Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pierzynski and the Fight for a High Average: Sox - Indians Game 3

It's been a great few days for the Sox. They just completed their second sweep in a row. First the Cubs, now the Indians. W's look good on the front page. The Sox are now 49-35, still 2.5 games ahead of the Twins, and have 414 runs scored for the year.

While, it is worth mentioning that Contreras was there, and Brian Anderson got a 2-RBI double, Swisher brought one in, Ozuna was on the field again (cue eye roll), and Crede got a new haircut (I'm sorry, I can't help myself!) the best thing I've seen today is A.J. Pierzynski.

The catcher made fireworks happen twice today. Most notable was his home run double in the tenth inning. He was 2 for 5 today, bringing his average to an even .300. If it's possible, I love A.J. even more.

Today, A.J. showed Sox fans range. If you remember, a few days ago, I wrote that I felt a little confused about Pierzynski's place in the lineup. Mostly a hit-man, he often found himself stranded on base while Quentin and Dye or Thome (or whichever slugger happened to walk himself into a flyout or strikeout position) became the third out.

A.J. is the type of player that you see playing for the Cubs: batting for hits, not home runs. You will find these guys (Ryan Theriot was my Cubs example) that have around 4 home runs, but massive .320 averages. That, to me, describes A.J. Pierzynski. He usually goes out to get on base, not to put the ball high and far in the air.

Tonight, though, A.J. showed what his biggest fans knew all along: he can do it all! He can call the pitches, he can step on bases, and he can set off the fireworks just like (or better than) the typical White Sox sluggers.

Now, this brings me to my gripe: Batting averages with the White Sox. You might disagree with me and feel that the Sox offense has picked up, but I feel like the team is sliding downward offensively again. The Sox are leading the American League in home runs with 113. (Maybe more now, it takes about a day for the site to update. Don't judge me for not keeping track!) They also have the third highest slugging average. Their batting average, while not as awful as it was before THE Tampa Bay Rant, is still not the strongest. I'm not saying it's unacceptable for guys to hit in the .260s. Fine by me. But it's not okay to be Jim Thome or Paul Konerko (And Brian Anderson, now that he's had a decent amount of playing time and can be held responsible for his batting actions) to barely cling to the .200 mark because they are relying on hitting home runs rather than doing real base running.

It is also unacceptable (This goes out to you, Joe Crede!) to have a .270ish average because of a single week a month where you're hitting in the .600s, while the rest of the month you're .160 at best. Carlos Quentin seems to fall in this category, too. Although... he can go either way. He might be a slugger, he might be just streaky, or he just might be mentally exhausted. (I imagine he gets picked on quite a lot for his batting stance/crotch grabbing tendencies and that is, indeed, difficult to deal with mentally)

So, my question is, does batting average stand for how many times in a season your talent can get you on base, or is it rather a euphemism for how many times blind luck can get you a home run if you swing your bat really, really, really hard?

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