White Sox

A.J. Pierzynski is really good at preventing runs

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A.J. Pierzynski is really good at preventing runs

A few weeks ago, Tony Andracki and I sparked a debate when we chose Geovany Soto over A.J. Pierzynski on our all-Chicago team of the 2000's. Our reasoning was as follows: Soto's the better offensive and defensive catcher, while Pierzynski wins in the realm of incalculable intangibles. His handling of a pitching staff -- which has earned rave reviews -- fell into that intangible category.

But thanks to the research of Baseball Prospectus' Max Marchi, Pierzynski's ability to handle a pitching staff has been quantified. And it's very impressive.

Since 1948, only five catchers have been better at preventing runs from scoring than Pierzynski. That may seem off, since he's never rated well as a defensive catcher. In fact, one rating system pegged him as the fourth-worst in baseball last year, taking into account throwingfielding errors, caught stealings, wild pitches and passed balls.

So Pierzynski's ranking on the Baseball Prospectus list is telling as to just how good he is at handling a pitching staff. Ahead of Pierzynski on the list: Tony Pena, Mike Scioscia, Javy Lopez, Mike Piazza and Carlton Fisk. That's impressive company. Piazza was a much better defensive catcher (especially at blocking pitches in the dirt) than people remember, while Pena, Scioscia and Fisk were all good-to-elite defensive catchers in their own right.

But here's where things get interesting: Javy Lopez never rated as a good defensive catcher, at least by the usual caught stealingball in dirt metrics. In fact, per FanGraphs' defensive values behind the plate, he rates as 15 runs below average for his career. Pierzynski rates as -16 runs below average by the same standard.

So could the fact that Lopez and Pierzynski were blessed to play for two of the best pitching coaches in baseball -- Leo Mazzone and Don Cooper -- have anything to do with the ranking?

Probably, but the extent of Cooper's influence on Pierzynski may not be as great as we think. Marchi looked at the top 10 managers who most helped their pitchers and catchers, and Ozzie Guillen -- who had Cooper as his pitching coach for every one of his eight years with the Sox -- didn't make the cut.

And Pierzynski's ability to prevent runs over his career didn't all stem from his days with the Twins and Giants -- over the last three years, only Jose Molina has prevented more runs behind the plate than Pierzynski, per Marchi's analysis.

So perhaps it's time we re-think our stance on Pierzynski. Nobody's going to confuse him with Yadier Molina defensively, but maybe we need to stop looking at him solely in terms of defense. Because when you factor in his ability to prevent runs with his handling of the pitching staff, Pierzynski is one of the best.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

In Part 2 of "Ask Us Anything" we answer the following questions: Who will be the biggest free agent the White Sox sign this off-season? What are the chances they trade Avi Garcia before the deadline? What's your assessment so far of Luis Robert?  Who's on your all-time busted prospect list? Is Omar Vizquel the next White Sox manager? Would the 1994 White Sox have won the World Series if there wasn't a strike?  What's the long term plan at third base? These questions and many more on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

If you missed Part 1 of 'Ask Us Anything', you can listen to the full episode here 

Listen to the full Part 2 of 'Ask Us Anything' at this link or in the embedded player below: 

 

White Sox catching prospect mentioned in some elite company

White Sox catching prospect mentioned in some elite company

White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins is being talked about in some elite company after a recent accomplishment.

Collins participated in the Southern League Home Run Derby in Double-A earlier this evening for the Birmingham Barons, and he secured his first career home run derby win.

Now, this is cool, thanks to NBC Sports Chicago’s stats guru Chris Kamka: Dating way back to 1895, Babe Ruth was born on Feb. 6, 1895. Collins was born on the same day as Ruth, but 100 years later.

It’s still way too early to make any sort of comparisons, but it’s a fun way to connect the two.

Collins so far this season is hitting .267 with 9 HR, 33 RBI’s and 59 BB in 62 games. Those walks lead the Southern League. The next highest is 39.

Collins is hitting much better than he did when he was with Single-A Winston-Salem last season. Collins hit a mere .233 in 101 games.

Think about this too. Rick Hahn mentioned several White Sox prospects will get promotions in the coming days. Could this mean Collins will get his opportunity? We’ll just have to wait and see.