ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine, who has covered A.J. Pierzynski on a daily basis in Chicago, talks about the Texas Rangers' latest acquisition. He says it's a good move for the Rangers on a one-year, $7.5 million contract. Here are Levine's thoughts on how much Pierzynski should play and what he's like in the clubhouse.
Q: What do you think is the right number of games for Pierzynski to start at catcher in 2013? What kind of defensive catcher is he?
Levine: I think 90 to 100 games should be his limit. At his age to get optimum offensive production at the plate, they should limit the games. Defensively, he still calls a great game. He is very demanding of his pitchers and calls a solid game. But some of his skills have diminished, like blocking balls. The White Sox were second in the AL in passed balls and some of it had to do with his lack of mobility behind the plate.
Q: What is Pierzynski like in the clubhouse?
Levine: He's a tireless worker and he's in there working on aerobics and weights probably earlier than any player on the team. His personality is an acquired taste. In other words, there are days when he's more gregarious towards people than others. Moody would be a description.
Q: What made him such a good hitter in 2012?
Levine: He never defined what he found, but he did say that he found some type of mechanism that allowed him to drive the ball on a more consistent basis. He did seem to have an extra 15 to 20 feet on a lot of his base hits in 2012, meaning balls that were on the warning track were going out of the park. Pierzynski's always been a strong guy, but he developed more of a home run swing in 2012.
Q: What kind of competitor is he? How hard does he work?
Levine: He's one of the better competitors I've ever seen. His thoughts are all about winning on that particular day. All players at this level concentrate on winning, but Pierzynski is a fierce competitor. He also knows the rules and the nuances of the game as well as anybody I've ever seen. For a big guy, he's one of the smarter baserunners of anyone in baseball. Not particularly swift, but astute enough to move up a base or two when he knows a particular arm isn't very strong or an outfielder is catching a ball at a angle where he can move to the next base.
Q: Anything else about Pierzynski that Ranger fans should know?
Levine: He's an interesting study because he's so smart. He's one of the smarter people and players I've met. Not just baseball, but self-educated after baseball. His IQ has to be 150 or 160. He has a tremendous mind. He has aspirations after his career of being in the media, probably, and being a big-time broadcaster. But I wouldn't be shocked if he was a manager at some point in the major leagues.
I think Texas spent their money well on a one-year deal. He's going to play hard and bring energy to the clubhouse. At 36, I'm not sure catching 100 games in the Texas weather will work. But he could catch 90 and play DH the rest of the time and help Texas.