2012 Reds / Reds - General / Trade Deadline / Willy Taveras OBP Watch

Juan Pierre, no thanks. Shane Victorino, much better.

Buster Olney from ESPN tweeted last night that the Reds have shown interest in Phillies OF Juan Pierre. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports reported last week that the Reds had kicked the tires on Phillies CF Shane Victorino. Presumably, the Reds primary interest in either player would be as a rental lead-off hitter. Neither player is signed beyond 2012.

Trading for Juan Pierre would be a disaster. Shane Victorino, however, could provide solid upside for the Reds. Here is the case against Pierre, both in comparison to Victorino and vs. what the Reds have now.

1. Age

Juan Pierre would turn 35 in August. Shane Victorino is 31. The main risks associated with age are injury and rapid decline.

2. Position/Defense

Juan Pierre hasn’t played centerfield regularly since 2007. Victorino remains the everyday CF for the Phillies. Pierre is a below-average LF, with a poor arm and range. Victorino is an excellent CF, at least league average. He has had no errors this year or last. The advanced metrics, which aren’t that great yet, generally don’t like Pierre and find Victorino OK. If Pierre would be brought in to play CF for the Reds, it would be a nightly hold-your-breath situation.

3. Power

Juan Pierre has hit his one home run this year, Shane Victorino has hit eight (same as Drew Stubbs) and would probably hit about that many the second half. Victorino did hit 31 in 2010. But it’s not just in the home run category where Pierre is lacking. He only has five doubles this year. He’s basically a singles hitter. Victorino has 12 (Stubbs 9). So don’t expect Pierre to drive in any runs from first base, or himself.

4. Stolen Bases

This is a drastically over-valued quality, to begin with. Stealing bases risks not only losing a base-runner, but losing an out. A high success rate is important to make SB worthwhile. Pierre has 20 SB this year, Victorino has 19 and Stubbs 16. Yes, Pierre has only been caught 3 times this year (Victorino 2, Stubbs 4). But you should know that last year, Pierre was caught 17 times out of 44 attempts, so he may not be able to sustain his current success rate. It’s certainly an aberration over his career, over which he has been caught about 1/4 of the time (574 SB, 193 CS). Victorino (and Stubbs) can probably steal as many bases as Pierre, or at least close to it.

5. Walk-Rate

Juan Pierre would certainly fit in the Reds clubhouse with his plate approach. His career BB% is 5.7%, which puts him well below league average. Zack Cozart is currently walking at a 5.8% rate. Drew Stubbs (8.9%) is a walk machine compared to Pierre. And that’s not even all the bad news. This year, Pierre’s BB% has fallen to 4.7%, which happens to players who are losing their swing speed (cough, cough, Scott Rolen, cough). How low is 4.7% for a walk-rate? Chris Heisey (4.5%) low. Pierre would have the lowest walk-rate of any Reds starter and that’s saying something.

Pierre’s plate discipline is showing tell-tale signs of decline. His O-Swing rate (percentage of times the batter swings at a pitch outside the strike zone) has shot up from 27.6% last year to 33.9% this year. Over 30% O-Swing you’re usually looking at power hitters, like Phillips, Frazier, Ludwick etc. (JoeyMVP has a team-low 22% O-Swing). But with Pierre, you get zero power from his lack of discipline.

Keep in mind the importance of walking to OBP. Players go through slumps in batting average all the time. If their walk-rate is an important part of their OBP, then their offensive contribution doesn’t suffer as much. But if their OBP is made up to a large degree by their AVG, as it is with players like Pierre (and Heisey, and Phillips and Cozart and …) then the offense suffers from inconsistency. Really, the very last thing the erratic Reds offense needs right now is another hitter who doesn’t walk.

Shane Victorino’s walk-rate is 8.5% (right at league average) and was 9.4% last year. I’m guessing in a lead-off role, it would be above league average. And his strike out rate is about 11%. Both he and Pierre (5%) have an edge over Stubbs (27%) there.


The main superficial case to make for Pierre is looking at his current OBP and concluding “he gets on base.” Last night, Marty Brenemann, dabbling in advanced statistics, mistakenly quoted Pierre’s slugging percentage (.380) as his OBP instead of his current actual OBP (.349). Marty thought .380 would really look good at the top of the Reds lineup, and it would, if it were accurate, which it isn’t.

Let’s take a closer look at Pierre’s OBP. Again, it depends primarily on his AVG (.312) because he rarely walks. Last year, for example, Pierre hit .279 for the White Sox with a .329 OBP. Remember, he’s walking 20% less this year. So, for Pierre to maintain a decent OBP, he needs to bat around .300. Will he be able to do that? He hasn’t for a couple years. He hasn’t even hit .280 since 2009. A regression for Pierre would not be unexpected. His BABIP (batting average for balls in play) is extremely high (.326) compared to his previous two full seasons (.294 and .294).

The painful example of Willy Taveras is probably worth repeating here. Taveras had a career walk-rate (5.1%) similar to Pierre’s. So his OBP depended on his AVG in the same way. Playing for the Rockies in 2007, Taveras had an incredible (in the bad way) year, with a BABIP of .370. In other words, his balls fell in for hits at a crazy lucky rate. That BABIP produced an AVG of .320 and an OBP of .367. The Reds apparently looked at that OBP and concluded they had found their lead-off hitter. The warning signs were there, however. In 2008 for the Rockies, Taveras’ BABIP returned to normal (.296) producing an AVG of .251 and OBP of .308. The Reds said they believed the numbers form 2007 and signed Taveras to a two-year deal. The resulting horror: .277 BABIP, .240 AVG, .275 OBP.

Juan Pierre has a longer, better track record than Taveras, but at his age and with the red flags of his declining walk-rate and rising O-Swing, you have to be concerned that his second half of the year might be Taveras-like.

Shane Victorino’s BABIP this year (.266) is well below his career rate (.296) so there is plenty of reason to expect he’ll improve on his .248 AVG in the second half of the year. He hit .279 last year.

Bottom Line

Juan Pierre, even at his best, would offer the Reds a free-swinging, singles-hitting lead-off hitter who can steal bases. No power and negative run prevention. If the Reds benched Ludwick to play him (doubtful) the hit to the offense would be tremendous. If the Reds benched Stubbs to play him (more likely) we’d see ghastly defense in the middle of the OF, less power, about the same SB and a bit more OBP. But, there is a large risk that the Reds won’t be getting Pierre at his best. It would quickly turn into pure, awful subtraction by addition. Given Pierre’s age, declining plate discipline and lucky hitting, Walt Jocketty may end up giving Dusty Baker another Willy Taveras.

A toy the Reds manager will stubbornly play and lead-off every single night. Into oblivion.

Shane Victorino would certainly play CF for the Reds. He could bat first or second. He offers the same power and SB potential as Drew Stubbs, likely without the slumps. Victorino’s defense wouldn’t hurt, either. He’d probably get on base at a .335-.340 rate. Whether you think we should trade for him, and how much we should give up, depends on how much of an improvement over Drew Stubbs’ OBP you think that would be.



62 thoughts on “Juan Pierre, no thanks. Shane Victorino, much better.

  1. Pingback: Titanic Struggle Recap: Emphasis on “struggle” | Redleg Nation

  2. Justin Upton has one more year before free agency and he’s not crazy expensive now, so I would think that would be better investment than a straight rental as they would also have him next year.

  3. I just don’t see a guy with a .311 OBP, Shane Victorino, as being an improvement for the Reds. Cozart’s .298 OBP is unnacceptable, as is Stubbs’ ~.280, but an older guy with a .311 OBP is a solution? That’s a matter of switching the names on jerseys, not a matter of providing an improvement.

  4. I’ll give you guys some insight. Im from philly and am a diehard Phils fan and i get to watch this team suck and play miserably everyday and Victorino is one of the main reasons.
    First if i am a reds fan and u are in need of a leadoff batter who will get on base for you very consistently, Piere is your man. He has been great for us this year and many of us here want him in Left everyday and batting leadoff over Rollins, but Chuck is too stubborn to do that (that is an entirely different story). Your downfall with juan is that he can not play CF for you. if u have another option for center and can put him in left, he is a perfect leadoff batter for you, and im sure if the Phils continue to go in the direction they are he can be had pretty easily.
    Now onto Victorino, he will cost you more, both in prospect and with money. He IS NOT a leadoff hitter at all, unless you like guys who refuse to take pitches and routinely pop up to the infield to batt leadoff. when he first came up to this phils and was fighting for a spot, he was a slap hitter who got a lot of infield singles and used his speed, then one year he somehow hit 31 HR’s and it destroyed his career. now he no longer uses his speed as an asset at the dish and try’s to be more of a power/big rbi guy opposed to the get on base, steal a base and score runs type of player. really Vic should model his game after Pierre and he would be a very productive player bc he has a similar skill set. He is also an avg CF at best. i know he doesnt make errors and you often see him making catches where he uses his speed, but that is mainly bc he has such poor judgement that he consistently doesnt read a ball correctly and has to make what should be a routine catch look much harder than it should be. Also think i read something about the Phil’s not wanting to trade Vic or trade him then try and resign him, no, totally false. fans or frontoffice do not want him back. For the reasons i stated above and bc he way overvaule’s himself. he wants at least a 5 year deal at anywhere from 70-85 mil. (he compares himself to Ethier who got 5/85). any team who gives that to Shane should burn the money instead. he really has been a major disappointment, and was expect to lead the team, along with rollins (who i would also love to see traded, need a ss? lol)but has not lead at all and if anything his negativity and bitching have hurt the team (he has been bitching at the media of late bc he sucks).
    Saw one person say they should make a run at Hamels and they could offer Bailey or Leake and a B level prospect. You will need to offer much, much more than that. First off, and i pray this happens, the phils are gonna make a big push to sign Cole. If this doesnt happen he will be dealt. there is a rumor that the rangers have offered their top pitching prospect, their top 3b prospect, who is ML ready and is projected to be not an allstar but an above avg 3b, David Murphy their starting LF, a decent of prospect in AA and a very highly touted SS that is i believe 19 and in A ball who couldnt get here quick enough to take Rollins job. So just by looking at that im sure u now see Leake or Bailey and another prospect is not close to enough for Cole. Also Cole is looking for 24+ mil a year and wants 7 years if u were thinking what it would cost to trade for him then resign him.
    Sorry for making this so long but just thought i would give you guys some insight and possibly the bad news if u were to make a trade for Vic or Juan. Have always liked the reds so hope they have a good rest of teh season

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