Joel Pineiro, Again
Last night, Joel Pineiro turned in his seventh Quality Start in his last eight tries. The “Joel Is Back” bandwagon is gaining steam. The talk in the local dailies is of his dominance and how well he has pitched lately. Mike Hargrove even proclaimed “This game was probably the best of them all”, which is, to be honest, absurd. As I pointed out last week, Pineiro’s recent performances weren’t one continuous trend, but rather a sprinkling of truly good performances with some mediocre starts and an absolute abomination of a game in Minnesota.
However, the belief is still being perpetuated that Pineiro, since the beginning of August, has had a strong positive upward trend in his performance with just the one outlier in the middle of the month. It’s just not true. Let’s take a look at his game log.
IP H R ER HR BB K BB/BF K/BF FIP 6.33 8 2 2 2 1 4 0.04 0.15 6.52 8.67 7 2 2 0 0 4 0.00 0.14 2.28 8 6 3 3 0 2 4 0.06 0.13 2.95 6.67 13 8 8 1 1 2 0.04 0.07 5.00 6 7 3 3 1 2 3 0.07 0.11 5.37 6.67 5 1 1 0 1 7 0.04 0.25 1.55 8 6 2 2 0 1 5 0.03 0.17 2.33 7.67 3 1 1 0 2 2 0.07 0.07 3.46
Those numbers should be self explanatory. The last number, FIP, is his Fielding Indpendant ERA, which is a far better predictor of how a pitcher is going to pitch going forward than his normal ERA.
Here are his totals for those 8 starts, by the way:
IP H R ER HR BB K BB/BF K/BF GB FB FIP 58 55 22 22 4 10 31 0.04 0.14 79 71 3.54
Walking just four percent of the batters he faces is outstanding. Striking out 14 percent is not outstanding. It’s pretty mediocre, but when coupled with a low walk rate, it can be effective.
I included his GB/FB numbers in the monthly totals as well, because there’s an important data point missing from the game logs. Pineiro has allowed 4 home runs in his last 8 starts, a terrific number, which helps keep his Fielding Independant ERA low. But allowing 4 home runs on 71 flyballs is almost certainly not a repeatable skill; Ron Shandler’s research, confirmed by the Hardball Times, has shown that most pitchers give up home runs on around 11 percent of their flyballs. Pineiro, during his 8 start stretch, has given up home runs on 5 percent of his flyballs. That’s not going to continue. If we added 3 more home runs to his total from his last 8 starts, normalizing for an average HR/flyball rate, his FIP would be 4.22 instead of 3.54. 4.22 isn’t bad. That’s basically 2005 Jamie Moyer. But it’s certainly not dominating.
Joel Pineiro is not “back”. He’s not pitching anything like he was in 2002 or 2003, though his singular start against the Yankees was legitimately terrific. He has basically turned himself into Ryan Franklin, a contact strike-throwing machine who can piece together some good starts when the ball stays in the yard. By nature, these pitchers are wildly inconsistent, because they depend on the opposing hitters to get themselves out.
Joel Pineiro, for his last 8 starts, has been a huge, huge upgrade over the Joel Pineiro we had through the end of July. If he continues to pitch using this strikes-only style, he can help the club, and he might even justify his contract next year. But the reality is that the Joel Pineiro of several years ago is gone forever. This guy isn’t that pitcher. Accept him for what he is, not what we would like him to be.