30 Rangers In 30 Days: A.J. Pierzynski
By Eric Reining
After compiling my list of the Rangers top-4 starters and the 3 subsequent options for the 5th spot over the last week, I contemplated running through the bullpen, but that’s basically 10 or so names and a multitude of repetitive information. So I’m not going to do that. Changing gears, over the next several days the reports and projections will be exclusive to everyday starters, and I’ll handle their backups and the bullpen at the end. Just as a head’s up.
Now that we’re a day removed of the deleterious Miami Balco situation, today’s feature on 30 Rangers In 30 Days revolves around the universe of one of the few free agent acquisitions of this offseason, catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Pierzynski, 36, has spent the last 8 years playing for the White Sox, carrying the infamous stigma of being one of baseball’s greatest villains. Don’t ask me how he found himself in that hole, but like most others I didn’t care for him on a human level, and was stringently opposed to the Rangers giving him anything more than a passive glance this offseason.
My first reaction to his signing was Oh god please no, but after seeing that it was only for one year at a meager $7.5 million stipend, my mood harmoniously reversed to eh, okay, eventually making it all the way to the point I’m at now, where I see him adding quite a bit of surplus value to his salary. In baseball, there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal, especially for that minor of a fiscal obligation.
In his 8 years in Chicago which essentially exhausted through the prime years of his career, he generated a total of 14.3 fWAR (about 1.8 fWAR per year). When ostensibly analyzing his body of work, the first thing that jumped out was his extremely consistent level of health. Since 2002, he’s played no less than 128 games each year, which is relatively unheard of from what is considered the most physically demanding position in the sport. In Texas, what with possessing a viable right-handed backup (Geovany Soto) who stands to start most (if not all) of Yu Darvish‘s games, I’m not going to expect 128 starts for A.J. in 2013. It’s going to be a catching platoon dominated by Pierzynski, probably between 110-120 starts, so hopefully that keeps him especially fresh for the dog days of summer.
In 2012, Rangers catching was worth a mere 1.5 fWAR in the aggregate, so if A.J. Pierzynski’s 3.4 fWAR of last year holds up, we stand to gain about 2 wins from the position in comparison. That’s a lofty expectation, but the potential is certainly there.
For what it’s worth, Bill James projects A.J. to produce a triple slash line of .269/.310/.422 in 2013, and FanGraphs has him similarly pegged at .275/.311/.425, good for 2.8 WAR. I think we can all be satisfied with that.
If you’re asking me, which I don’t know why you would, I’m expecting a solid offensive year given his new left-handed friendly park environment, even to the tune where he hits somewhere between 15-20 home runs, with a triple slash somewhere in the range of .270/.315/.475. The Ballpark in Arlington will be a haven for his swing. If I had to put a WAR figure on his overall production, I’m comfortable saying somewhere in the range of 2.5-3.0 wins, which, again, I will be more than happy with.