Joel Pineiro, Again

Dave · September 13, 2005 at 7:09 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.

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:

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.


77 Responses to “Joel Pineiro, Again”

  1. Talkbaseball on September 13th, 2005 5:00 pm

    By the way Joel has more K’s than Garland, Arroyo, Silva, Rogers, Moyer, Washburn, and Elarton to name a few. I would bet the starting pitchers w/ the best WHIP are going to best pitchers. Saying that WHIP is a pintless stat is just ignorant. How would the number of baserunners per inning be a pointless stat, explain that to me Dave. The less baserunners you have the less runs will score, it’s basic logic.

  2. Dave on September 13th, 2005 5:02 pm

    If you think Jon Garland, Jarrod Washburn, and Scott Elarton are among “the best pitchers”, you need a lot more about baseball explained to you than the relative worthlessness of WHIP.

  3. Matt on September 13th, 2005 5:05 pm

    Do you have something agianst this guy or something? why are you dumping on him with your wacky statistics.sheesh he is pitching well right now just leave it. Once he pitches like crap again then bust out with you independent fielding stuff.Doesn’t matter how it is done.But for now give him the due props and leave it.

  4. Dave on September 13th, 2005 5:07 pm

    Yes, let’s just all wallow in ignorance! Wee! Isn’t this fun!

  5. Ray Oyler Fan Club on September 13th, 2005 5:08 pm

    call me skeptical old fart [it’s ok…I’ve been called worse], but after seeing Gil Meche “come back” in August and September of last season, I’ll need to see Joel perform in some games that actually count before I jump on that bandwagon.

  6. Shoeless Jose on September 13th, 2005 5:09 pm

    37. Your point no. 3 is really, really off. Not even close to the way most readers of this blog approach it.

    Did I say that’s the way most readers approach the blog? Did I use the word “most”?

    No, point 3 is really, really on for a few readers of the blog. They complain in exactly the way I described, and then either the USSM guys themselves, or the rest of us when they’re tired of doing it, have to reply as I described in #4. I’ve done it myself (see comments #199, 204, and 218 in ) and you can see it in this very thread. Again, I never said “most” readers approach the blog this way; but a few do, and the rest (“most”) of us have to set them right over, and over, and over again.

  7. Talkbaseball on September 13th, 2005 5:10 pm

    Did I say they were the best pitchers, they are decent 3-4 pitchers, which is what Joel is when he is healthy, please do not put words in my mouth. Dave what makes you such a genius, you need to quit beagging on people. You are coming across as an arrogant jerk.

  8. LB on September 13th, 2005 5:16 pm

    #57: Did I say they were the best pitchers, they are decent 3-4 pitchers, which is what Joel is when he is healthy, please do not put words in my mouth.

    Yes, you did, in post #51: I would bet the starting pitchers w/ the best WHIP are going to best pitchers.

  9. Dave on September 13th, 2005 5:16 pm

    The last time you jumped on your WHIP high horse was when you were trying to convince me that Jamie Moyer should be cut. Remember this?

    Moyer needs to be cut, hey Dave still think Moyer is the best starting pitcher we have. I would venture to say he is the worst hands down. The guy needs to be cut, he is absolutely terrible. This will be the 4th straight game he won’t make it past 3 innings.

    You used WHIP to evaluate Moyer and it misled you. Not surprising, considering its a worthless stat for projecting how well a pitcher will perform going forward. You’re again using lame statistics to try to make a point, one that is again wrong. Why you expect me to rehash an entire argument I made to you several months ago and that you ignored is beyond me.

  10. Talkbaseball on September 13th, 2005 5:21 pm

    I can admit when I am wrong and I was wrong about Moyer, that said Moyer’s WHIP is a lot better now which is a correlation with better pitching. My point on WHIP is that it usually is an indication of good pitching and IF Piniero keeps his WHIP down he will be successful. I just thought Moyer was done and that was my mistake. A good WHIP typically correlates w/ a good ERA and a bad WHIP typically correlates w/ a bad ERA.

  11. Dave on September 13th, 2005 5:25 pm

    WHIP is okay if you want to do some kind of quick retrospective analysis of how successful a pitcher was in his last X starts and don’t care about precision. It tells you almost nothing about how well he’ll do going forward, however, which was the entire point of this post.

    Reflective statistics are of little value. Predictive statistics are of great value. I care very little for the former and much more for the latter.

  12. Grizz on September 13th, 2005 5:25 pm

    WHIP is a “pintless stat” in that it does not purport to measure liquid volume.

  13. Talkbaseball on September 13th, 2005 5:26 pm

    # 57 I said the pitchers w/ the best WHIP are the best starting pitchers. I was just making a comment about pitchers that Joel has more K’s I did not say anything about how good or bad those particular players WHIPs were. Everyone should know that list is of average pitchers.

  14. LB on September 13th, 2005 5:27 pm

    #60: If WHIP correlates so well with ERA, why do you not just watch ERA and ignore WHIP?

    Wacky statistic though it may be, K-rate has been demonstrated to be a better predictor of future ERA than present ERA.

  15. LB on September 13th, 2005 5:29 pm

    #62: Touché (or as they say in eastern Washington, Touchet).

  16. Talkbaseball on September 13th, 2005 5:30 pm

    I agree w/ you guys that WHIP is not as important as ERA or K-rate but I believe it has some relevence. The big if is can Joel keep his WHIP this low, but my point is IF he can he will be successful regardless of K-rate.

  17. Jeremy on September 13th, 2005 5:33 pm

    #60 If you want some statistics that are more useful as leading indicators (stats that will try to predict future performance), Ron Shandler has done extensive work on this ( as has Baseball Prospectus (

    A couple years ago, I bought a copy of Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster and it really added to my understanding of the game of baseball. The light came on as to the value of leading statistics for major league pitchers such as K/9, K/BB ratio, and BB/9 being a better place to start than fantasy stats such as WHIP.

    There has been considerable work done that suggests that pitchers have essentially no ability to prevent base hits on balls put in play, so using WHIP seems a bit flawed as one of the key components of WHIP is hits.

    I would recommend looking deeper than fantasy stats if you really want to be able to project future performance.

  18. Dave on September 13th, 2005 5:35 pm

    That’s like saying that eating right and exercise isn’t important, because to lose weight, all you need to do is burn more calories than you take in. Which you do by eating and exercising…

    WHIP, ERA, all these reflective stats tell you very little about how well a pitcher can be expected to pitch going forward. Move beyond them.

  19. Metz on September 13th, 2005 5:36 pm

    re: 50

    You’re hallucinating 🙂 I was talking about last year when Gil pitched “well” in August and September. His ERA was a little under 4 and his bb/k ratio was 17/50. BAA was around .230 in 75 IP. Not bad…but when delved into a little deeper you discovered that he used to have around 1k/ip and that dropped to .6k/ip, his walk rate was down, his hit rate was around the same which meant his defense was turning more balls put into play into outs than before.

    Having hit balls turned into outs is a pitching skill (take a look at Moyer’s and Maddux’s rates over the years) but it’s not something that a pitcher suddenly develops. It’s more likely an outcome of the good defense and a small run of luck.

    Sure enough you look at Gil this year and his BB/K ratio is around 1, his k/ip rate is .58 and his ERA has skyrocketed. His home run rate is actually lower than last year which means that lots of balls getting put into play against him this year are falling for hits and a lot of those walks are turning into runs. If anything he’s got better defense around him this year. All of these numbers show that “good” Gil of August and September last year was simply lucky Gil. If you look at the numbers for Joel you’ll see the same thing.

    The smart GM trades lucky Joel for something better in the offseason even if he has to pick up some coin to do it. I guess that depends on if you’re actually trying to build a contending team or one that fits into the budget….

  20. chico ruiz on September 13th, 2005 5:39 pm

    I realize that this gets into the realm of speculation, but like a lot of you I’d like to know why Joel isn’t capable of striking out hitters at his earlier rates. Everybody focuses on velocity, which is important for sure, but I always thought that Joel’s best pitch was his 12/6 curve, and I’m wondering if I’m the only one who thinks that it doesn’t have the same bite that it once did, and if that’s the case, whether the problem could in fact be injury related. The Mariners must have some theories on this point, although I don’t know if they’ve revealed them. Can anybody add anything concrete along these lines, or do I have to content myself with my own admittedly subjective viewpoint?

  21. Metz on September 13th, 2005 5:49 pm

    That’s really the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Why can some pitchers miss bats and others with the same velocity get lit up? Why does Franklin get beat like a bad puppy while Moyer get people out? I’d say its a 50-50 mix between stuff and control. MLB hitters will hit a 98 mph fastball when it’s put over the plate…

    Why can Mariano Rivera be a dominant closer throwing a single pitch for 10 years? Because he throws it exactly where he wants to and can put it in any one of 4 quadrants on each pitch. You might know what pitch is coming, you may know how its going to move but you have no idea where its going to be.

    I hope Felix learned from his bad 2nd inning on Sunday. His lack of control killed him. Frankly I’m equally concerned that he’s throwing fewer changeups each time out. I saw almost all fastball/curve from him on Sunday. Both are great pitches but I think he needs to continue throwing the change to be effective. Almost every at bat I knew when he was going to throw the curve, especially when he wanted a ground ball.

  22. firova on September 13th, 2005 5:57 pm

    56. You know, reading through the rest of this post, I have to give you this one easily. You’re right.

  23. Jeremy on September 13th, 2005 6:35 pm

    A common thread between the following pitchers:

    Pedro Martinez
    Johan Santana
    Greg Maddux
    Tom Glavine
    Jamie Moyer
    Jason Schmidt
    Brad Radke
    Felix Hernandez

    They all have good to plus changeups: the most underrated and possibly most important pitch in baseball. If I’m a GM, I’m building my team of guys who can control the strikezone, have decent movement on their fastball and throw a wicked changeup. Oh wait, the Braves already did that.

  24. Nate on September 13th, 2005 7:45 pm

    Just to clarify, Kevin (#29), nailed what I was getting at when I made the “glass half empty” remark. I should have been more specific, but I didn’t want to appear like I was pulling quotes out of context.

    I really think that Chico Ruiz (#70) is on to the question that I continue to have: What skill has Pineiro lost? Can he regain it? The problem is that I don’t know of any objective measures.

    If we think of a chain of causation, it might go something like this:

    Physical Strength/Health/Mechanics
    Pitching Control/Power
    Runs allowed
    Success of Team

    The closer we are to the top, the less data we have available. As we move down the list, each successive item is easier to measure, but harder to give exclusive blame or credit to the pitcher.

    Dave is looking at the fifth line, where most of the local papers seem to be looking at the 6th or 7th line. I don’t think the M’s should give up on Pineiro until they have a better handle on what happened to Pineiro on the first three lines, but are any theories about that are just guesses? Or are there ways to make informed evidence-based assessments about those first things?

  25. Jeff on September 13th, 2005 8:21 pm

    I would like to see some of the old Joel’s numbers in comparison to the last eight games. I remember him having a solid year & being extremly tough on right handers but I don’t recall mistaking him with Roger Clements, he was a good young pitcher with nice upside, but even then questionable as a staff ace. To me numbers aside the improvement for whatever reason is obvious & I am hopeful that as he puts his arm problems further behind & his arm gets better………but we still gotta spend that Boone/Moyer money and buy the best FA pitcher!

  26. Bela Txadux on September 14th, 2005 12:33 am

    Pre-July, Joel’s release point was wildly inconsistent; he was muscling up on the ball to get velocity, opening up early, coming out of his motion twisted up, and his mechanics in other ways were poor. Consequently, his command was lousy on every pitch except his change-up. From August on, Joel’s mechanics have been largely restored, and his command of his pitches generally and of the strike zone is radically better. This shows up in his outstanding BB/9 rate. He doesn’t seem to have the same bite on his breaking pitches—but then he was _never_ consistent game to game with that; think back to his ‘heyday’—and still doesn’t seem to be challenging hitters with the fastball for the K as much as locating the fastball to set up his off-speed stuff. In this sense, he is indeed “a different pitcher,” although as noted above he always thought and threw like a finesse guy. Whether the sharpness of his stuff comes back or not is conjecture, yes, but what is certain is that his K rate won’t recover until and unless his stuff does (or he learns a new pitch). Personally, I suspect that his stuff will get better there as he gets further away from the injury, with an uptick in his K rate next year, but that’s simply my positive speculation.

    The key for evaluating Joel for the future then to me is: can Pinero keep his BB/9 rate this low?? Eight, somewhat uneven games form a group rather too small to be sure, but we’ll get several more starts from him before the season is over, and this is the number I’ll be watching very closely. Whether Joel should be moved or kept will largely determined by this in my view.

    But another point: July, messed up Joel; September, un-messed up Joel (comparatively speakin). Is this the work of Brian Price?? I say yes. Brian can’t make Joel’s pitches bite or his fastball tail better; those are fundamental outcomes of physical skill. Price _can_ work to get Joel straightened out in his delivery, and help him sharpen up his command and control. We know that Price made specific interventions to achieve this. Whether or not the change of hand position was the key for the changes we see in Pinero recently, it was also likely not the only thing Brian was doing with Joel, either. In evaluating Price, pitching coach, this present outcome in the performance of Pinero is a point to fiile away for reference. Not because we know, for a fact, that Joel’s improvement is directly attributable to Price’s intervention; not enough (public) data. But if one sees _multiple_ instances of guys ‘messed up’ improving under Price’s direction, and I think we have, the trend shows. . . . I think Price is an outstanding pitching coach. This is why.

  27. Brian Rust on September 14th, 2005 10:31 am

    to score in fencing = too-SHAY
    the E. Wash. village = TOO-shee