In a season of endless disappointment, one of the highlights for the Phillies was the play of wily veteran Juan Pierre.
As spring training wrapped up, there was some doubt about whether Pierre would even make the team. It came down to the 35-year old lefty or Scott Podsednik, two seasoned players battling for one final roster spot as the team’s fifth outfielder. In the end, Manuel and Co. elected to go with Pierre and the move paid off in dividends, not just because of Pierre’s play, but because Scotty Pods became little more than a footnote for Boston later in the season after being dealt by the Phils.
Pierre–often a point of contention between traditionalists and sabers–on the other hand, gave the Phillies far more than they ever could’ve hoped for from a guy who wasn’t expected to have a major impact on the team. The impact he would have was felt almost immediately.
Through April he posted a .318/.357/.348 triple slash line. From there, he was the model of consistency, posting at least a .290 batting average in every month but August (.240). With John Mayberry, Jr. and Ty Wigginton struggling–the other left field options–Pierre played himself into a role where he was Manuel’s go-to guy. He wasn’t an everyday player, but he was about as close as you could get for a platoon player.
As the year went on, fans began to look to Pierre with his speed and ability to get on base as a viable lead-off man over the much maligned Jimmy Rollins. While Pierre never really ascended to that role, the fact that there was an argument for him is a testament to what he was able to provide the Phillies lineup. While his more advanced statistics paint a picture of an invaluable player throughout his career, he was worth every bit of the $800K the Phillies paid him in 2012 and much more. How much more, you ask? According to fangraphs, his play this season was worth about $7.5M.
His final numbers are very respectable: .307/.351/.371 with 59 runs scored and 37 stolen bases in 130 games (105 starts). More impressive? He was only caught stealing seven times, which is the lowest total Pierre’s ever posted in a full season, and he struck out just 27 times, which is the lowest strikeout total on the 2012 roster for a player with at least 350 ABs. His 1.7 WAR on fangraphs was better than expected for a player originally thought to be the replacement.
Really, the only gripes anyone could have with Pierre is his lack of power hitting (he had just 17 extra base hits) and his fielding, which is subpar (particularly his arm). But if you were expecting a ton of power from him, you probably should reevaluate your expectations.
Towards the end of the season, as his playing time diminished, he didn’t make a scene. Instead, he could be seen in the dugout, talking to younger players like Domonic Brown about the game, trying to mentor them. He was the consummate professional.
Juan Pierre’s 2012 grade: B I think a B is a fair grade for Pierre. He wasn’t a superstar, but he was above average, especially when considering the expectations for him going into the season. Alas, it seems it was a one-time trip for Pierre in Philadelphia. The Phillies are in need of impact bats in the outfield, and they’re already committed to John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Nate Schierholtz for next year. With Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf also in contention for a roster spot, and the Phillies expected to sign or trade for at least one more outfielder (and more than likely two), it seems there won’t be any room for JP Beast Mode. Farewell, Juan. We hardly knew ye.