In the school of hitting-sabermetrics, you are taught a few basic, ideological ground-rules: batting average doesn’t matter for much, being overly aggressive on the base paths results in unnecessary outs, and patience [at the plate] is a virtue. For these three reasons, Juan Pierre has often been the subject of ridicule from stat-head types–myself included. Yet considering Jason Bay (who posted a .165/.237/.299 line and -4.8 UZR/150 in 2011) is slated to be the Mets starting left-fielder again (UPDATE: not anymore), David Wright led the team with just fifteen stolen bases in 2011, and the team has about $11.5 million (after arbitration/contractual raises) to spend on six or seven roster spots, it pains me to admit that signing Juan Pierre makes way too much sense for the New York Mets.
When Pierre became a free-agent after the 2011 season, it was the start of a new age–an age where he would no longer be overpaid or even overrated. From 2008 to 2011, Pierre earned $33.5 million (or an average of $8.375 million per season), while only being worth $18.7 million (or an average of $4.675 million per season). Despite coming off a brutal 2011 campaign (.279/.329/.327 line, 38.6% CS%, 6.0% BB%, and a -10.7 UZR/150 in LF), the Phillies inked the maligned outfielder to a Minor League deal, worth $850,000. At age 34, being a fourth outfielder seemed like an appropriate role. But while few expected much out of Pierre, the speedster blossomed in his part-time duties, posting a .307/.351/.371 line with an 84% SB% (37 SB in 44 attempts), and even gloving a non-cancerous -0.4 UZR/150 in LF.
Historically a leadoff hitter, the Phillies instead used Pierre behind Jimmy Rollins in the second hole–but that’s not to say the Mets couldn’t revert him back. While Pierre isn’t exactly Ricky Henderson, to his credit, the speedster does own a career .294/.343/.361 line with a 74.5% SB% in 6,396 PA’s as a leadoff hitter. By comparison, Jose Reyes owns a career .292/.343/.443 line with an 80% SB% in 4,880 PA’s as a leadoff hitter–so outside of pop, the two do own similar OB and speed skills as leadoff men.
More specifically to the Mets current situation, eight hitters (Ruben Tejada, Andres Torres, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Justin Turner, Ronny Cedeno, Jordany Valdespin, and Fred Lewis), combined for a meager .255/.320/.348 line and putrid 52.1% SB% in the leadoff position in 2012. While Tejada garnered the bulk of leadoff PA’s, his .292/.334/.358 line and 50% SB% suggest that he might be a stronger second or eighth hitter. Essentially, signing Pierre would actually add some stability to an otherwise tumultuous and ineffective situation.
The other upside to signing Juan Pierre is cost. No team in their right mind would hand the 35 year-old more than $2 million, and it’s even less likely that they would use him as a starter. So if the Mets could sign Pierre to a one-year, $1 million contract, it would benefit all parties. Now, if only Pierre played center-field…