That’s Phillies manager Charlie Manuel showing John Mayberry Jr. the angle at which he wants him to hold the bat, and how he should “load up”. It’s a phrase Manuel likes to use about how a batter gets ready to swing. It harkens to the Old West, when gunslingers loaded their weapons. Junior is one of those enigmatic players who seems to have all the tools, yet just doesn’t put it together consistently at the major league level. The Phillies are counting on him this year because of injuries to marquee players.
Here is Juan Pierre, this Spring’s ageless wonder story for the Phillies. At 34 years ld he’s not quite the story that Jamie Moyer or OmarVizquel have been in making clubs this spring. But there’s a real good chance that the Phillies are taking Pierre up North when they break camp on Monday as Mayberry insurance. Here’s where a few stats come into play.
The Phils have a perennial leadoff hitter, Jimmy Rollins, who was signed over the winter to a three year contract. The problem is, Rollins doesn’t hit like a leadoff hitter. The key statistic for a leadoff hitter is OBP, or On-Base Percentage, with the average figure being around .330. Rollins doesn’t lead off very well, whether it’s at the outset of the game for which his OBP is .306, or at the beginning of an inning for which is OBP is .301. Juan Pierre does much better in the leadoff spot, with an OBP of .338 at the outset of a game, and .333 at the beginning of an inning. On the other hand, Rollins does a much better job getting on base when there are runners on ahead of him. In 196 ABs last year with runners on, Rollins OBP is .390. In fact, if you’re thinking that it makes sense to move Rollins down in the lineup and help drive some runs in, take a look at what happens to his stats with runners in scoring position: In 115 AB his OBP is .417. Equally if not more important, his SLG (slugging percentage) is a staggering .530.
When Juan Pierre signs his autograph these days, he inscribes after his name “16 Psalm 37”. Psalm 37:16 reads: “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.” Sounds to me like Juan Pierre is a player who is very mindful of where he is at this point in his career. He’s got the mental part of the game down a little bit better than Mayberry Jr. That is one of the beauties of seeing side stories evolve Spring Training, defying the pundits who say the games count for nothing. Mayberry struggles, Thome proves he can play 1B a bit and smack the ball around, so Manuel will probably find a way to get his star pupil some ABs at 1B, certainly against RHPs. If Mayberry struggles at the plate, clearly Pierre will see more playing time leading off, and Rollins will drop down in the lineup.