Juan Pierre's fantastic afternoon in Colorado was reminiscent of another embattled player's performance in 2010.
On Aug. 5 of last season, Mark Kotsay played his best game of 2010. With White Sox fans still licking their wounds over missing out on Adam Dunn at the trade deadline, Kotsay continued his stranglehold on being public enemy No. 1 amongst the fanbase.
It wasn't as if the vitriol toward Kotsay was without reason. Heading into that Thursday afternoon game in Detroit, Kotsay was hitting .215/.298/.338, good for a rancid OPS of .633. That's bad for any player, but given Kotsay's role as a designated hitter/first baseman, it was even more abhorrent.
Kotsay represented everything that was wrong with the White Sox in 2010. They didn't have a designated hitter—well, they did, but Kotsay wasn't much of a hitter. Maybe a designated out-getter. Andruw Jones was still in his summer statistical valley, meaning the Sox were getting next to nothing out of a spot generally reserved for good hitters. That Jim Thome was ripping home runs left and right with Minnesota added to the frustration, with fans wondering why a certain player wasn't in Chicago while another floundered.
Pierre doesn't represent everything that's wrong with the White Sox this season—I suppose that's a dishonor reserved for Adam Dunn. But with Dunn, there's hope just based on his track record. He can't seriously be this bad a hitter, right? With Kotsay, there was no hope. He was that bad a hitter. And with Pierre, there seemingly is no hope. He's not likely to see a significant improvement off his .618 OPS heading into Thursday. Maybe he'll reach .650, around where he was last year. But that's still not good.
With Pierre, there's a replacement—this time, in the organization—who's causing a stir. Fans are wondering why Dayan Viciedo is hitting home runs left and right in Charlotte while Pierre flounders in Chicago.
Back to Aug. 5, 2010. Kotsay's afternoon started off with a single, a good start. In his next at-bat, Kotsay was struck out looking on three pitches by Max Scherzer. It seemed like more of the same. His next at-bat? Indeed, more of the same. Kotsay struck out on three pitches again, only this time, he went down swinging.
But in the top of the ninth, Kotsay came up with the Sox leading 2-1 and belted a two-run home run off Robbie Weinhardt. Thanks to Kotsay's insurance, the Sox led 4-1 going to the bottom of the ninth. Bobby Jenks gave up a three-run home run to Ryan Raburn to tie the game. It looked as if Kotsay's rare heroics would be wasted.
Skip ahead to the top of the 11th, in which Brent Lillibridge and Andruw Jones record back-to-back singles with one out. Up stepped Kotsay against Jose Valverde. The knee-jerk reaction was toward pessimism, and I know my expectation was that he'd hit into a double play or lift a soft fly ball to left field for the second out.
Instead, Kotsay ripped a triple into the deepest part of Comerica Park. Lillibridge scored. Jones scored. The Sox went on to win. Kotsay had his day.
Kotsay drove in more than one run in seven games last season. In six of those he drove in two, with Aug. 5 being the only game in which Kotsay recorded more than a pair of RBIs. Using Win Probability Added, the Aug. 5 game was by far Kotsay's best of the season.
Pierre's June 30 performance wasn't the best of his season, though. His .390 WPA puts Thursday as the second-best game of his season, with Pierre's .547 WPA May 26 in Toronto coming in first. Pierre picked up a ninth-inning two-run single (aided by an error) that ultimately won the game for the Sox.
But Pierre didn't have Viciedo breathing down his neck a month ago. That's why Thursday's performance is much more Kotsay-esque. Pierre didn't fail with the game on the line—twice. His sacrifice fly in the eighth may not have been ideal, but it tied the game at four. And it set up Pierre's next at-bat for a near-grand slam, which hit high off the right field wall at Coors Field to leave Pierre to settle for a game-winning two-run single.
Like Kotsay's game last August, Pierre's performance won the White Sox a game. But, also like Kotsay's performance last August, Thursday's game is likely to show up as an outlier on Pierre's season chart.