Juan Pierre’s season has not been going very well for the veteran outfielder. Poor outfield play and lack of offensive production have compounded, with the rest of the Sox, as a whole, doing poorly. Therefore, many fans have advocated the use of career utility player, Brent Lillibridge, to replace the light hitting Pierre. But, fans may want to hold off on turning Lillibridge into this season’s Pablo Ozuna.
First, let’s look at the obvious. Juan Pierre is making starter money, not platoon money. He is owed 8.5 million this year, 5.5 from the Sox and 3.5 from the Dodgers, whereas Lillibridge is earning 430,000. I realize that as fans we say, “who cares about the money!!! Play who is producing”, unfortunately, Kenny Williams and the rest of the White Sox management staff doesn’t look at it that way.
Yes, Juan Pierre is slumping but he is known as a slow starter. In 2010 Pierre started his White Sox career with a .193 avg. in April and a .286 avg. in May. This year he has had a similar resurgence batting .243 in April and .292 in May, showing the same ability through his career, averaging .275 in April and .291 in May. Typically Managers in the Majors Leagues allow veteran’s” hit out of slumps” because they know how they hit and are able to make the adjustments needed to continue hitting.
But, are you looking at a guy, in Pierre, who is just aging and his better days are behind him? I wrote an article earlier advocating that case, shown by a steady decline in stats. But, that doesn’t mean he cannot still be productive. As the first batter of the game Juan is hitting .319 with a .360 OBP, not terrible. That is the point that the leadoff hitter is most useful in his role as the “leadoff hitter”.
Now, the question is would Lillibridge be the most productive replacement for Juan? As a leadoff hitter, the most logical place to bat him if he is replace our leadoff hitter, Lillibridge is batting .146 with a .255 OBP, not what you are looking for from your leadoff hitter.
The other problem of making Lillibridge your everyday leftfielder is that you are losing a valuable asset off your bench. Lillibridge has the ability to play just about any position, a very valuable option in this day of swelled pitching staffs.
Lillibridge simply has not shown that he can effectively be an everyday starter at the Major League level additionally his ability off the bench would be too big a loss. Therefore, I personally advocate allowing Juan to continue to hit his way through this slump. Juan has been hitting much better with an 11 game hitting streak, during which he has hit .340 (16/47) with a .367 OBP. He has also been much better in the field going 20 games without an error.