Monday, December 13, 2004

A.J. Pierzynski

A.J. Pierzynski has been cannon fodder for the BABIP Army. Balls in play were kind to him in Minnesota and openly hostile in San Francisco. Pierzysnki's LD% was .192 in 2004, which means that a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .300-.310 should be about right. Here are his actual numbers from his four full seasons:

2001: .289/.322/.441, .325 BABIP
2002: .300/.334/.439, .338 BABIP
2003: .312/.360/.464, .335 BABIP
2004: .272/.319/.410, .270 BABIP

What happens if we normalize those numbers for a .300 BABIP?

2001: .267/.301/.420
2002: .268/.303/.407
2003: .281/.330/.433
2004: .301/.345/.439

Based on K/BB/HBP/HR, 2004 was Pierzynski's best season. It's not as simple as all that, of course, since it wouldn't surprise me if a player reducing his strike-out rate tends to reduce his BABIP. However, it's entirely unreasonable to expect his BABIP to reside below .300 with his line drive rate above average as it was in 2004 without major external factors. But .300/.345/.439 is, in the eyes of this analyst, a good baseline for Pierzynski's offense over the next two years.

I tried to find data that would explain the BABIP decline. Obviously, the change in league and strength of competition from AL Central to NL West should account for some changem but not of that magnitude. I looked at home/road splits and found no real trend, other than that his road BABIP in 2004 was a ridiculous .254 (his home BABIP was still too low). All signs point to this being largely just a fluke.

With Pierzynski only turning 28 in a few weeks and with the Giants picking up Matheny, Pierzynski looks like a minor steal. He'll likely make about $4 million in arbitration. Is that good value? His defense is between average and good, and his offense should be above average, especially in the context of catchers (and since he's left-handed, the offense of his backup would also see improvement). Using the Net Win Shares Value calculator and a few performance estimates, he comes cleanly out above average.

But if you're like me, you probably have no idea what the Dodgers could give San Francisco to get Pierzynski. Giovanni Carrara and Willy Aybar? Cash? To reiterate, I have no idea. He'd be better than whatever permutation of Mike Rose, Brent Mayne, Tom Wilson, and Dave Ross the Dodgers use, but I don't know how likely it is that the difference in marginal value would overwhelm the expense.

Comments:
It seems to me that I recall reading AJ is arb eligible.... maybe the Giants won't tender him a 2005 contract.... I would hate to give anything remotely useful to that team....
 
He's arb eligible, but there's a pretty good chance the Giants will try to get something in return. It all depends on who gets into the market for him.
 
Away BABIP:

2001: .298
2002: .324
2003: .342
2004: .261

It's not the home park, though that certainly was my first guess; likely it's the transition to the National League that's got him flummoxed. Also, let's face it, the AL Central doesn't have the best pitchers in the world, either.
 
AJ's been non-tendered by the Gints:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1946434
 
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