Showing posts with label A.J. Pierzynski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A.J. Pierzynski. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

White Sox going young in center field (and other news)

It's looking as if Jacob May has won the job as the starting center fielder for the White Sox.

Charlie Tilson is still in a walking boot for the next three weeks and may not be back until late May, and the Sox on Monday traded Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.

Subtracting Tilson from the equation, here are the offensive numbers the three contenders for center field have put up in the spring:

May: .339/.361/.525, 2 BB, 12 K, 4 for 5 in stolen bases, 61 plate appearances
Bourjos: .313/.340/.521, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 for 1 in stolen bases, 50 plate appearances
Leury Garcia: .339/.355/.424, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 for 4 in stolen bases, 64 plate appearances

May is the best of the three defensively, and he nosed out the other contenders with his performance at the plate, as well. I can't say I disagree with giving him the chance. He's 25 years old, the team is rebuilding, why not find out what you have with him?

Most of the prospect guys say May is a fourth outfielder, and that might very well be all he is. But you don't know until you give him some big-league time and see how he responds.

However, I was surprised they decided to move Bourjos. He seemed like a good veteran insurance policy at a position where the Sox have painfully little depth. At the very least, I was expecting him to make the club as a fourth outfielder.

Instead, the Sox are apparently going with the cringeworthy Garcia. They like his "versatility," but as I've said before, sure, he plays five positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares?

If May does poorly and Tilson doesn't recover from his injury, we could be looking at a starting Sox outfielder of Melky Cabrera, Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia. That's the kind of defensive lineup that will lose you a lot of games, which might be the goal for this season anyway.

Rodon diagnosed with bursitis

Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon will begin a two-week throwing program after being diagnosed with bursitis (inflammation) in his left bicep tendon, according to a CSN Chicago report.

Rodon will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list.

In his absence, potential stopgap measures for the rotation include right-handers Dylan Covey and (gulp!) Anthony Swarzak.

This is another area where the Sox don't have much depth while they wait for more heralded pitching prospects to become big-league ready.

If Rodon is hurt and Jose Quintana gets traded, it will make what already is shaping up as a difficult season even more challenging.

A.J. Pierzynski
Pierzynski retires, takes broadcasting job

Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski announced his retirement Tuesday. He will join FOX as a full-time baseball analyst.

Pierzynski will serve as both a color commentator and studio analyst for FOX, while also making regular appearances on FS1's MLB Whiparound.

"With Opening Day right around the corner, this is always a great time of year," Pierzynski said in a statement from FOX Sports. "I’m really looking forward to what should be a very exciting MLB season and to being a part of the FOX Sports team again."

Pierzynski previously worked with FOX during the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 MLB postseasons.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Pierzynski's. Despite his bad reputation with some folks, he's a smart guy and knows the game inside and out. I'm looking forward to hearing his insights on the FOX broadcasts.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Future is now for White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers

It seems pretty odd that one of the more controversial players for White Sox fans is catcher Tyler Flowers. Yes, he was once a good prospect acquired in trade for a pretty good pitcher. No, he has never lived up to his prospect hype or the expectations his minor league resume stirred (.275/.391/.484 on the farm vs. .218/.287/.396 with the Sox).

The pent-up frustration was shuffled to the back burner this offseason with the 29-year-old receiver coming off an up-and-down, but overall solid season (.241/.297/.396). The Sox maybe inadvertently created a smoke screen when they made big improvements to other parts of the roster. A look at some of the free agent options might have convinced fans there wasn't a catcher upgrade available that didn't cost an arm and a leg. And maybe there also was the realization that Flowers isn't really holding the Sox back.

So Flowers enters this year as the unquestioned starter with the fragile Geovany Soto as his backup. But Flowers' advancing age and increasingly large salaries mean the position will almost certainly be re-examined soon.

Should Flowers bomb, he'll be non-tendered the way Gordon Beckham was once the paychecks he was set to earn through arbitration exceed his usefulness to a team, only receiving an invitation to return after agreeing to diminished pay and playing time.

If Flowers is fine again, I imagine the Sox will keep bringing him back through arbitration. They can do that potentially through the 2017 season, after which he'll be 32-years-old. When considering monetary commitments against performance, this might be the optimal situation for the Sox, even if Flowers is just "good enough."

Is Flowers the kind of catcher who will age well into his 30s?

I think the better question is are there any catchers you'd want to rely on as a starter once he reaches 30. Recent history makes that proposition seem pretty bleak.

Here are all the catchers the last decade who have started at least 90 games in their 30s by year, indicating they were at least the dominant half of a platoon. Catchers who didn't start at least 110 games have an asterisk. (That's a little arbitrary, but for perspective, the fewest games that A.J. Pierzynski started at catcher during his time with the Sox was 112 games in 2011).:

2005
Jason Kendall (31)
Mike Matheny (34)
Jason Varitek (33)
Ivan Rodriguez (33)
Gregg Zaun (34)
Jorge Posada (33)
Paul Lo Duca (33)
Mike Lieberthal (33)
Jason LaRue (31)*
Bengie Molina (30)*
Mike Piazza (36)*
Damian Miller (35)*

2006
Jason Kendall (32)
Kenji Johjima (30)
Ramon Hernandez (30)
Brad Ausmus (37)
Jorge Posada (34)
Ivan Rodriguez (34)
Paul Lo Duca (34)
Johnny Estrada (30)*
Mike Piazza (37)*
Damian Miller (36)*

2007
Jason Kendall (33)
Kenji Johjima (31)
Bengie Molina (32)
Jorge Posada (35)
Jason Varitek (35)
Brian Schneider (30)
Ivan Rodriguez (35)
A.J. Pierzynski (30)
Paul Lo Duca (35)
Johnny Estrada (31)
Brad Ausmus (38)*
David Ross (30)*
Ramon Hernandez (31)*
Gregg Zaun (36)*

2008
Jason Kendall (34)
Bengie Molina (33)
A.J. Pierzynski (31)
Jason Varitek (36)
Ramon Hernandez (32)
Ivan Rodriguez (36)*
Brian Schneider (31)*
Kenji Johjima (32)*
Rod Barajas (32)*

2009
Jason Kendall (35)
A.J. Pierzynski (32)
Bengie Molina (34)
Rod Barajas (33)
Ivan Rodriguez (37)*
Jason Varitek (37)*
Carlos Ruiz (30)*
Miguel Olivo (30)*

2010
A.J. Pierzynski (33)
Jason Kendall (36)
Carlos Ruiz (31)*
Miguel Olivo (31)*
Victor Martinez (31)*
Bengie Molina (35)*
Ivan Rodriguez (38)*

2011
John Buck (30)
Miguel Olivo (32)
A.J. Pierzynski (34)
Yorvit Torrealba (32)*

2012
A.J. Ellis (31)
A.J. Pierzynski (35)
John Buck (31)*
Ryan Hanigan (31)*
Rod Barajas (36)*
Carlos Ruiz (33)*

2013
Yadier Molina (30)
Russell Martin (30)
A.J. Pierzynski (36)
A.J. Ellis (32)*
Chris Iannetta (30)*
John Buck (32)*
Chris Stewart (31)*

2014
Miguel Montero (30)
Kurt Suzuki (30)
Carlos Ruiz (35)*
Russell Martin (31)*
Yadier Molina (31)*
Dioner Navarro (30)*
Brian McCann (31)*
Chris Iannetta (31)*

Probably nobody needed to see this list to realize catching is a younger player's position. The sampling of players is too small to make any sweeping generalizations, but it looks like the bumper crop of older catchers in the early 2000s was bolstered by a few aging Hall-of-Fame candidates (Piazza, Posada, Rodriguez), guys with occasionally big bats (Lieberthal, Lo Duca), guys who played forever because of good defensive reputations (Miller, Ausmus, Molina), and some guys who played forever I guess because they could (Kendall, Zaun). Pierzynski and Varitek are anomalies here in that they played a lot, and played well.

Even with things in baseball being cyclical, I suspect three things will keep this list from expanding again: 1) The increased emphasis on defense and pitch framing will keep guys with big bats like Piazza and Posada from catching a huge number of games if their gloves don't age as well; 2) Teams that have invested in big hitting catchers will try to keep the bat from aging by shuffling those guys to other positions, like the Twins have done with Joe Mauer, the Indians, Red Sox and Tigers did with Victor Martinez and the Yankees are likely to do with Brian McCann; and 3) Stricter testing for performance enhancing drugs will likely keep some guys from staying as healthy as they once did, a situation only unique to catching in the sense that no other position faces as much wear and tear.

So assuming Father Time remains unbeaten, the Sox will be happy to make do with Flowers, which is really what most teams do at the catcher position, anyway. Hopefully while avoiding a huge commitment to an aging receiver while they wait for a better, younger catcher to be had.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Red Sox designate A.J. Pierzynski for assignment

The Boston Red Sox on Wednesday designated former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment.

Pierzynski, 37, has posted a .254/.286/.348 slash line with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 72 games with Boston this season. He's been slumping as of late (.194 since June 1), and with the Red Sox reeling in last place with a 39-51 record, it's not surprising they are looking to change directions. Pierzynski is being moved along so Boston can spend the rest of 2014 taking a look at 23-year-old catching prospect Christian Vazquez.

I know news of this move will immediately cause some White Sox fans to call for the team to bring Pierzynski back for one last hurrah on the South Side. He and Paul Konerko could retire together, they'll say.

I'll say this much: There is no denying the Sox have a hole at catcher. Tyler Flowers has backed up his .129/.187/.214 June with a .000/.050/.000 start to July. Last year, management excused Flowers' poor hitting because he was playing with a right shoulder injury that required surgery. I don't think there is any excuse this time. Flowers is simply a lousy hitter and nothing more than a backup catcher -- at best. It's time to move on from him as a starting player.

However, that does not mean the Sox should turn to Pierzynski. Nostalgia is fine for fans and media, but front office people need to look forward. The Sox need to find a long-term solution at catcher. With each swing and a miss, Flowers is proving once and for all he is not that guy. However, Pierzynski is not that guy at age 37 either. The Sox would be wasting his time and their own time by bringing him back.

I'm on board with the Sox making a change at catcher, but for me, that change is more playing time for 24-year-old Adrian Nieto. Is Nieto the catcher of the future? I don't know. I say, let's see more of him behind the plate and get some answers.

So far this year, Flowers has appeared in 75 of the Sox' first 91 games, while Nieto has appeared in just 30. It's time to even that playing time out a little bit. If the Sox were to bring Pierzynski aboard, he would just be in the way of what I hope is more playing time for Nieto the second half of the season.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thanks Uribe for the memories, no thanks for a White Sox return

Somehow, despite the White Sox openly rolling with the rebuilding label (ok, I'm sorry, retooling), the team has been linked to free agent Juan Uribe.

Juan Uribe.
Sox fans remember Uribe as the slick-fielding shortstop who was part of a championship team in 2005, who had a terrific offensive year when he first arrived in 2004, who lost his job in 2008 when the Sox acquired Orlando Cabrera and Alexei Ramirez, but still helped save the day for the playoff-bound Sox by filling in at third base when Joe Crede was lost to injury.

Since then Uribe had a couple nice season with Giants before signing a three-year deal with Dodgers. He's coming off a season in Los Angeles in which he hit .278/.331/.438 and played very good defense at third base.

You do have to hand it to Uribe, if you had asked me eight years ago which member of the 2005 Sox would have the best 2013 performance, he might not have been in my first 10 guesses. (Neal Cotts wouldn't have been either!).

Presumably, Uribe would fill the third base hole on the Sox roster, at least as an option instead internal choices of Conor Gillaspie or Marcus Semien.

Except here's the thing. Here are two guys and what they've done the last three seasons:

Player A: .237/.295/.360
Player B: .284/.316/.376

Ok, in this Rob Neyer-patented shell game, Uribe is obviously Player A. Despite a very nice 2013, Uribe wasn't very good during his three years with the Dodgers. That he had a .322 batting average on balls in play -- not an outrageous figure, but certainly well above his career .282 mark -- means Uribe was almost certainly a little lucky to produce as fine of an offensive year as he did last season.

Player B is Jeff Keppinger, who is last year's attempt to paper over the hole at third base with a utility infielder. That was obviously a disaster, though at least a modestly priced one.

The rationale for bringing Keppinger aboard was different a year ago, and I largely agreed with it. The Sox were coming off a season in which they led their division most of the year, were hoping to be good enough to contend, but not so good that a huge investment in third base seemed terribly prudent. So they signed Keppinger for a reasonable 3-year, $12 million deal figuring that if a better option sprang up, they'd have an overpaid utility infielder.

The problem is that Keppinger, like just about everyone on the Sox last year, hit much worse than expected. He didn't fill the hole at third base, and presently looks like he doesn't even have a place on the roster now that Leury Garcia is here. In Garcia, the Sox have a guy who even with limited offensive potential, can probably hit as well as Keppinger last year, but has a fantastic glove all over the field.

With the pretense of being a contender cast to the side, it makes much more sense to see if Gillaspie can take a step forward, or Semien can take a step up, than it does to mess around with another year of Keppinger, or two or three years with a Uribe reunion.

I get that guys from championship teams are remembered fondly. I even understood the desire by many to bring catcher A.J. Pierzynski back -- that's a position where the Sox have another black hole instead of production, and unlike third base, the alternatives there seem even less credible.

Still, it's time to give up the ghosts of past glory. While Uribe returning to the team he helped to a title might make for a good puff piece during spring training, the reality is that he's just not a good fit for the Sox. It's time for Sox fans to just collectively, please, let it go.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Curses! Tyler Flowers signs one-year deal with White Sox

Make no mistake about it, the 2013 White Sox roster had holes in it like Swiss cheese. The catching situation was perhaps the biggest hole of them all.

Both Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley received an extended look behind the plate. Neither man showed much, and I'm not sold that either can be a long-term answer for the White Sox at that position.

As Monday's 11 p.m. deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players approached, I found myself wishing the Sox would non-tender Flowers and his .195 batting average and send him on his way.

Instead, the Sox signed Flowers to a one-year deal worth $950,000.

Ugh.

Sox GM Rick Hahn sounds inclined to give the Flowers-Phegley catching combo another chance in 2014.

"In Tyler's defense, there was a bit of an injury issue that may well have factored in to his performance," Hahn told reporters on Monday. "And in Josh's defense, it was his first exposure to the big leagues, and obviously the league adjusted to him fairly quickly and he was unable to adjust.

"So you're hesitant to write either guy off, given the upside that we have seen in the past. That said, this is the big leagues and eventually you run out of opportunities. I know we believe they're both capable of reaching their upside. As to precisely what role and how many at-bats they're going to get in 2014 to prove us right about that upside, that's still to be determined."

Double ugh.

I don't know that I've seen that much upside from either of these two guys. I can live with Flowers defensively, but shoulder injury or not, he's never shown me much with the bat. Yes, he hits some home runs, but he doesn't hit near enough of them to make up for his low-contact, low-average approach. Ask yourself, with men on second and third and one out, do you want Flowers at the plate? I sure don't. I feel like he's has no chance; a strikeout is inevitable. He's just too poor a hitter to play every day in the big leagues.

Last year was Phegley's first taste of the major leagues. He struggled both with the bat and with the glove, but he did hit in the minors. He's young enough that there is still some hope, but honestly, I think he would benefit from another season in Triple-A.

I was really hoping the Sox would add a veteran catcher to the mix this offseason, even if it was just a replacement-level player who could provide some experience and stability. The idea that the Sox are thinking of going with Flowers and Phegley again next year makes me shake my head in despair. I guess now is the time I need to remind myself the offseason isn't over yet. Opening Day isn't until March 31, and there is still plenty of time for Hahn to change his mind and bring another catcher in here.

But right now, I'm beating my head against the wall, especially after the news Tuesday that former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has signed with Boston.

Triple ugh.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying the Sox should have brought back Pierzynski, who will be 37 years old by Opening Day. At that age, who knows how much he has left in the tank? But what I am saying is that the Sox have failed to acquire or develop a suitable replacement for Pierzynski, and that's the part that stinks.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tyler Flowers' disastrous 2013 is thankfully over

It's no secret I was never on board with the White Sox decision to make Tyler Flowers their starting catcher.

Yes, I wanted to keep A.J. Pierzynski for another year or two, and it wasn't because of 2005 nostalgia. It was because Pierzynski is still a far superior player to Flowers, even at his advancing age, and I didn't think it took a brain surgeon to figure that out.

I understood the reasons the Sox cut the cord with Pierzynski. He's a 36-year-old catcher. He wasn't going to duplicate the 27-homer season he had in 2012, and there was talk that he wasn't on the same page with manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff last season.

That said, if you are going to jettison a productive player, you better have a replacement lined up. And that somebody needs to be better than Tyler Flowers. I knew going into the season Flowers was incapable of being anything more than a backup at the big-league level. He has tantalizing power, but that's his only real plus. He has holes in his swing like Swiss cheese, strikes out way too much and isn't as good defensively as Sox brass claims he is. I figured given a whole season, Flowers might bat .220. Actually, he batted .195 in 84 games this year before going on the disabled list this week to undergo right shoulder surgery.

Reports indicate Flowers first tweaked the shoulder about a year ago. The pain intensified before spring training, and he found out a couple months ago he would need the surgery.

So, the Sox knew before spring training Flowers wasn't healthy, yet they were willing to start the season with him and career minor-leaguer Hector Gimenez as their two big-league catchers. Given what we know now, it's even less of a surprise that the catching position has been a complete disaster for the 2013 White Sox. An injured Tyler Flowers was considered the best option in the organization. That's brutal.

Meanwhile, Pierzynski (.280 avg., 16 HR, 58 RBIs) continues to display competence as the starting catcher on a Texas Rangers ballclub that is tied for first place in the AL West entering Tuesday's action. Thud.

The Sox are left to hope and pray rookie Josh Phegley shows them something the last month of the season. Since an electric first week that included three home runs, Phegley has slumped to a .214 average. His defense has been poor. He dropped a routine pop up Monday against the Yankees, and I've been unimpressed with his receiving ability. Too many wild pitches and not enough pitches being blocked. Phegley will need to hit a lot to overcome his defensive shortcomings. While I'm more optimistic about his offensive abilities than I was about Flowers, the Sox need to see more before they can comfortably go into 2014 thinking Phegley is their catcher.

No matter what, the Sox would be smart to cut their losses with Flowers. He's damaged goods now, and I wouldn't want him in even a backup role. If they want to give Phegley a full-time shot, fine, but sign a serviceable veteran this offseason just in case Phegley fails as well.

I know the list of potential free agent catchers isn't exciting (except for Brian McCann, who is likely out of the Sox price range), but think about it: Anybody who can hit .230 and catch the ball is an upgrade behind the plate over what the Sox have right now. The standard for improvement at that position is not high.