What to do with AJ Pierzynski? The boys didn’t get into the October post season, so immediately questions turned to the off season plans. So far, a little movement has been made in that Jake Peavy was resigned, but still there is the question of should the team re-sign AJ or go with another back stop? AJ filed for free agency as soon as he could and clearly as the season played on, he knew he would be a free agent.
In 2012 he has had an absolutely amazing season with career numbers. He has even managed to improve his ability to throw out runners. Oh and he will be 36 next month so it isn’t like this improvement and career year he had is leading into his prime. No, AJ is well past his prime and theoretically should not have had the kind of season he did. Especially when you consider that he is playing catcher. While catcher isn’t the most demanding position on the field (that is short stop) it does put a ton of wear and tear on a guy.
One thing that is evident about AJ is that he is amazingly durable. In each of the past dozen or so years, he has caught at least 1,000 innings behind the plate. He has only had one disabled list stint and that was during the 2011 season. Which again, leads back to just how amazing his run in baseball has been. So the question remains, should the Sox bring him back or go with someone else? I talked with Reva and Jen about their thoughts and I will also give you my thoughts on whether AJ should be back next season. What do you think? Let us know in the comments because, let’s face it, this is a hot topic this off season.
AJ and Paulie are really the heart of the team – sure, AJ has the reputation for being an a-hole, but he is still a fan favorite. Why? Because he has the heart and the talent – sure he’s not perfect, he can barely throw out baserunners at times, but he has really helped the young pitchers succeed beyond expectations this year, [had] a career year himself, and we cannot count on Tyler Flowers (yet). AJ has caught a no-hitter, perfect game and World Series – Tyler has caught a cold from whiffing too much (sorry, I guess I have the Mighty Ducks on the brain this morning). Anyway, if [Rick] doesn’t find a way to bring him back it will be a huge blow – losing a key leader on the team, a mentor, and a fan favorite
I adore AJ Pierzynski (which should be obvious since I am, after all, AJRoxMyWhiteSox). I like him so much that my iPad finishes Pierzynski after only four letters. That’s how much I write about him on this blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
Putting my personal bias aside temporarily, I think it would be foolish to not re-sign him[.] While Tyler Flowers has been improving, he’s not ready to be the everyday catcher for the Sox. He still has some work to do. If we put all our chips on Flowers and he fails, what do we have left? I honestly cannot tell you the names of any of our catchers on any of our minor league teams.
AJ works hard, and he’s talented. He loves this game, this team, and this city. He’s specifically said he wants to retire as a White Sox. He’ll be 36 in December. For baseball standards, he’s starting to get up there in age, but he hasn’t started slowing down. This is one of the best seasons he has ever had.
Re-signing him will cost a bit more this year, but AJ is more than worth it. In his entire career, he has had one DL stint, and that was last year. He is durable, and he wants to be out on the field every day. What more could you ask for?
Bringing my personal bias back in, I will cry ugly tears if he’s gone.
My attachment to AJ is deeper than most people to their favorite player. My life changed drastically because of him. My first baseball game was in San Francisco in 2004. Where AJ played. I thought he was cute, so I started watching baseball. (I was 18, and hot guys were more important than the sport at the time…so sue me.) I moved to Chicago for college a month later and picked the White Sox as my team to follow. That offseason, my favorite player signed with the White Sox.
Because I followed AJ, I taught myself the rules of the game. Everything I know, I learned by myself. Except sabermetrics since I’m still learning that. Because I followed AJ, I decided to switch from family law to sports law when I went to law school. I found out I hated law school after a year and came home to Chicago. Where I enrolled in DePaul and received my Master’s degree in journalism in June. My concentration was their new sports journalism concentration. Without AJ, I never would have fallen in love with this sport, and I never would have made it my dream job. [ ]
AJ has done so much for this team and for me that seeing him go before he is ready to retire would be heartbreaking. This team needs him for at least another year before Flowers is ready to take over, and AJ isn’t ready to go yet.
I love what [Jen] wrote [ ]and agree with everything.
I moved to Chicago in 2007 and was told I had to pick a team, Cubs or Sox. But I stuck w[ith] Red because that was the only MLB team I’d ever thought to root for. In October of 2010 I started a new job with Silver Chalice. We’re owned by Jerry Reinsdorf. Before we became our own separate entity, I was a Sox employee (for like 2 months, but it was still cool to have paycheck stubs that said White Sox on them) and worked out of the stadium until November of 2011- so that’s what resulted in my now fanatical obsession – being a part of the WS family has been amazing.
Some days I got to go out and watch batting practice. The organization is very generous with tickets and I’ve gone to more games these past two seasons than I did in the previous four baseball seasons of living here (Cubs games included). We’re in the West Loop now so I’m never at the stadium anymore unless for a game, but I still consider myself a part of the family. I agree AJ is hot – hello, I waited thru some lame-ass Nike softball classic earlier in the summer just to get my picture taken with him. Totally worth it, too. Team AJ!!!!!
I’ll be honest, sometimes I really hate AJ. When he was not a member of the White Sox, he was a charter member of the P.A.B. club of players for me (which is currently front-lined by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer), especially since he was playing for the Twins. This is just to say that he was irritating because when he would do stuff, it would drive you nuts, but more often than not, he was actually right about a play. So you really wanted to have players like that on your team. When he became a member of the Sox, I definitely warmed up to him. I had to because he was part of my favorite team.
I will always love what AJ did for the 2005 team. Getting to watch a championship of my favorite team was amazing, but all good things must end. I know that AJ was an integral part of the team. However if you look at things, that team is gone. Only Paul Konerko remains along with AJ if he is resigned.
Generally when looking at backstops, they are classified in two categories: an offensive backstop or a defensive backstop. AJ clearly falls into the prior category. As he has demonstrated this past season, he is great with the stick. I don’t think he is all that great as a defensive catcher however. He calls an okay game behind the plate. The past couple of years, I think his game calling has taken a bit of a dip. This given his disagreements with Jake Peavy and also how games tend to go when Gavin Floyd is pitching.
With Jake, it is easy to dismiss it as Jake has been known to say he prefers to call his own game and throw what he wants when he wants. With Gavin, the issues have more to do with Gavin’s slow delivery to the plate. Which also leads to another reason why AJ is not that great of a defensive catcher. AJ just isn’t very good at throwing runners out. The problem lies as much with him as it does with the pitchers being slow in throwing the ball to the plate. If a pitcher is slow in throwing a ball to home plate, it cuts down significantly on the opportunity that a catcher has to make a good solid throw to get a base stealer at second base.
With Gavin, it is expected that catchers won’t have much of a chance, but Gavin has improved upon that this season. However, this is a problem that AJ had even when he caught guys like Mark Buehrle. If you have ever watched Mark, you know he is quick to the plate. Aside from the pitchers being slow to home plate, AJ has a problem with ball transfer. He doesn’t do it very well and that extra moment it takes for him to transfer the ball from glove to throwing hand is enough to allow most runners to get in easily to second or third base.
And he is getting old. As mentioned previously, AJ will be 36 next season. In baseball terms, he is old. And for a catcher, he is ancient. Granted he has managed to keep playing and at a high level, but it is not unreasonable to think that he may break down fairly quickly next season. This considering he is not a guy who likes to take days off. Generally the only time AJ has a day off is when there is a really tough lefty pitcher on the mound or it is a situation where there is a night game followed by a day game.
So if the Sox don’t bring him back, do they just go with Tyler as the every day backstop? Or do they go with a free agent who will cost less than AJ Pierzynski? Let’s start with free agents.
If you have not looked at that list, you aren’t missing anything. As of Nov 20, the guys on that list include Rod Barajas, Russell Martin, Mike Napoli, and Miguel Olivo. There are other names, but none that get you all excited. As I look at that list, I notice a couple of things. One, the guys are mostly old. Second, they are a bunch of dudes who are backups. Russell Martin is 30, but he has had a history of injury (specifically back issues.) Injury problems out of your catcher is not good since you need that guy out there a lot. Mike Napoli has never been one to impress me despite him only being 31. Miguel Olivo was ok, but again, nothing to excite you about. The other guys are roughly 33 and older. Maybe they might work as a short term solution if you know that one of your AA or AAA guys needs just a bit more seasoning before becoming the next best thing at catcher.
Is there a guy like that for the Sox? Who knows. Names we hear are Josh Phegley and of course, Tyler Flowers. As for Tyler, we know one thing for sure about him. He is not the first guy you call on in a pinch hitting situation. Did he do much with the stick when he played? No, but then again, it does take some guys longer to get their timing at the plate and be consistent with it. If you are one of those guys, playing once every 9-10 days isn’t going to help you with that. No matter how much time you spend hitting in the cage or in batting practice.
And maybe because we are so clouded with every single position must produce mentality that we now value having a guy who hits the ball more than one who handles the pitching staff well and makes the team strong up the middle (i.e., fantastic defense from the catcher, second base, short stop and center field positions.)
Yes, AJ did a good job handling the young pitching staff in 2012. But, at times I think he was overrated in that department. There was not a lot of difference in the games between when he caught versus Tyler catching and South Side Asylum did a great breakdown of this a bit ago.
Given the amount of money that AJ is going to command, the fact that he might want to be closer to his kids who are getting older and that you won’t know what you have until you really test it, I don’t see a problem with giving the job to Tyler and saying thank you AJ, but it is time we move on. Is it ideal? No, but then again, a certain former GM really didn’t do much as far as fans can see to prepare for such eventualities when it comes to developing players. Can you name the last position player he has truly developed?
So what do you dear SSHG reader think? Agree with Jen and Reva or are you ready to become Team Tyler fans? Or perhaps you have another guy in mind. Let us know in the comments. We want to know as clearly we don’t agree on who should be the backstop for 2013. And watching this play out will be interesting.