Juan Pierre’s Historic Lack of Power

In a surprising turn of events, Juan Pierre figures to be a semi-regular part of the Phillies’ lineup this year. His reputation as a gritty gamer and a spring in which he hit .373 have led to this, despite posting an unbecoming .657 OPS in each of the last two seasons.

Pierre has been around a while. Many Phillies fans remember the days in the early 2000’s when he and Luis Castillo terrorized the Phillies from atop the Florida Marlins’ batting order with drag bunts and stolen bases galore. One item notably missing from Pierre’s arsenal? Power.


Pierre has 16 career home runs in 7,511 plate appearances. He is only one of four players to hit so few home runs in so many plate appearances:

Rk Player HR PA From To Age
1 Juan Pierre 16 7511 2000 2011 22-33
2 Larry Bowa 15 9109 1970 1985 24-39
3 Don Kessinger 14 8530 1964 1979 21-36
4 Donie Bush 9 8745 1908 1923 20-35
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/3/2012.

He hit two homers in 2011 alone, the most he has hit in one season since he hit three in 2006. I did some research to make sure those home runs did, in fact, happen.

June 3, 2011 vs. Detroit

August 16, 2011 vs. Cleveland

Since 2007, Pierre’s .054 isolated power in 3,005 PA is the second-lowest among all Major League outfielders, a whopping 19 points behind noted masher Willie Bloomquist and trailed only by Willy Taveras (.050), who fizzled out of baseball following the 2009 season.

Willy Taveras 1420 .050 .298
Juan Pierre 3005 .054 .311
Willie Bloomquist 1428 .073 .298
Emilio Bonifacio 1564 .079 .307
Tony Gwynn 1314 .079 .295
Ichiro Suzuki 3616 .082 .340
Nyjer Morgan 1832 .086 .323
Michael Bourn 2652 .087 .323
Skip Schumaker 2297 .089 .324
Mitch Maier 1028 .094 .306
Ryan Sweeney 1646 .098 .321
Scott Podsednik 1598 .099 .322

Ichiro is the only player in the list with a wOBA notably higher than the league average. Behind him, the next-best hitter is Skip Schumaker at .324. That represents the most optimistic, the absolute ceiling for the 34-year-old Pierre in 2012. All of the projections have him between .295 and .305. Put another way, Pierre’s most recent performances in 2010 and ’11 merited offensive WAR marks (per Baseball Reference) of 0.0 and 0.1, respectively. That means if Pierre is going to contribute to this team, it will be with his legs and with his glove, not his bat.

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  1. Pat

    April 03, 2012 08:38 PM

    This is really depressing. Pierre does two things exceptionally well: hitting into outs and running into outs.

    Free Dom Brown!

  2. hk

    April 04, 2012 05:26 AM

    The interesting thing to me about Pierre’s career numbers is how much better he has been at getting on base vs. LHP’s (.361 OBP) than vs. RHP’s (.334). If Charlie uses him properly – a big if – as the lead-off hitter vs. LHP’s, I think they can extract some offensive value out of him for the first few months of the season.

    My bigger concerns with Pierre revolve around his base-stealing and defense. The drop-offs in both areas from 2010 to 2011 are significant as his SB% fell from 79% in 2010 to 61% last year and his UZR/150 dropped from 12.4 to -10.7. I get that UZR data from year-to-year can be misleading, but he also committed 7 errors last year (6 fielding and 1 throwing) and had 29 fewer put-outs in 35 more innings.

  3. ronald grabowski

    April 04, 2012 07:29 AM

    Well he has already hit more home runs than Bowa. A good guy to have up in the 8th inning in a bunting situation. For years the complaint has been that the Phillies do not play enough small ball and this guy can bunt with the best. This guy can actually manufacture some runs. Unfortunately he does even have an average throwing arm and even in left field that runner will take the extra base.

  4. Phillie697

    April 04, 2012 09:09 AM

    @hk, those lower UZR numbers are the results of something. Him having more errors and less putouts is the symptoms of the same problem. I’d wait before panicking about his defense.

    Should we have a pool going on the over and under of when Dom Brown will be recalled? I’m thinking middle of May, when RAJ realizes we’re averaging less than 3 runs a game.

  5. Jonny

    April 04, 2012 11:57 AM

    I’m with HK on this. If Lopes was manning first base this wouldn’t be a concern of mine but I feel with Perlazzo this could be bad.

  6. Jnychi

    April 06, 2012 01:14 PM

    Pierre is absolutely done. As a white sox fan I have watched him fail to get down a bunt time and time again. He made the the easiest left field in baseball to play look like the polo grounds. Considering he is a hard worker and good clubhouse presence he could add something to a young team but that’s about all he has to offer at this stage of his career. Sorry Philly fans but you will learn to despise whenever he comes up to the plate in a late game situation with a runner in scoring position. He cant drive the ball far enough to get a sac fly and an outrageous amount of his hits are in the infield which makes it impossible to drive a runner in from second. He had a great career for an overachieving lead off man but he definitely is the most unproductive player in the game.

  7. Adam

    April 06, 2012 04:47 PM

    @Jnychi: If you were a White Sox fan you’d know the entire second half of your comment is nonsense. June 30th, Sox losing 4-3 in the 8th to COL, Pierre ties the game with a sac fly deep in the gap, then in the 10th Pierre singled deep to RF for 2 RBI and the lead 6-4. May 26th, game tied in the 9th against TOR, Pierre drives in 2 to take the 3-1 lead and the win. April 6th, losing 5-1 in the 7th against KC, Pierre drives in Morel, in the 9th Pierre starts a 2-out rally against Soria to take a 7-6 lead, in the 12th he drives in the final run for a 10-7 win. July 1st against the Cubs, tied 4-4 in the 7th, Pierre triples and drives in the deciding 2 RBIs in a 6-4 win. August 16th against CLE, tied 7-7 in the 14th, Pierre drives in the winning run for the 8-7 win (also the game he homered in). I could give another 5-6 instances. His bat won about 10 games last year. And not on bunts.
    As for his base running, I’ve got nothing. He was terrible.
    As for his defense, he had 3 of his Errors real early in the year with weird winds at US Cellular. Then there was the late game f-up against TB that cost Thornton the Save… which I think led to him losing confidence. Pierre committed another E behind Thornton a few days later. However, with all the talk about Pierre and his arm, he gets to the ball quick and gets it back in quicker than most, negating the lack of an arm. The stats back it up too. The MLB average for runners advancing against an OFer last year stood at 36.2%. Against Pierre it was 34.9%. Better than average, despite his noodle arm.

  8. Ian Riccaboni

    April 07, 2012 08:53 AM

    @Bill – I’m glad you pulled out that evidence. I’m glad they actually happened.

    I like that he doesn’t strike out, ever. I like that he can bunt the ball to whatever spot on the field that he wants. Hopefully, JMJ will be the masher we hope he can be and Pierre will be a nice luxury off the bench to try to get the offensive party started.

    Oh, and I love the Twitter avatar for SmallUpsetter. Nothing like Mean Gene and the Gobbeldy Gooker to get Saturday Morning started.

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