Pearce earning his keep

Last night, John Perrotto wrote that Steve Pearce is running out of opportunities at the major league level. I felt Pearce had been doing pretty well since being recalled from Triple-A, so I decided to look at his numbers.

Obviously, there is a sample size issue with all of these stats. Pearce has just 62 plate appearances this season, 48 of which have come during his most recent stint with the Pirates. For the year, he is hitting an unimpressive .226/.339/.415. However, since rejoining the Pirates on July 23 and receiving regular playing time at first base, he has hit .268/.375/.488, very solid numbers. He has a walk rate of 14.5% (very good) and a strike out rate of 34.0% (very bad) this season. Of his 12 hits, eight have gone for extra bases.

Pearce’s biggest downfall to this point in his career has been an inability to lay off pitches outside the strike zone, particularly breaking balls. Thus, I was very surprised to see that he has offered at only 13.9% of pitches outside the zone, well below the league average of 25.1%. That is a very encouraging sign. Opposing pitchers are clearly testing him, as he is seeing fastballs on just 42.7% of all pitches, and only 47.6% of pitches have been located inside the strike zone. Pitchers are trying to entice Pearce to chase, and he has stood his ground to this point. However, his contact percentage is just 67.4%, well below average (80.6%). He must improve on that number if he is to have success.

Pearce was on the bench for the third time in seven games last night. He entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth, doubled in a run, and came around to score on an error. He has looked like a different hitter to me this time around, and I would be disappointed if the Pirates pulled the plug on him too early. Pearce, like anyone that mans first base for the Pirates, is likely just a placeholder until Pedro Alvarez arrives on the scene. But I don’t think his performance warrants a removal from the lineup right now or in the near future.

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