Bob Nightengale on a few players who have come out of nowhere to play big roles for their clubs:
- DETROIT -- They opened the season as role players but have been lifesavers, rescuing their teams in times of need.
The Los Angeles Dodgers cringe when considering where they would be without Juan Pierre, the forgotten outfielder of a year ago, who is now hitting like Ted Williams.
Pierre is not only contributing to the Dodgers and their best record in baseball, but thriving as Manny Ramirez's replacement.
Pierre is hitting .410 in the 24 games since Ramirez was suspended last month for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy.
Ummm, yeah. Mike Fontenot's hitting .231/.310/.395. He's one of the many reasons the Cubs, preseason favorites, are currently in fourth place. Nick Green's been surprisingly decent with the stick, but the available evidence suggests that he's not really a shortstop; there's a reason he opened the season No. 3 on the ol' depth chart.
Juan Pierre, though? Now there's a story. Eight Dodgers have more than 125 plate appearances. Four of those players are in their 20s, and -- with the exception of MannyB -- it's those four players who were supposed to carry the Dodger attack this season.
Well, three of those young players have been disappointing. Russell Martin (85) and James Loney (89) both have sub-90 OPS+'s, while Andre Ethier's 109 is just modestly acceptable for a corner outfielder. Among the young ones, only Matt Kemp (124) is enjoying a legitimately good season.
The veterans, though? Rafael Furcal's been awful, but the other vets have been outstanding, from Orlando Hudson (130) to Casey Blake (139) to -- especially -- the amazing Mr. Pierre, who entered the season with a career mark of 84 but currently is sitting at 144.
Can he keep it up? Of course he can't. But he doesn't have to. He's already done his job about a million times better than we thought he could, and so from this moment forward, every hit is just gravy (or frosting, or a cherry on top, or whatever your favorite might be). He's Juan Pierre: Savior.