchers. They have defensively abilities that are important, and oftentimes great offensive ability is a plus. AJ has that, and always has. Of course so far this season it’s a small sample size, but it’s hard to be disappointed with what has been seen. A hit a game (as of 4/4)? I’ll take that. So would anyone. It won’t keep up that way, but if it averages out that way at the end of the season, I’ll take it.
It’s worth noting that AJ’s career line is .284/.324/.752. None of that is anything to scoff at. That line, especially for a catcher, is something to enjoy.
Worst case scenario is that Pierzynski has a slightly less than average year, and maybe doesn’t throw out as many runners on the basepaths as most of us would like to see. He’ll still end the year with a positive WAR (because the only time he hasn’t, he played only 7 games in 1998), and not cost the Rangers much in the process. Best case scenario is that AJ repeats last year. He’ll have a great year with many hits, many runs scored and many opportunities, and maybe still doesn’t throw out as many runners on the basepaths as most of us would like to see. However, his offensive help and his ability to work with pitchers might make up for that.
AJ Pierzynski is 36 years old. He’s been in the league for 16 years, and shown zero signs of decline. He’s not done. Read Patrick’s article on his effect with pitchers and strike zones. Read this article about his offensive ability. Put aside the hard feelings. Put aside whatever you think about his attitude. AJ Pierzynski is a good baseball player, and he’ll put all of himself on that field. AJ Pierzynski will be better than Mike Napoli could’ve been. AJ Pierzynski will help this team win.