Back in the winter when The Great Honey Baked Ham Free Agency Report occurred, most of the focus of that moment was on the absurdity of some random Braves fan using his father as a source to break some free agency news. Nobody was really excited about the main subject of that news: Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
The expectations for Pierzynski coming into this season were about as low as an ant on the ground. I said as much in the aforementioned article:
The hope here is that in his spot starts and appearances off the bench, Pierzynski won't be a complete dumpster fire and that Bethancourt can learn from the long-time veteran. As long as that happens and the money isn't too much (considering this is a 1-year deal, it probably won't be), this isn't that bad of a signing. The worst case scenario? Bethancourt stinks and Pierzynski gets thrust into an more-than-just-a-spot-start role. That would be a mess.
Now, fast forward to July 2015, and we can tell you right now that 1) This has, in fact, not been that bad of a signing and 2) "Not that bad of a signing" is probably underselling the contribution that Pierzynski has made to the team this season.
The "worst case scenario" that I referred to in that article came to fruition: Christian Bethancourt never really adjusted to life in the majors in his first run as starting catcher for the Braves, and now he's currently trying to get things together in Gwinnett. If you told me back in December that this would happen, then I would've told you that the Braves' would be in a state of emergency at this point. However, A.J. Pierzynski has actually done a good enough job in his role as "more-than-a-spot-starter."
At this point in the season, Pierzynski is currently hitting .289/.323/.455 with a wOBA of .336, a wRC+ of 115, and six home runs, to boot. Those numbers have been given a healthy boost in the past month. Since June 1st, Pierzynski's been hitting .317/.343/.510, with his wOBA at .368 and his wRC+ is at 136. Even though his BABIP over that period is at .323, his BABIP for the season is .293, which is middle of the road. He may be having a better time of it when it comes to putting the ball in play as of late, but he's hardly been lucky over the course of the season so far. Either way you put it, those are all acceptable batting numbers for a Major League catcher.
On the other side of the plate, while nobody's expecting AJP to be out there gunning down potential base-stealers with ease, he's been decent defensively. In 54 appearances this season, Pierzynski only has two passed balls to his name. Comparatively, Christian Bethancourt had five passed balls in 27 appearances. Admittedly, that's a bit of a selective stat considering that Bethancourt still has gobs of potential and could still become an extremely solid defensive catcher, but it's still proof that Pierzynski has been reliable behind the plate this season.
Pierzynski has already been worth 1.2 fWAR this season, which is a far cry from the mess of a season he had in 2014 and he's currently on pace to have one of his best seasons since that random 2012 season with the White Sox in which he compiled 3.5 fWAR. At the very least, he might come close to hitting that number, but as of right now, he's already outperformed all expectations.
Of course, there's no way that Pierzynski is going to be the permanent answer to the question of catcher for the Braves. He's still 38-years old and clearly on the tail end of his career, and the Braves are actively trying to figure out a way to address the future of this position. But at the very least, the man's done a decent job as starting catcher for the Braves in 2015, especially considering that this shouldn't have been his role this season. Not bad for a signing that came straight from Honey Baked Ham, right?