Position Roundtables: #1 Starter

Dave · March 16, 2005 at 7:02 am · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables 

Dave: #1 Starter: Joel Pineiro

This spot, the opening day starter, the ace of the staff, is the
team’s biggest weakness. Compared to other teams with playoff
aspirations, our best starting pitcher often pales in comparison to
their best starting pitcher. New York has Randy Johnson. Boston has
Curt Schilling. Minnesota has Johan Santana. Oakland has Rich Harden
or Barry Zito. Anaheim has Kelvim Escobar or Bartolo Colon. In
almost any potential playoff matchup, we’re just outgunned in game

We like Joel Pineiro. He was a good pitcher in 2002 and 2003. He’s
still young and has pretty good stuff, though I’d argue that he lacks
a true outpitch. But if he’s the best starting pitcher on your staff,
well, the two through five guys better be pretty good too.

From 2002-2004, Pineiro’s road numbers per 9 innings: 9.42 hits, 2.64
walks, 1.14 home runs, 6.78 strikeouts, 4.45 earned runs.

That’s just not a number one starter on a team that wants to contend.
Pineiro has benefited greatly from pitching half his games in Safeco
Field, and his raw numbers don’t reveal that, through his first three
major league seasons, he’s been a middle of the rotation starter. You
want him on your staff, but you don’t want him starting game one of a
playoff series.

And that’s the healthy Joel Pineiro. Which we don’t really have right
now. He missed the second half of 2004 with an undiagnosed elbow
injury. He’s been shut down in spring training due to soreness in his
throwing shoulder. When a kid who threw 550 innings from ages 23-25
suddenly comes down with a sore elbow and shoulder, surgery is
basically inevitable. The question isn’t really if Pineiro is going
to need to have to have his arm worked on; its when.

Before this team is going to contend for the playoffs, they are simply
going to have to find a better #1 starting pitcher. Joel Pineiro just
isn’t it, and we’d better start preparing for the possibility of not
having Pineiro at all.

Jeff: The more I think about this rotation, the less I like it, and Pineiro
is the primary reason why.

Not because I’m not a booster of Joel himself, but because he has to
be as good or better as he was in 2002 an 2003 in order for the team
to contend barring unforeseen circumstances. With health problems
looming, even getting a comparable performance from that vintage would
be good news, and the “great leap forward” scenario doesn’t seem
likely at all.

Without getting ahead of the roundtable schedule, Dave is right that
this lack of a true No. 1 pitcher does put pressure on the rest of the
rotation. Ironically, in a playoff series, it seems like a team
without an ace might benefit by not having the top guy start game one
— though just getting the Mariners into playoff series in 2004 will
be, ahem, a challenge.

What’s the over-under on someone mentioning the possibility of Felix
in the rotation taking the league by storm, becoming the truly
dominant force the rotation has lacked since Randy Johnson? I’ll take
three hours. This paragraph and the one that follows don’t count.

The vexing thing is that there are two potential impact starters in
the system. One is a teenager; one is being groomed for the bullpen
and had Tommy John surgery last year.

Now isn’t time to revisit the “try Rafael Soriano in the rotation”
discussion, but Pineiro would look a lot better as the No. 3 starter
behind King Felix and Regal Raffy in 2006 or so than he does as the
current heir to Jamie Moyer’s throne.

Maybe that’s as likely as me finding the map to the Big Rock Candy
Mountain, but a guy can dream.

Derek: On Soriano; if the move to put him in the bullpen was part of a plan
to try and preserve his arm, which had bugged him on and off during his
ascent up the minors, then I understand. But once he’s gone under the
knife and he’s back, I’d like to see him get regular, closely-monitored
starts to build his strength back up with an eye to getting him in the

The 2002-2003 Pineiro’s a good pitcher. The problem I see is that let’s
say they only get 150 innings out of Pineiro. Where does the patch come
from? Villone? When we talk about Pineiro’s value over replacement
player, that’s not far off. With all the question marks in the rotation
and the little available talent that could step up, the team isn’t far
off having the kind of problems they faced last year, where they look to
their young pitchers for volunteers and everyone but (say) Thornton
takes one step back.

Each of the question guys — Joel, Jamie, Gil — will swing the season a
couple games, but together they’ll make or break this year entirely. If
Joel’s healthy and effective, even if that’s just the 2002 version and
he doesn’t make improvements, there’s a little more room for Jamie and
Gil to struggle. And if Jamie returns to form, then Gil could really
suck it up and the team could still get to 80 wins.

But if Joel breaks down early, or if he’s never quite right, the dominos
start to fall.

I looked up his 2005 PECOTA card and it’s a strange bunch, though it’s worth noting that
his similarity index means that his career path so far is fairly common.
Wade Miller was the closest comparison, which is interesting… Miller
was 27 last year. After that it’s Lynn McGlothen, Billy Loes, Bill
Monbouquette… 6 and 7 are Chan Ho Park and Pedro Astacio. My point
here is that looking at Pineiro’s career and those who had similar
careers — and there are many — support for me Dave’s contention, that
he’s not an ace, and he’s not going to be an ace.

Now, on that — I don’t think that there’s a particular value of having
an ace — to me, the job of every starting pitcher, 1-5, is to start
games, and the only real distinction is that in the playoffs, you can
jettison the #5 booster rocket and maybe the #4 as well, depending on
scheduling. If I was offered a chance to have one super ace at #1 and
two okay guys or three good pitchers, all of who would in total
contribute the same number of innings and perform the same over those
innings in total, I wouldn’t care which one you took.

In the playoffs, putting those two rotations against each other comes
out even — the advantage of the ace over the good guy is counteracted
by the advantage of the two other good guys.

So three, four 2002 Joels is okay with me. The larger issue is, as Dave
pointed out, how you get the team from good to great, and particularly
the rotation. King Felix is one part. I’d like to think Soriano is
another, but… we’ll see. Joel can be a contributor to that, but he has
to be healthy, and he’s not the franchise. If the team had the chance,
right now, to trade Pineiro for… I don’t know, Matt Cain or Jeff Francis
(I’m reading my copy of Baseball America, obviously),
I’d hope that I could yell “yes” before my head exploded with excitement.

I like watching Joel pitch a lot, and I’ve always felt like he wasn’t
that far from being a top-tier pitcher. But he is. I haven’t seen the
out pitch, as Dave says. And until there’s something he can throw out
there on a full-count to a good hitter and get the out, to say “you know
this is coming and you’re still not going to be able to hit it” he’s
either going to have to develop Maddux-like control and pitchability, or
his upside will remain the good-but-not-great. That’s a contributor, and
maybe in looking to him to pick up the slack for Moyer/Garcia we’re
looking for too much.

Dave: The Soriano to the bullpen thing is basically the extension of the
common baseball wisdom that guys without an offspeed pitch are best
suited to relief work. Because Soriano’s fastball-slider combination
both come in at 90+, people look at him and see Mariano Rivera,
Francisco Rodriguez, or Billy Wagner. The list of starters who
achieved all-star status with two hard pitches basically starts and
ends with Randy Johnson.

That’s not to say Soriano couldn’t start. But the feeling in the
organization has been that he’ll either be an okay starter or a great
reliever, and they’d rather have the great reliever.

But, anyways, back to Pineiro and the whole number one starter thing.
While I agree with the concept that, effectively, three pitchers
posting a 30 VORP or one guy posting a 60 VORP and two guys poting a
15 VORP are effectively equal in value, I’d take the second group
every time. Because its a heck of a lot easier to replace one of the
15 VORP guys with a 30 VORP guy than it is to turn one of your 30 VORP
guys into a 60 VORP guy.

For example, if the Blue Jays called and said they’d give up Roy
Halladay for Pineiro, Meche, and Julio Mateo, you’d say no? Not me.
I’d take that deal every day and twice on Sundays, even if I wasn’t
concerned about Pineiro’s health. The M’s are awash in end of the
bullpen arms and back-end starters. What they lack is a difference
maker in the rotation. Unfortunately, teams just don’t trade those
guys very often, so if the M’s are going to have one any time soon,
its probably going to be Felix.

Derek: I agree that from a team-construction point of view, yes, you want the ace-okay-okay over good-good-good.

Jason: Have I mentioned how much I dislike the rotation? Maybe if I were some sort
of “insider,” I’d have a better outlook on all this. But this roundtable is
about Pineiro, so unlike many of our comment threads, I’ll try to stay on

So far we’ve been generally down on Pineiro, and probably rightfully so —
he’s thrown quite a few innings the past three years, he doesn’t generate
groundballs, he’s not exactly young, and of course there’s the injury
concern. He also doesn’t, if you’re into this sort of thing, hold runners or
slow the running game (opposing basestealers are 41-for-54 against him in
his career).

Are there any reasons for optimism? Digging a bit, I found a few. Despite
the injury, he posted the best strikeout rate of his career last season (7.1
whiffs per nine innings). Then there’s outfield defense. In 2003, he allowed
a non-HR extra-base hit (a double or triple) every 25 batters faced. In
2004, that number dropped to one every 19 batters faced. Thanks, Randy Winn
and Raul Ibanez!

Assuming he’s healthy, Joel Pineiro should easily be the best starter on the
staff next season (pay no attention to the Felix behind the curtain!). But
that’s more a rag on the rotation than props for Pineiro.


47 Responses to “Position Roundtables: #1 Starter”

  1. chris w on March 16th, 2005 7:23 am

    I know you all mentioned it, but I’m not sure you mentioned it enough. Pineiro *is* going to get hurt – the best thing that could happen for him is for the injury to *only* require TJ surgery so he can rest his shoulder for a year. I say this because:

    1) Pineiro was severely overworked in 2003 and 2004, in his most injury-prone years. I can recall numerous games in which he went out that one extra inning, when he was clearly tired, and he passed the 125-pitch mark. This is the recipe for injuring a young pitcher.

    2) He completely petered out in the second half of 2003, and he never really had it in 2004. This is circumstantial evidence of an injury.

    3) He has had actual pain in his elbow and now his shoulder. It’s a pretty good guess that the elbow problem led to the shoulder problem

    He’s going to need TJ surgery – in my opinion, the sooner the better. I’d rather have him for 2006 and I’d rather he not blow out his shoulder compensating for an elbow that’s broken but fixable.

  2. djw on March 16th, 2005 8:29 am

    Chris, please. Everything you say is a cause for concern, and we’re all concerned. But if pitcher injuries were half as predictable as you seem to think they are, baseball would be very, very different.

  3. chris w on March 16th, 2005 9:04 am

    I may have overstated my opinion, so I’ll make it is accurate as I can: Given all we know about Joel’s history, it is much more likely than not (I’d say 80%) that he will have a serious injury that requires surgery.

  4. Adam S on March 16th, 2005 9:08 am

    Any reason you chose Pineiro as the #1 starter? Seems like Meche and Madritsch have as good a chance to be our best starter this year, especially given the liklihood that Pineiro spends time on the DL.

    Seems like the scenario in which the Mariners contend in 2005 is Pineiro pitches as you predict, but is the #3 starter because two guys out of Moyer, Meche, and Madtrisch repeat their better halves of 2004 for all of 2005 and outpitch him.

    On Soriano, is it possible he could learn a third pitch and become a starter? He seems a lot more valuable pitching 200 innings than 75. Or do pitchers not really learn a new pitch at the major league level?

  5. Digger on March 16th, 2005 9:11 am

    Is VORP a bad metric for pitchers? Is it possible that 2004 was an aberration for the Mariner pitchers who had to deal for the first time with abysmal run support and less-than-stellar defense? Might the 2002-2003 performance of the pitchers return this year with (hopefully) greatly improved hitting and fielding?

    Pineiro ranked 14th and 19th in MLB in VORP in 2002 and 2003. Moyer was 7th and 8th (is that an ace?). Bavasi’s plan to re-evaluate the pitching this year and then react in next year’s free agent market seems like a good one.

    I’m rooting for the entire staff to revert to their 2003 form when all but Madritsch were in the top 50 for VORP among MLB starting pitchers. But who knows???

  6. Dave on March 16th, 2005 9:15 am

    VORP is a counting stat, and like most counting stats, its flawed. I threw the VORP numbers out there simply because it would be easy to use for the example of roster construction when Derek and I were discussing the ace-okay-okay vs good-good-good philosophy.

    I wouldn’t recommend projecting future performance of any pitcher based on historical VORP. It doesn’t even try to account for things that are beyond a pitchers control, which is why 2003 Ryan Franklin can score very well on VORP despite not pitching particularly well.

  7. eponymous coward on March 16th, 2005 9:20 am

    Re: #1

    Um, what if his elbow IS healthy, but it’s his shoulder breaking down that will need surgery? Rotator cuff surgery (which is usually what happens) isn’t as likely to turn out well as Tommy John surgery…

  8. Nate on March 16th, 2005 9:31 am


    No thoughts on Madritsch?

  9. Dave on March 16th, 2005 9:37 am

    We’re doing a roundtable for each spot in the rotation. Mads is up next, to be posted Friday or Saturday.

  10. RealRhino on March 16th, 2005 9:48 am

    #1 — FWIW, re your comment that Joel “never really had it” in 2004, a major league pitching coach told me after facing Joel early in the year (long before his elbow problem) that he thought Joel had plenty. Said he didn’t notice any drop in velocity or change in his delivery/arm action, but just that he wasn’t hitting his spots.


  11. chris w on March 16th, 2005 9:59 am

    Elbow problems often cause loss of control without concurrent lose in velocity. But this debate doesn’t need to go on and on. I’m resting my case. I think all the signs point to serious injury in the near future. If I’m wrong, well, at least I’ll get to see a healthy Pineiro pitch while I eat my hat.

  12. Sergey on March 16th, 2005 9:59 am

    Re: #8.
    Right now, because of experience, age (youth), and track record Piniero is our #1 starter. Soriano and Hernandez are strong possibilities down the line. Madritsch pitched well in the majors only half a year, so he cannot be an ace yet. As the year progresses, he could become one on this staff, but not now.

    In short, #3 or #4 starter thread to talk about Madritsch.

  13. paul mocker on March 16th, 2005 10:05 am

    When we are ready to contend the M’s will spend the money for a #1.

    Not to worry.

  14. Paul Covert on March 16th, 2005 10:13 am

    To expand a bit on Dave’s #6: VORP for pitchers is basically a combination of park-adjusted ERA with innings pitched. Keith Woolner, who invented the metric, writes that “for pitchers, VORP is defined as the number of runs a pitcher surrenders below what a replacement level pitcher would have given up in the same number of innings. Replacement level is set at +1.00 above the league average RA.”

    So it accounts for park effects and league offensive context (see the definition of “RA+” at the bottom of Woolner’s description), but not for defense (“VORP implicitly assumes that all defenders at a position are equally good fielders”). So pitching in Safeco Field won’t help a pitcher’s VORP, but pitching in front of Winn/Cameron/Ichiro for the 2003 season will artificially inflate it.

  15. Jerry on March 16th, 2005 10:15 am

    So many of you guys are so sure that Pineiro is done, but really you have no idea how many innings he will pitch this year.

    Thus, sweeping statements like Chris W’s, as well as this:

    “When a kid who threw 550 innings from ages 23-25
    suddenly comes down with a sore elbow and shoulder, surgery is
    basically inevitable. The question isn’t really if Pineiro is going
    to need to have to have his arm worked on; its when.”

    …are no more than opinions. If you actually presented some data that pitchers who throw that many innings tend to wear break down, then it would be a little more convincing. However, to say that Pineiro is 100% sure to go down and have surgery is just BS. How could you possibly know this.

    You could have said the same thing about Madritsch last year. He had arm problems and came back to pitch pretty well at the end of the year. The guy that you are talking about as the type of ace that the M’s need, Roy Halladay, had shoulder problems that kept him out most of last year. He didn’t have surgery, and you feel comfortable trading for him.

    Using PECOTA similarities and projections is just not a good way to predict how someone will recover from arm problems. PECOTA is designed to predict how productive a player will be, with the projection being the ‘safest bet’. Thus, PECOTA will usually make a ‘safe’ prediction. The system is not nearly as good at predicting susceptability to injury.

    If you are going to make sweeping statements about a players injury situation, you should back it up with some data or inside information. Otherwise, it just looks like pessimism.

  16. Dave on March 16th, 2005 10:20 am

    Jerry, the information is all over the place. Hit google for pitcher workloads. Its not like this is an unresearched domain.

  17. DMZ on March 16th, 2005 10:22 am

    Using PECOTA similarities and projections is just not a good way to predict how someone will recover from arm problems. PECOTA is designed to predict how productive a player will be, with the projection being the ’safest bet’. Thus, PECOTA will usually make a ’safe’ prediction. The system is not nearly as good at predicting susceptability to injury.

    You’re wrong on every point here.

    PECOTA doesn’t make a projection as the “safest bet”. PECTOA doesn’t make a “safe” prediction.

    PECOTA looks at similar players — based in part on playing time, which reflects serious injuries, and performance, which reflects the effects of injuries major and minor — and projects performance and playing time.

    Using those comperables, it comes up with a set of guesses on both playing time and performance to come up with the forecasts.

    Now, it’s not perfect, and because it does not use (and for obvious reasons, can’t use) specific injury data, the next year’s prediction is based on the rebound of other players who experienced similar performance and playing time hits as the projected player.

    That’s it. It’s not safe, assuming recovery. It’s not dangerous, assuming re-injury. It looks at the similar players and says “for players in this situation, this is what happened.”

    Assigning motive to what is really just a super-complicated algorithm does no good.

  18. Rusty on March 16th, 2005 10:24 am

    What about Nageotte!!!

    Okay, just trying to get your attention. But like Pineiro, Nags had great years in 2002 and 2003, albeit it at High A and AA. I’ve always thought that he might have #1.5 or #2 stuff in the majors. Last year was rough. And his cup of coffee was a jolt. But seriously, why are we writing this guy off for 1 bad year in his development? The guy throws strikeouts like they’re going out of style. And his walk totals aren’t totally outrageous.

    I don’t think Felix is the only guy that can save this year. In fact, I think a combination of Felix, Madritsch and perhaps Nags might save the year if Moyer can rebound some and one of either Meche or Pineiro don’t flame out.

    And if we only win 80, then I’d sure like to see some MLB innings for all of these guys. Again, a 2006 rotation that has some combination of Felix, Maddy, Nags, Soriano, Meche and Pineiro doesn’t look all that bad to me. So even if we don’t make the playoffs in 2005, we should still use this year to prepare these guys to take 2006 by a storm.

  19. Jerry on March 16th, 2005 10:25 am

    I agree with Paul in regards to the ace situation. As several people have pointed out, the M’s don’t really have any good candidates withing the organization besides Felix. Ideally, it would be nice to have one experienced ace pitcher on the club. I would imagine that at least 3 or 4 guys from the group of Madritsch, Meche, Pineiro, Nageotte, Felix, Soriano, Campillo, Rett Johnson, and Blackley (fingers crossed) will emerge as good end of the rotation starters for 2006.

    The M’s should have some cash to spend next offseason, and someone like AJ Burnett would be a wise investment. He has ace-quality stuff and would be an anchor for the rotation. Perhaps Daisuke Matsuzaka will be posted, and he would be another good addition. Or perhaps Ben Sheets or another ace will become available. If the offense plays well, and a few guys like Lopez, Choo, and Betancourt prove that they can be contributors in 2006, then the M’s could even add two starters next offseason. Clearly, this will be the biggest need then will have to fill. Adding Burnett and Matsuzaka would be a huge step towards contending.

    I don’t think that the M’s will contend this year, so 2005 should be about developing pitchers and taking stock of who we have in the organization that can help out. Felix could be the #1 next year, but it would be awesome if he was one half of a great 1-2 combo for the M’s.

  20. Chris Begley on March 16th, 2005 10:25 am

    A question for Dave, since he brings this up: I just drew up his splits from 2002-2004, and to what do you attribute the major difference in Batting Average Against between home and away – it seems to me that this is primarily where the 1.20 run ERA difference is coming from (his HR rate is more or less the same, his walk rate is about the same, his SO rate is about the same). But the batting Average against is quite different…

  21. Jerry on March 16th, 2005 10:41 am

    Dave, DMZ,

    You are missing my point. Let me clarify.

    When I said ‘safe’, I mean that the purpose of PECOTA is to most accurately predict how players will do over the course of the season. When people evaluate how accurate PECOTA is, they look at the margin for error for all players in the league. The reason why PECOTA is pretty close statistically is because it takes a pretty conservative view of how much a player will play. The results for an individual will vary wildly, but, overall, including all players in MLB, it will tend to be pretty close to the real numbers.

    Now, if you try to use PECOTA to actually gauge how many games a guy will play, it is basically Voodoo. How can you say that two guys who have similar career numbers will tend to have injuries at the same time? You can’t. You can make a series of educated guesses that tend to be correct if you average the predictions versus the outcomes from a few hundred players. But saying that Pineiro will go down in 2005 because Wade Miller did so earlier is pretty silly. Would you place bets based on that type prediction? It is easy to predict that he might have elbow problems this year because he had them last year, but there is no reason to think that his shoulder problems are related and PECOTA is totally unable to deal with this type of occurance.

    One of the biggest issues with PECOTA is the reliance of counting stats. Rate stats I can live with a little more. However, every year many people go down with injuries that are totally beyond the capabilities of a projection system to predict. PECOTA is a nice thing for stat guys to talk about, but as far as predicting the occurance of injuries in specific individuals, it is not at all convincing.

  22. Dave on March 16th, 2005 10:42 am

    His batting average on balls in play at home the past three years is .252. On the road, its .288.

    Safeco Field, where fly balls go to die. It’s had a huge impact on Pineiro’s hit rates at home.

  23. Dave on March 16th, 2005 10:44 am


    It seems like you don’t really understand how PECOTA works. I’d suggest you do some more reading on the various articles Nate has published, both on the site and in the past two annuals, and see if that answers your questions.

  24. Jesse on March 16th, 2005 10:58 am

    Maybe this is a question for a future thread, but I’d be really interested to hear who people here think would be reasonable targets for a trade this year to get a true TOR starter. You mentioned Halladay, which I hadn’t thought of before. I think Oliver Perez is maybe more possibile than Sheets, say, but I don’t really know how to evaluate that. Maybe people have read this, it was posted to other M’s blogs, but sounds like contract stuff isn’t going well:


    Does the fact that he’s represented by Boras mean that this is a clear rent-a-player scenario like Beltran, or was that largely because of Beltran’s larger than life status on the FA market last year? Last time this was brought up, I believe (either here or elsewhere), it was said that all trade talks right now begin and end with Felix, who is naturally untouchable. Do you think there’s any way to make this happen without trading Felix? What about Sheets?

    Are Piniero and Meche really tradeable commodities to teams like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee who are run on tight budgets, or are their question marks red flags for other organizations, especially given Piniero’s contract? Would trading for Vasquez be a terrible idea? He seems like a possibility, though he’s expensive and shaky, but it could be smart and he seems more acquireable (if that’s a word) to me.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to post my opinions about this; I want to hear the USSM crew’s opinions. Maybe even in its own thread? Is that a possibility on down the road? A USSM roundtable on who you think would be the smartest trade targets this year? I’m mostly interested in a TOR starter, naturally, but would love to hear all of your speculations as they come. I have a feeling it would be a popular thread. Just a suggestion…

  25. Ralph Malph on March 16th, 2005 11:01 am

    Why would stiffness in his shoulder cause Chris to conclude that Joel will need Tommy John surgery?

    Unless you have examined his MRI, I cannot give any credence to your opinion on whether he will need TJ surgery.

    One could say about any pitcher that there is a good chance he will suffer a serious injury that will require surgery. It is the nature of the business. That is probably more true of a guy like Joel with some injury history. But that’s the nature of the game.

  26. Dave on March 16th, 2005 11:01 am

    I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the Halladay trade, since it was completely made up and, in my mind, something that has no chance of happening (I was just making a point in regards to roster construction). I’m personally not a big fan of speculation on made-up trades for guys who simply aren’t available. The Pirates aren’t trading Perez. The Brewers aren’t trading Sheets. The Jays aren’t trading Halladay. I don’t have much interest in wishcasting potential trade scenarios that just aren’t going to happen.

  27. Jerry on March 16th, 2005 11:08 am


    There is simply no way to accurately gauge how likely a guy is to get injured. You can predict how long it takes to recover. You can make statements on how a specific injury might effect a players production afterwards. But no mathmatical formula can tell you the likelyhood of a healthy player getting injured, or a player injuring a part of his body that had not been a problem.

    I know that you guys like stats. But part of understanding statistics is to also understand the limitations of them. This is one area where player similarity stats are not that usefull.

    Eddie Guardado is a great example. There is no way that you could predict that he would go down last year. His workload wasn’t that bad, and his prior history for durability was great. It was just a ‘freak incidence’. Injuries are, by their nature, ‘freak incidences’. Even in situations were pitchers are being abused far too much, different players will react in different ways.

    Thus, you can say “Pineiro had big workloads early in his career, and his pitch counts were too high, thus he might be more likely to get injured.” That is fine. But you can’t say “surgery is
    basically inevitable. The question isn’t really if Pineiro is going
    to need to have to have his arm worked on; its when.” You are claiming to know something with 100% certainty, when is is at best an educated guess.

  28. ajp on March 16th, 2005 11:13 am

    Dave, I should hope it would be easier to replace on of the 15VORP guys with a 30VORP in your 60-15-15 VORP rotation, than to replace on of th 30VORP guys in the 30-30-30 VORP rotation with a 60 VORP guy. But, then, I would much prefer the 60-30-30 VORP rotation to the 60-30-15 rotation for obvious reasons. The question should be, is it really that much more diffilcult to replace a 30 VORP with a 45 VORP, than replacing a 15 VORP with a 30 VORP? Your point is probably still valid, just not as strong with the correct numbers.

    On Soriano in the rotation. Are we really sure that he makes a bigger impact as a starter than as a closer?

    Looking at blown saves, it appears there is a big difference between the best and the mediocre. Among guys who had 40 – 50 opportunities last year, blown saves varied from 1 to 10. That has got to at least 7 wins, and probably 8 or 9. Assuming that bad closers don’t get 40 opportunities, this represents the range from best to slightly worse than average. Also assuming that Soriano would be dominant as he showed he can be, wouldn’t that mean he could make a difference of 6 or 7 wins? Is he likely to have that kind of value as a starter with only two pitches?

  29. Dave on March 16th, 2005 11:37 am

    I’m not predicting Pineiro is going to get hurt. I’m saying he is hurt. There’s a difference.

  30. Joshua Buergel on March 16th, 2005 11:45 am

    The question should be, is it really that much more diffilcult to replace a 30 VORP with a 45 VORP, than replacing a 15 VORP with a 30 VORP? Your point is probably still valid, just not as strong with the correct numbers.

    As you move up the performance ladder, players become rarer. We’re looking at the extreme right end of the bell curve for baseball talent, and that’s what you’ve got to work against. 15 VORP starters are considerably more common than 30 VORP starters, which are in turn more common than 45 VORP starters, etc. That’s why it’s much better to have a couple black holes in the roster, balanced by stars when you’re looking to upgrade a team’s performance than to have a balanced roster. Once the season is underway, it’s not necessarily as obvious, since a star laden roster is more vulnerable to injury. But for roster construction, the choice is clear.

    As for closers, you aren’t adjusting for opportunity there. The guys who had the most blown saves might have just had the most difficult opportunities. Closers do pitch higher leverage innings, so each inning pitcher by a closer is more valuable than each inning pitched by a starter. But the difference is not enough to make up the difference in raw numbers of innings except in veyr unusual cases. If there is a reason why someone makes a better reliever because of repertoire or stamina, then OK. But if someone is capable in both roles, you should prefer the starter.

  31. J.R. on March 16th, 2005 11:46 am

    Bartolo Colon sucks and Roy Halladay is so over rated, I wouldn’t want either of them.

    Hold onto Peniro, he will make a great number 2 or 3 in a year when Felix comes up.

  32. Jesse on March 16th, 2005 1:31 pm

    Dave, that’s exactly what I wanted. I suspected those things weren’t realistic, and I’m glad to have that confirmed. I hear that speculating on stuff that won’t happen is pointless, but if you ever feel like posting things that you think are potentially viable, I’d enjoy the perspective.

  33. eponymous coward on March 16th, 2005 1:40 pm

    Hold onto Peniro, he will make a great number 2 or 3 in a year when Felix comes up.

    That is, if he’s recovered from the impending rotator cuff surgery by then.

  34. eponymous coward on March 16th, 2005 1:44 pm

    And before you say “But he’s not injured…”, the prosceution would like to call any number of pitchers, Mariner and non-Mariner, for whom “shutting down” did NOT prevent surgery from occurring later. We can start with Travis Blackley and Rafael Soriano and work our way from there. “Rest and Rehab” almost never works.

  35. Jerry on March 16th, 2005 2:06 pm


    “That is, if he’s recovered from the impending rotator cuff surgery by then.”

    Since you have scheduled him for rotator cuff surgery already, why don’t you have his toes amputated and a few ribs removed while you are at it. PECOTA projects that his elbow and knees are timebombs, so why don’t we give him ACL and Tommy John surgery while were at it.

    Seriously, the fact is, you have no idea what the specifics of Pineiro’s situation are.

  36. Scott on March 16th, 2005 2:08 pm

    I would LOVE Joel to be our no 1, but I sure like to see him at least show he can pitch this year first before giving him the title. I enjoy the RT, but what is the definition of our number one pitcher when he has not pitched since last July (not counting the 2innings in ST)

  37. eponymous coward on March 16th, 2005 2:42 pm


    I sure don’t, since last I checked I wasn’t a Mariner trainer or team physician, but I could give you a long list of people for whom “rest and rehab” didn’t work as an approach to avoid surgery, and the fact that Joel managed to get into a whopping ONE GAME before he got sidelined again. Uh, Raffy Soriano, anyone?

    If you think that’s a good harbinger for Piniero spending a healthy year in the rotation, you’ve been drinking the complimentary teal-colored Kool-Aid the front office serves us in spring training.

  38. bilbo on March 16th, 2005 4:13 pm

    there is a big difference between rest and rehab for a guy who is known to be injured (when it shows up as a tear etc on an MRI) and a guy who has inflamation or “tendinitis”. The fact is, comparing Soriano to Joel is apples:oranges. Now, if an MRI shows some damage then I would agree with you (ie- Guardado).

  39. IgnatiusReilly on March 16th, 2005 4:19 pm

    Re: Soriano and the comment that he was experiencing elbow problems in the minors? Where did this information come from, I’d be curious to learn more. Usually what I heard was “Oh, he’s only been pitching a few years so his arm should be fine for years…”

  40. ray on March 16th, 2005 6:25 pm

    These are all just predictions. Look at 2004 Insidethepark.com predictions. It will put any previews in perspective. Basically if you like a player you make good predictions for him, if you don’t like him (or he has disappointed you) you make some bad predictions.

  41. Frank L on March 16th, 2005 9:46 pm

    I am a Red Sox fan, just visiting. I find it hard to believe that there’s a belief that Piniero might be your biggest worry at #1 when the M’s might have Pokey slated for daily SS and ??? to close. Piniero isn’t likely to win a Cy Young but he’s decent and only goes every fifth day.

    As for health concerns: what pitchers, besides perhaps Maddux and Glavine, are sure things?

  42. toonprivate on March 16th, 2005 10:52 pm

    I thought I was pessimistic about the M’s pitching “practices”! the number of injuries to pitchers in the M’s system makes us extra-suspicious of any reports of “soreness,” especially in a pitcher like joel who has already had problems and has pitched tough innings at a young age. any sign the M’s are changing the way they develop pitchers? the pitch limits om felix are a good thing. i personally hope he stays in tacoma for the whole year, pitch limits in place. and i suspect that he needs at least that year to become a really effective starter in the majors. even 2006 may be a stretch — let’s see what he does in AAA.

  43. Tim on March 16th, 2005 11:16 pm

    I really wish that people would stop playing the “R&R doesn’t work” card in regards to Pineiro. If he had some sort of an operable condition (frayed rotator cuff, some elbow ligament damage) then you’d have a valid argument, but he had a strained muscle. People don’t get operations for muscle strains.

    Now if you want to play that card for Guardado…go right ahead. At least use the argument where it is valid.

  44. Brian Rust on March 17th, 2005 9:22 am

    Dave, I really think you should temper your certainty about Joel’s “inevitable” surgery. First of all, your contention that he suffered an “undiagnosed elbow injury” contradicts the team’s statement that it was a “strained flexor bundle,” which sounds like a diagnosis to me. Furthermore, a muscle strain is not necessarily precipitated by overuse, and it actually IS best treated by rest. Finally, his being “shut down” for the last two months says more about the lost season and the need for roster spots to evaluate talent than about the seriousness of his injury.

    I don’t think anyone in baseball, or any informed observer outside baseball, will argue with the statistical conclusion that overuse leads to injury. The statistics guys can easily analyze the data and conclude as such with some certainty, in regard to the general population of young pitchers. Applying that analysis to individual cases is dicey, because of individual factors not subject to statistical analysis (such as anatomy, mechanics, or conditioning). Of course, if you possess specific knowledge about Joel’s condition you haven’t shared, that might better support your opinion. But if not, you are combining vague specifics (Joel is injured) with statistical generality (overuse causes injury) to conclude surgery is inevitable. I think you’re overstating your case.

  45. Ralph Malph on March 17th, 2005 9:38 am

    Jamie Moyer had some arm stiffness about 4 years ago and missed a start or two. That seemed to work OK.

    There are lots of guys why have a little soreness in the spring, who shut it down for a little while and are OK.

    That doesn’t mean Joel will be fine. It just means WE DON’T KNOW. You guys aren’t doctors and even if you were you can’t diagnose someone based on a few anecdotal news accounts.

  46. Jon Helfgott on March 17th, 2005 9:53 am

    I really hope that the individual referring to Bobby Madritsch as “that injun” with the “warrior spirit” is not an indication of how people will be referring to him over the next few years. There’s a lot in the comments section about being rude to people…I’d hope that racism would be at least as serious and moderation-queue-worthy an infraction.

  47. DMZ on March 17th, 2005 10:43 am

    What the hell? How did we miss that? I’d delete it now but WordPress doesn’t let authors delete comments in other author’s threads.

    I am sure, unfortunately, that this will be all-too-common.