As you’ve no doubt heard, Manny Ramirez is hanging out in Triple-A, getting ready to return to the Dodgers after serving his 50 game suspension. Ramirez’s return will certainly give the Dodgers offense a boost, but it has also caused some consternation among some who believe that Juan Pierre has played well enough in Manny’s absence that he should keep playing regularly.
And it’s true, Pierre’s performed admirably well – his .327/.384/.424 line while playing quality defense in left field adds up +1.5 WAR in 240 plate appearances, or about a +3.75 win pace over a full season. If he played that well all the time, he’d actually be worth his contract.
But, of course, Pierre doesn’t play that well with any kind of consistency. And he hasn’t sustained that kind of pace this year, either. Here’s his 2009 season, broken into two chunks.
April 8 – May 28: 133 PA, .407/.470/.542
May 29 – June 24: 107 PA, .232/.276/.283
The first half of Pierre’s season, he hit like a Hall of Fame candidate. In addition to his usual batch of singles, he had 13 extra base hits and drew more walks (12) than strikeouts (10). It was a tremendous stretch of hitting for anyone, much less a guy with a checkered track record like Pierre.
The more recent chunk, however, is more what we’re used to seeing from the guy. No power, few walks (just four, compared with 10 strikeouts), and the ball has stopped finding holes. For the last month, he’s been a sinkhole, making outs in bunches and doing little to nothing to help the Dodgers win.
He’s neither as good as his first 133 PA or as bad as his recent 107, of course. However, based on his full body of work, no one would seriously suggest that Pierre should play ahead of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, or Andre Ethier. Instead, the argument for Pierre staying in the line-up rests on the theory of “the hot hand”. The problem, of course, is that Pierre hasn’t been “hot” for a month now. Why should the Dodgers play Pierre in July because he hit well in May? Even if you believe in the hot hand, June’s performance requires you to admit that Pierre doesn’t have it anymore.
Pierre is what he is – a +1 win player with good speed and range, a terrible arm, no power, and a horrible contract. He’s not the worst fourth outfielder in the world, but despite his remarkably good run earlier this year, he doesn’t belong in the starting line-up for any team trying to win. Especially one with Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier.
Back to bench, Juan. It’s where you belong.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.