Manny Who? Juan Pierre Is The Man

Eleven days ago the question was, “How will the Dodgers replace Manny Ramirez’s bat in the lineup?”

How about with Juan Pierre?

Since Pierre stepped in as the regular left fielder after Ramirez was suspended, he is hitting .465 and has added six stolen bases. On the season, the slappy singles hitter has a .541 slugging percentage. He may not provide the eye-popping power of Ramirez, but he is providing runs.

Nobody saw this coming. Last season Pierre was so unimpressive — hitting .283 and barely ever drawing a walk — that, long after Dodger fans had been calling for the move, veteran-loving manager Joe Torre went with the youth movement in the outfield rather than play Pierre. At $10 million a year, he was an overpriced backup.

Before the season (and after Manny was signed) Pierre’s agent looked for a trade but found no reasonable takers. When Ramirez was banned and Torre was forced to give Pierre a starting spot, he batted him ninth behind the pitcher first game.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballpark.

Pierre is now impressively batting leadoff for a Dodgers team that has gone with speed at the top of the order (Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson follow Pierre to the plate). Who knows if this will last — statistical nerds would say he is going to “regress to the mean” while the rest of us would say he just can’t keep this up.

But if he can, or even stay close, until early July the Dodgers may be able to thank Pierre in large part for a trip to the playoffs.

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