Hall of Fame Case: A.J. Pierzynskiby John Lepore January 10, 2022 0 comments
A.J. Pierzynski makes his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. The catcher played for 19 seasons and logged nearly 2,000 games behind the plate. Known for being an antagonist to opposing players, Pierzynski has the longevity, but does he have the stats to back it up? Let’s take a look at his Hall of Fame case.
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Anthony John Pierzynski was selected in the third round out of High School by the Minnesota Twins in 1994. Although he made his MLB debut in 1998, he only played in 49 games over his first three seasons. In 2001, Pierzynski got to start behind the plate and over the next three seasons, he hit .301 and was an All-Star in 2002. After the 2003 season, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, and fellow Cooperstown hopeful Joe Nathan. Pierzynski played one year with the Giants and signed with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason.
In 2005, Pierzynski had a decent season, but it was in the postseason where he contributed to the White Sox World Series title. During the playoff run, the catcher went 11-for-42 with four doubles, three HRs, and even chipped in a couple of stolen bases. During his eight years on the South Side, the left-handed hitter caught over 1,000 games, had a .742 OPS, and averaged 15 HRs a year.
After 2012, Pierzynski made stops in Texas, Boston, St. Louis, and Atlanta. On April 27, 2016, he collected his 2,000th hit against the Red Sox as a member of the Braves. Pierzynski retired after that season with a .280 lifetime batting average and 188 HRs.
He is one of only 10 catchers to have 2,000 career hits which speaks to his consistency and longevity. Pierzynski caught a no-hitter (Mark Buehrle) and a perfect game (Philip Humber). His postseason performances are worth noting as he slashed .292/.367/.500 and drove in 18 runs in 32 games in his playoff career. He was a two-time All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and even got MVP votes in 2006.
While Pierzynski was good at getting under opponents’ skin, his defense wasn’t very good. He never won a Gold Glove, was below average at throwing runners out, and even led the league in passed balls in 2007. The overall numbers are decent for a catcher, but Pierzynski was slightly below average as an offensive player for his career with a 94 OPS+. He also didn’t reach a couple of significant milestones like 200 HRs or 1,000 RBIs.
Pierzynski gets a bump up for the intangibles he brought to the table. However, his numbers just aren’t on par with being a Hall of Fame catcher. He didn’t really have a peak and never stood out among league leaders or at his position. When it is all said and done, he was a solid player for a long time, but this will be his last time on the ballot.
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