TBOH Spotlight: A.J. Pierzynski
The Phillies head to Atlanta tonight to take on the second place Braves. The Phillies will send Aaron Harang to the mound in the first of a three game series. Harang has been a surprise for the Phillies after signing a one-year, $5 million deal. Prior to his last start, against the St. Louis Cardinals, Harang strung together four consecutive quality starts to begin the 2015 season.
Chad Billingsley will follow Harang, starting his first major league game of the 2015 season after coming off of the 15-day disabled list. To end the series, Jerome Williams will face the Braves.
The biggest surprise of the Atlanta Braves’ 2015 season has been veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski, a 14-year veteran, was signed to a one-year, $2 million contract to serve as the backup to highly touted prospect Christian Bethancourt.
Bethancourt was ranked as the Braves #3 prospect after the 2014 season by Baseball America. After the 2013 season, he was ranked as the 69th best prospect in all of baseball. As a 22-year-old in 2014, Bethancourt got a 31 game taste of the major leagues and batted .248/.274/.548, with a horrendous 26/3 K/BB ratio.
Considered a potential gold glover behind the plate, Bethancourt has looked lost while appearing at the plate. In 40 at-bats, Bethancourt has managed a meager .175/.214/.464 slash line which prompted the Braves to turn over full-time catching duties to Pierzynski.
Pierzynski’s offense has been off the charts this year. In his first 13 games, he managed a hit. He has also added three homeruns and 14 runs batted in to go along with a nice line of .377/.400/1.004. We know that these type of numbers will not last the entire season due to his diminishing skills, but some fail to remember that Pierzynski was an above average offense player at his position with career numbers of .282/.321/.746.
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In 2013, his last full season of full-time catching duty, Pierzynski hit 17 homeruns for the Rangers while slashing his way to a .272/.297/.722 season. Those were pretty good numbers for an at the time 36-year-old backstop.
Pierzynski went 0-4 in his last start. That fact, coupled with his struggles against the three Phillies starters this week may spell the end for his 2015 success. Harang and Pierzynski have faced each other 13 times and Pierzynski has only come away with three hits.
He has faced Billingsley only a handful of times (6 PA) and has registered one homerun against him. Williams has had the best success against Pierzynski by basically owning him in 17 plate appearances. Williams has only allowed three hits against Pierzynski, striking him out twice.
For the last 13 games, Pierzynski has been a very valuable offensive weapon for the Braves. However, if history repeats itself, he should not be much of a factor against any of the Phillies starters for this three game series. The Phils certainly are hoping that will be the outcome.