When Tony Andracki and I rolled out our Chicago All-Decade Team for 2000-2011, we figured there would be plenty of people who wouldn't agree with our decision to put Geovany Soto behind the plate over A.J. Pierzynski. Today on Chicago Tribune Live, David Kaplan, along with Fred Mitchell, Bob Foltman and Jason Goch, debated our list -- specifically, our inclusion of Soto over Pierzynski:
Mitchell's note that Pierzynski's intangibles shouldn't be overlooked is certainly fair. There's no position in baseball at which "intangibles" are more important than catcher. Plus, Pierzynski has a fine track record working with pitchers, and everyone who's thrown to him has been complimentary.
Pierzynski has won a World Series with the White Sox and has endeared himself to the fanbase, both of which count for something. But Soto still wins out, albeit narrowly.
If we're looking at three categories for evaluation, Soto wins two: offense and defense. Pierzynski easily wins the category we can't measure -- intangibles.
But offensively, Soto has been superior to Pierzysnki despite the up-and-down nature of his four full seasons in the majors. In those four years, Soto has a .254 batting average, but that's nowhere near as important as his .347 on-base percentage. His OPS over that span sits at .798, which is very good for a catcher.
In Pierzynski's seven years with the White Sox, he owns a .279 batting average. But that shouldn't be of much concern -- his .317 on-base percentage is a full 30 points lower than that of Soto. And his .730 OPS also pales in comparison.
By OPS, Soto rates above average (108), while Pierzynski rates below-average (90) offensively. So Soto wins that category.
And defensively, Soto rates better than Pierzynski. In 2011, Soto was a top 25 defensive catcher, while Pierzynski rated as the fourth-worst in baseball. While putting a value on catcher defense is still a work in progress for the statistical community, Matt Klaassen's ratings currently stand as the best we have.
Granted much of Pierzynski's lack of defensive value comes from his struggles throwing out runners, some of which isn't his fault thanks to the slow deliveries of, say, Gavin Floyd. But he rates as below-average in terms of passed balls and wild pitches, whereas Soto is above average in that category. So, using this analysis, Soto bests Pierzynski defensively.
And now we reach the subject of intangibles. This is what it comes down to: We can't place a value on intangibles, but they are important for a catcher. But because Soto won the two tangible categories, intangibles don't count as a tiebreaker.
Thus, we went with Soto over Pierzysnki. If you value Pierzynski's intangibles over Soto's offense and defense, that's a perfectly fine argument to make. Maybe that is the case. It's hard to know that, though it's an argument both of us can accept.
So that's our rebuttal to this SotoPierzynski debate. Feel free to drop either of us a line on twitter @TonyAndracki23 or @JJStankevitz and we can elaborate further, or post in the comments below and we'll get back to you.
And check back with us next week for our all-decade team for the 1990s!