Pierre not bothered with OBP issues
Center fielder focused on doing little things to help team win
LOS ANGELES -- What is it about the on-base percentage that a player like Juan Pierre -- who leads the Dodgers in at-bats, runs scored, hits, stolen bases, triples and games played -- gets knocked for not having his higher than .350?
Pierre has been one of the most consistent players in the Dodgers lineup this season. He plays every day (395 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the Majors), makes diving catches in center field on a regular basis and steals second just about every time he gets on base, yet his OBP evidently isn't cutting it.
He's batted in four different spots in the lineup this season. When he's hitting well, he's in the leadoff or No. 2 slot, but when he's slumping, manager Grady Little hasn't hesitated putting Pierre in the seventh or eighth slot.
For Pierre, the criticism and constant reminders about his OBP is nothing new. In seven years in the Majors, he has put together a great resume including, a .350 OBP, but according to Pierre, it's brought up every year and it's always the same thing.
"When I'm hitting good, my on-base percentage is high and that's just the way it is," Pierre said. "The Dodgers knew that before I came here. It is what it is. I just go out there and play the game, and I don't get caught up in all of this."
The issue with Pierre is that he doesn't walk. Plain and simple, his OBP suffers because he averages one walk every 21 at-bats. On the season, he has just 24 walks in 510 at-bats, which is the lowest in the Majors. On the flip side, Pierre doesn't strike out often, either. He has struck out just 32 times this season, which is once every 15.9 at-bats, making him the hardest batter to strike out in the Senior Circuit.
Put those two numbers together and you get Pierre's game. Pierre is a speedy, slap-hitter, who puts the ball in play just about every time he goes to the plate and when he gets on base, he disrupts everything. Since 2001, Pierre has the most hits in the Majors (1,329) behind only Ichiro Suzuki. Over that same span, he has stolen 368 bases, which is more than any other player in the Majors.
This season, Pierre leads the Dodgers with 147 hits. He is fifth in the NL with 45 multi-hit games, he leads the Majors with 14 sacrifice bunts and he's second in the Majors only to Jose Reyes with 50 stolen bases, and yet his OBP supposedly isn't cutting it.
"He's a disruptive force when's he's on base," Little said. "The other team has to be concerned with him regularly and it disrupts the pitcher. The whole key is for him to get on base and that's what we like."
Pierre's lack of walks isn't because he's an undisciplined hitter. In fact, he rarely chases balls out of the strike zone and more often than not, pitchers challenge Pierre because they don't want to give him a free pass knowing how disruptive he is once he gets on base.
Pierre has a theory to why he doesn't walk as much as other guys. He said pitchers know, first of all, that he isn't going to hit the ball out of the park and secondly, they don't want to give him a free pass because they know he'll probably end up at second base, so to a pitcher a walk to Pierre is like giving up a double.
"I think moreso they know I'm not going to hit the ball out of the park and that's why they're not afraid to throw a fastball right down the middle when they fall behind 2-0," said Pierre, who has stolen 18 consecutive bases without being caught. "What am I'm going to do, go up there and take all the time? I feel I have a better chance getting a hit than a walk, and the number's show that."
Compared to some of the elite leadoff batters in the game, Pierre's .324 on-base percentage is considerably low. Reyes has an OBP of .375, Hanley Ramirez is at .392, Chone Figgins is at .392 and Ichiro is at .396, so the consensus is that a No. 1 or 2 hitter in the lineup needs to have a .350 or higher OBP.
But like Pierre said, "It is what it is." He's not going to change his style of play. Pierre is one of the most exciting players in the game, and with the emphasis in the Majors on hitting homers and driving in runs, Pierre's game gets lost in the shuffle.
Whether his OBP is at .324 or .350, Pierre will continue to do the small things for the Dodgers. He bunts, he steals bases, he legs out triples and robs balls in the outfield, yet he'll constantly be scrutinized because he doesn't get on base enough -- that's just the way it's going to be.
"As long as you play this game, someone is always going to find something to complain about. For me, it's the on-base percentage, just the way they say I can't hit home runs," Pierre said. "It's almost like a catch-22 because the more I put the ball in play, the better chance I have to get on base. I know it's been a knock my whole career. But it is what is."
Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.