For pretty much his entire career, AJ Pierzynski has been known as a guy who has one of the best baseball IQs in the game, has the demeanor and confidence that irks opposing teams and relishes in the idea of being hated by opposing fans and being the most hated player in baseball amongst his peers.
Now, AJ Pierzynski can add another attribute to his description: one of the best power hitting catchers in baseball.
Despite having the 6’3, 225 pound frame of a power hitter, AJ has never hit many home runs. He maxed out at 18 home runs for his career high in 2005, and saw his home run totals decrease in every year since, hitting just eight last season. After that and being part of a team that fell way short of the high standards set by themselves and the fans, it seemed as if it was time for the White Sox to move forward from the AJ era behind the plate and give Tyler Flowers or someone else a chance.
However, AJ has stuck around, and after working with new hitting coach Jeff Manto and manager Robin Ventura, Pierzynski has a much quicker, compact swing and is making everyone forget the old slap-hitting AJ. His 21 home runs pace MLB catchers, he leads all American League catchers with 62 RBI and an .896 OPS, making him almost a lock for the AL’s Silver Slugger Award at the catcher position.
When you look at his slash line of .293/21/62/.896, you probably tell yourself that AJ is having a “pretty good” year. However, when you consider the position he plays, his season is more than just “pretty good,” it’s phenomenal. Pierzynski does have a big frame as mentioned before, but he does play a position where power hitters aren’t common.
Assuming Pierzynski stays healthy and get about 10 games off out of the 44 remaining games, he’s on pace for roughly 29 home runs and 86 RBI. If he keeps his average around .290 and his OPS around .900 moving forward, that would give him a slash line of .290/29/86/.900, statistics that have only been matched twice since the turn of the century. Javy Lopez of the Braves in 2003 finished with a ridiculous line of .328/43/109/1.065, and Charles Johnson in 2000, who split the season with the Orioles and our very own White Sox and finished with a line of .301/31/91/.961.
The last time this was done by a White Sox catcher? How about never: not even Carlton Fisk had a year with that kind of power AND average from the catcher position. Fisk did hit 37 home runs and drive in 107 back in 1985, but his batting average (.238) and OPS (.808) were much lower than the pace Pierzynski is on right now.
So, unless he falls off the map a ton from now until the end of the season, it’s safe to say two things: that AJ Pierzynski is having at least a top five single-season from a catcher in this century, and that he’s having the best season from a White Sox catcher in franchise history.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds more like “monumental” than “pretty good” to me.