Miami Marlins: Is Juan Pierre Losing The Battle To Father Time?


Apr 6, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Juan Pierre (9) collides with New York Mets catcher John Buck (back) after scoring a run during the seventh inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Father Time is undefeated against baseball players (and everyone else for that matter).  His endurance is unparalleled and his perseverance is unrivaled, he always ends up winning. Juan Pierre has waged a great battle against this insurmountable opponent through age 35, but could we be finally witnessing his inevitable defeat as the years have caught up to him?

Pierre has had a long and remarkably successful career when you consider that he is basically a one tool player.  His only tool being the most fragile and fleeting one, speed.  Players of this type tend to flame out quickly, if they make it at all, just ask JP’s good buddy Chone Figgins.  Yet through his outstanding work ethic and the maximization of his limited skills, Pierre has found a way to continue to be a positive contributor throughout most of his career.  Written off as done by several teams, he always seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time.  Whether it was filling in for a terrific half season with the Dodgers while Manny Ramirez served a suspension or forcing his way into the lineup with the Phillies last season when their favored LF options failed to produce.  Pierre has shown he can seize an opportunity.

I expected more of the same when he signed with the Marlins to be their everyday LF, but he has gotten off to a disappointing start to this season.  His batting average is below .200 and he has drawn just 1 walk.  This past week he struck out 3 times in a game on consecutive days.  He had struck out 3 times in a game only 4 times in his 14 year career prior to that.  Even his defense has been suspect as he has misplayed fly balls and thrown to the wrong base.  Has age really caught up to Pierre finally or is this just an early season funk that seems to have also affected the rest of the Marlins hitters?  Let’s turn to the numbers to see what they tell us.

The signs that Age is winning

Pierre’s slash line currently stands at a miserable .194/.227/.236 and he has contributed 3 steals while being caught only once.  His walk rate (BB%) is at an alarmingly low 1.3% (1 walk in 77 plate appearances), while he has never been one to walk much he did have a 5.2% walk rate just last season.  The other alarming number is his 14.3% strike out rate (K%), Pierre’s worst season in terms of K rate was just 8.1% and that was in 2002. He has not been above even 7% in any other season and last season he struck out just 6.2% of the time.

As you would expect with all the strike outs, Pierre’s overall contact rate (Ct%) is at a career low 89% as compared to 93% last season and 94% for his career.  He seems to be having a particularly tough time making contact with pitches out of the strike zone, where his out of the zone contact rate (O-Ct%) is just 80% this season compared to 88% last season.  His contact rate on strikes is also down, but the difference is only 94% this season vs. 96% last year.  Pierre’s swinging strike % (SwSt%) overall is also up to 7% from 5% last season. Could it be that he just can’t catch up to those pitches outside the strike zone anymore and he is finished as a hitter?
















The signs that JP still has some fight left in him

While things may look dim for Pierre right now, we need to keep in mind that it has only been 77 plate appearances.  His Batting Avg. on Balls in Play (BABIP) is only .230 at the moment, but was .327 last season and .313 lifetime suggesting that Pierre has merely been unlucky when he does make contact.  BABIP tends to return to established levels over time for most hitters.  Once BABIP returns to its normal level, so will the rest of his numbers.  To further enhance the notion that he has been unlucky, we can point to his Line Drive % (LD%), currently at 26%, which would be a career high for a season and compares to 24% last season.  As more of those liners find holes in the defense, the hits will start pile up.

Juan has also encountered less than his usual number of hitter’s counts so far.  His at bats have had 2-0 and 3-1 counts only 4% of the time each while his career marks are 12% and 8% respectively.  As he encounters more hitter’s counts, pitchers will be forced to throw more pitches in the strike zone that he can handle.




2-0 Ct %

3-1 Ct %











Personally, I am going to side with the notion that this is merely a slump that has affected not only Juan, but several other Marlins hitters (ahem…this means you Giancarlo Stanton).  Once his luck regresses back to normal levels and his confidence grows some, JP will be back to the hitter we expected to see.  While he may have lost a step, I just don’t see him falling off a cliff Figgins-style as it currently appears that he has done.  Luckily for him, the Marlins are currently lacking in suitable replacements so he should continue to see his name on the line up card for the immediate future and have the opportunity to prove me right.

Do you think this is the end of the line for Marlin fan favorite Juan Pierre or can he still rebound in 2013?