Joel Pineiro’s Release Point

Dave · May 25, 2005 at 7:42 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Last night, Joel Pineiro gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 6.75 to 5.93. In some circles, that’s enough to be called a successful outing. Take a look at some of the post-game quotes:

From the Times:

“I struggled the first two innings,” the right-hander said. “Then I got a bit of a feel for the mound and got a rhythm going and I felt much better after that.”

“The first part of that game just drug on,” Hargrove said in his best Texas twang. “We had [catcher Miguel] Olivo speed it up to get Pineiro going a bit. We just had him call pitches quicker.”

In addition, Pineiro started to throw his changeup more in the third, and it worked well.

“I wound up throwing it more than I usually do and maybe that’s one thing I have to do from now on,” Pineiro said. “I felt that what Bryan [Price] and I worked on those 10 days paid off.”

From the P-I

“About the fourth inning, I started getting ahead of hitters,” Pineiro said. “I think maybe not pitching in 10 days affected me the first few innings. But after that I things started to click.”

If you missed the game and just read the recaps, you’d think Pineiro showed some improvement from his skipped start and that perhaps the side sessions with Price led to improved mechanics. It’s just not true, though.

Pineiro was a mechanical mess last night. Jeff Sullivan did the video capture breakdown again for last night, but this time, I don’t think the problems with his delivery can effectively be seen in still frame images. The biggest problem Joel was having was a pretty common one among minor league pitchers: the variable release point.

One of the most fun things to watch about Greg Maddux in his prime was that the point in his delivery when the ball left his hand was almost exactly the same on every single pitch. Fastball, curveball, change-up, it didn’t matter. Whether it was the first pitch or the last, his release point never changed, and that was the key to his impeccable command. The point of release is the cornerstone of command.

Last night, Joel Pineiro had at least five distinctly different release points that I could spot from my television, without any video equipment to slow or rewind the action. In normal live speed action, it was clear that his release point was all over the map, and yet, somehow, this isn’t a concern?

In the first inning, Pineiro was clearly attempting to get more velocity on the ball. Brian Roberts led off the game and saw a 91 MPH fastball up and away, with Pineiro clearly releasing the ball early. The second pitch was nearly identical, a 90 MPH fastball away. The third pitch was a 91 MPH fastball that Pineiro was able to get into the strike zone and actually released the ball at a semi-normal time in his delivery.

He then faced rookie Jeff Fiorentino, and the mechanics went to hell again. Early release, fastball up and away. Early release, fastball up. Early release, curveball up. Early release, fastball away. Four pitch walk.

He wasn’t “missing his spots”. From when he released the ball, it had no chance of being a strike. His fastball was getting out of his hand before his body was in proper position at least 60 percent of the time.

Pineiro had more success with the curveball, allowing his body to rotate before letting the pitch fly, but even still, he was early at least a quarter of the time. Whether it was a clear revelation that his release point was more consistent on the offspeed stuff than with his fastball or not, he threw significantly more of them as the game went on. This helped alleviate some of the command issues he was having early, but also made him, essentially, a junkballer. Joel Pineiro’s not going to get major league hitters out without his fastball.

Now, this is a fixable problem. In my minor league travels, I see this all the time. It’s rare that a kid in Double-A or below can repeat his delivery with any kind of consistency. But, it takes time, and this isn’t the kind of thing that changes overnight. It’s a gradual process of muscle memory and getting comfortable with your throwing motion. Joel Pineiro clearly does not have that. He’s a kid searching for his mechanics, experimenting on the mound, and trying to find something, anything, that works.

If the team knows why he’s lost three MPH on his fastball and is overhauling his delivery to try and get it back, they’re not saying. But right now, the only way he bears any semblance to the Joel Pineiro of 2003 is the tilde on the back of the jersey. He’s basically an entirely new pitcher, and to be frank, not a very good one. The ten days on the side retooling his mechanics did him no good last night. He’s got a long, long ways to go before he can take that delivery and be successful regularly against big league hitters.


79 Responses to “Joel Pineiro’s Release Point”

  1. Dave on May 25th, 2005 12:42 pm

    Dave, I’ve not really seen you back down from a “no” before, but I would ask that you share your opinion of what is up with Pineiro. An opinion / speculation is just that – but I for one certainly like reading / digesting / disregarding them.

    I’m not going to back down from this one, either. Sorry. I have a feeling we’ll find out the real cause for his issues before the year is up, and I’d like to avoid speculating.

  2. DMZ on May 25th, 2005 12:47 pm

    Dave, I’ve not really seen you back down from a “no” before, but I would ask that you share your opinion of what is up with Pineiro.

    Well, his release point is off, for one.


    And yes, I just used a smiley.

  3. Roger on May 25th, 2005 12:54 pm

    Can we start a different thread where folks other than Brock can make comments? (It’s funny, just last night the wife was critical of my velocity and release point, when I thought they were fine. Argued as such, too, but she wouldn’t be swayed…)

    Anyway, I too am interested in “what do you do with Joel now?” Obviously the minors haven’t done anything to help. Probably on this team, this year, it doesn’t really hurt to run him out every five days, it’s not like it’s the difference between the playoffs or not. But if he doesn’t get back to something resembling his former self, that’s a six million dollar problem next year.

  4. Shawn S. on May 25th, 2005 1:17 pm

    First of all, I have noticed that many of the posts on steroids have had comments turned off because of people’s inability to not freak out on the subject. I also admit I have no evidence of this being the case, and I do not wish to post something that will anger people or cause a huge argument. As far as I know, comments are not edited out due to mentioning the “S-word”, and with the new testing rules in place this year, we should be able to have a civil conversation about it. Anyways, it is even slightly possible that Joel’s loss of velocity may have something to due with the new testing rules? I almost disagree with myself since there’s no evidence to show steroids could help improve velocity. I’m probably way off, but if not that, then he must have some undisclosed injury… because this is not the Piniero I have seen over the last few years, not even close.

  5. IgnatiusReilly on May 25th, 2005 1:25 pm

    Popular message board suspicion is that he might be looking at Tommy John surgery – since he was out for just a long while with a strained flexor bundle (a supposedly very minor injury).

    What would be potential motives for not just getting something like that dealt with? Is the team actually embarassed that all of their pitchers keep getting injured?

    Who knows. Definitely seems like not much is going the M’s way this year, and always disturbing when web junkies notice things that the M’s managers don’t see / care to discuss.

  6. Jim Thomsen on May 25th, 2005 1:28 pm

    One small technicality … I’ve seen a lot of references to “sending Pineiro down to the minors to work things out.” True only in the most technical sense. He never put on a Rainiers uniform, never set foot in the Cheney clubhouse. It was strictly a move made to pull him away for the work on his mechanics — and have somebody cover his place on the roster while it was being worked out.

    What’s interesting is that Pineiro himself didn’t seem to get this, or that whoever told him of the roster move didn’t explain it to him effectively … judging from his upset reaction to the news.

  7. Pat on May 25th, 2005 1:29 pm

    #53: one of the best comments in a long while. At least your timing is okay 🙂

  8. Dead Ball Tim on May 25th, 2005 1:36 pm

    #21 – You asked why some pitchers are over the top and some 3/4. I would offer that there are more versions than those two: sideslinger and submariner come to mind. There are some pitchers who change their arm angle mid-at-bat just to confuse the hitter. Pedro is one of those. That San Diego pitcher who beat the M’s 6-1, Peavy, was a 3/4 guy and his ball hopped like a jackrabbit on crack. It just depends on the individual… there is no one single way to do it…. just the way that works best.

    Body mech might be a way to help a good pitcher become a better one but I doubt that it will make a pitcher out of anybody. To get to the MLB these guys have to arrive with talent, ability, and desire. To rise to the top they need one more thing- dedication. Talent and ability can fail and often do. The demands of the public can erode a player’s desire. Being a major league pitcher is a crazy life and it takes a special person simply to try much less succeed. Pineiro has had a rough go the past several months but he still remains in prime position to come through as a big contributor to the team. He could also drop out of sight. Who knows which way he’ll go? But right now he’s trying to succeed. My personal feeling about him is that he’s out of his depth… that he’s a Power Pitcher Wannabe and doesn’t quite have the physical equipment to pull it off. He’ll end up hurting his arm again by over-throwing his fastball. He’d do better in my opinion if he’d throw more off-speed stuff and work on pitch speed differentials to fool the hitters. Its very very difficult to throw fastballs for strikes past big league hitters… lots of guys think they can but very few can really do it. I just don’t think power is the way Joel is gonna make his nut in the bigs. At the same time, he may just not want to do it that way…. and without desire it just won’t happen.

  9. JRM on May 25th, 2005 2:02 pm

    21 & 58:

    Remember David Cone’s arm angles? He was fun – sometimes five pitches at five different angles. Hard to do successfully, but Cone eked out a pretty comfortable living even after his best stuff was long gone.

    On Joel, I appreciate Dave’s scouting. It does seem to be a fixable problem if there isn’t an underlying injury, and that’s a good sign. But I don’t see any shot that Joel becomes the number one pitcher some thought he was headed toward.


  10. Evan on May 25th, 2005 2:03 pm

    I’m just surprised this thread stayed open.

  11. paul on May 25th, 2005 2:37 pm

    Me too.

    I guess the moderators are in a good mood.

  12. Mojo on May 25th, 2005 2:39 pm

    53, that was funny as hell. I’m still laughing…

  13. paul on May 25th, 2005 2:40 pm

    Dave missed the sample size issue. Brock did too but he isn’t the professional that Dave claims to be so he gets slack.

  14. DMZ on May 25th, 2005 2:47 pm

    a) when has Dave claimed to be a professional?


    b) it was rather nice when you took that time off from going after Dave every chance you got, Paul. Please go back to doing that. This kind of pointless sniping doesn’t help anyone

  15. Paul DeB on May 25th, 2005 2:47 pm

    I’m not sure Dave ever claimed to be a professional. Can we all stop with the moderator-and-commenter sniping, the who’s-right-who’s-wronging, and get back to talking about baseball, please?

    thank you.

  16. paul on May 25th, 2005 2:55 pm

    a) Actually I was wrong. Since he is paid for his baseball writing, he IS a professional.

    b) Noted.

  17. DMZ on May 25th, 2005 3:02 pm

    Where, exactly, is Dave being paid for his baseball writing?

  18. paul on May 25th, 2005 3:21 pm

    Everett Aquasox.


  19. Paul DeB on May 25th, 2005 3:22 pm


    You guys pay? Can I have a job?

    /*end sarcasm*/

  20. Mike on May 25th, 2005 3:30 pm

    Here’s a thought…Instead of focusing so much time and energy on the new-and-not-so-improved, bleach-blonde Pineiro…

    Why not talk about the pitcher who has given up 4 HRs in his last 6 appearances…the wonderful JJ Putz.

    Let’s take a look at these 4 HRs:

    @ NYY – J Posada (8th inning off J Putz 0 on, 1 Out)– OK, not a big deal, a solo shot, and we were losing 12-9 at the time.

    vs. BOS – T Nixon (7th inning off J Putz 3 on, 2 Out)– Game winning grand slam. Sox win 6-3.

    vs. NYY – B Williams (7th inning off J Putz 3 on, 2 Out)– Game winning grand slam again. Yanks win 6-3.

    @ BAL – J Gibbons (8th inning off J Putz 0 on, 1 Out)– Game winning solo shot. Birds win 3-2.

    To say that Putz is struggling is quite an understatement.

  21. paul on May 25th, 2005 3:38 pm

    Mike, I think HRs per fly ball is more revealing. Dave pointed out that 10% of fly balls become home runs. I will try to find out more.

  22. DMZ on May 25th, 2005 3:45 pm

    Dave hasn’t written for BPro in ages, and if you want to argue that writing a piece/year for the Aquasox for $1 = professional and thus obligates him to a continuous high standard of proof and argumentation, while someone who doesn’t make that $1/year is not held to the same standard… well, I guess that’s your business, but it’s clearly an arbitrary line drawn just this side of wherever Dave is.

  23. tarp on May 25th, 2005 3:45 pm


    DG from ITP would agree with your suspicions about Pineiro.

  24. paul on May 25th, 2005 3:51 pm

    From ESPN: 70 batters faced, 17 fly balls, 4 home runs. Thats 23%. That’s a warning sign. In 2004, 15% of fly balls he allowed ended up over the fence.

    A week ago, I wondered if about his pitching strategy. Because two of the pitches were hit out were about 95 mph or more (IIRC) it seemed like he wasn’t learning to “set up” a hitter. It’s obviously very complex and beyond what I know.

    I agree with you that Putz is beyond struggling. Yet we need to wait before making a conclusion.

  25. paul on May 25th, 2005 3:53 pm

    I apologize. It was arbitray. I have been impressed with his knowledge and in my own mind created an image of professionalism which was unsubstantiated.

  26. DMZ on May 25th, 2005 3:56 pm

    Way to get that shot in there. I bow before your mastery.

  27. Kirk on May 25th, 2005 3:57 pm

    I hate to wade into this battle, but one point that Brock has made that I haven’t seen adequately refuted by Dave yet is the one on velocity.

    A few questions; Piniero was reportedly clocked as high as 94 MPH last night, so I ask:

    1. Regardless of the location of the pitch, has he been clocked this fast earlier in the season?
    2. Is there some reason to believe that this gun reading was inflating numbers higher than readings in Joel’s previous starts?
    3. Has Joel not thrown a high fastball earlier in the season, and if so, were they notably slower than his fastest pitch last night?

    I know that you often get nothing more than pat-answers from club officials, but the supposed increased velocity was one of the things they purportedly were pleased with about his peformance last night.

    I agree that his release point was screwed-up, and I agree that some of his mechanics aren’t what you would call ideal. I’m less concerned about his mechanics in general though, since there have been many successful pitchers over the years that didn’t have “ideal” mechanics, at least as described by Jeff Sullivan’s critique. The bigger question for me is can he fix his current mechanics enough to be able to a) get sufficient velocity to his fastball and spin/movement on his breaking pitches, b) be able to repeat his pitches and c) not tip his pitches.

  28. Idahobob on May 25th, 2005 4:22 pm

    Reading this thread has left me totally exhausted, and I still don’t really understand half of what is being “discussed”. But, for whatever it’s worth Dave, I appreciate your analysis of Piniero’s performance last night, specifically because it contradicted what I had lazily perceived then believed; that he pitched well, based on the results. You have convinced me otherwise.

  29. Adam on May 25th, 2005 10:02 pm

    Last night was a discouraging performance for Joel.

    I did like how he battled and somehow got decent results, but in the long run it’s not going to make a difference.

    I’m hoping he doesn’t have a shoulder problem because Joel always had decent mechanics…or atleast “major league” mechanics in previous years…it wouldn’t shock me in the least if there is something wrong.

    Meche also has these types of problems and it’s frustrating. Meche however still has his velocity…Joel’s has gone down hill a little.

    I really hope Joel is just building up his arm strength. I don’t know why that would be but…there’s always hope.