Angels Sign Pineiro

The Angels signed Joel Pineiro to a two-year, 16 million dollar deal. Seemingly out of nowhere Pineiro had a near-5-win season last year, as his walk and fly ball rates were microscopic. He is due for some regression as no one can be expected to walk on only 1.1 batter per nine. But as I talked about before, I think the change in Pineiro’s pitch use frequencies — throwing more sinkers — insulates him from some regression. Another way of seeing this is the change in the height of Pineiro’s fastballs.

In 2009 Pineiro threw his fastball much lower in the zone than he did previously. This supports the increase in ground balls in 2009.

But one important thing to consider with all those ground balls is the infield defense Pineiro plays in front of. By UZR the Cardinals had just an average defense in 2009, but Pineiro gave up a lower slugging on grounders than the average NL pitcher (0.236 for Pineiro versus 0.256 for average). Using the technique from yesterday’s post I looked at the number and slugging of Pineiro’s ground balls based on their angle compared to average. I took a suggestion of Sal Paradise and got rid of the numbers, so the color is the slugging percentage and the size of the slice is the relative number of grounders to that slice.

Pineiro does much better in slices 3, 4, 7 and 8. These are the slices straight at either the second baseman or the shortstop — the ones with the lowest slugging — and for Pineiro these slices were even better than average. Pineiro got fewer grounders down the right-field line and more down the left-field line, but those down the left-field line had a lower slugging than for the average RHP.

Looking to 2010, Pineiro will most likely pitch in front of an infield of Kendry Morales, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Brandon Wood. The right side of the infield should be good: both Jeff Zimmerman’s UZR projections and Sean Smith’s CHONE defensive projections have the pair at +5 runs together. But the two systems diverge on Aybar and Wood. UZR likes Aybar at short, giving him +7.1 UZR/150 over 2000 innings. Add in regression and aging, and Zimmerman projects +5 in 2010. But CHONE’s defensive projection, which is based on Smith’s TotalZone defensive system, projects him at -2. Wood doesn’t have much time in the Bigs — thus little UZR data — so I think it is better to go with TotalZone, which covers time in the minors. Those numbers are not pretty and CHONE projects him at -6 at third. I might defer to UZR — it draws on the BIS data set which is considered better than the Retrosheet data set on which TotalZone is based — for Aybar, but TotalZone for Wood. In all, the infield will probably be about +5 runs over average. So that should not be an issue for Pineiro.

Pineiro should be a safe bet to provide at least 2.5 wins and has a good shot at maybe four wins in 2010, and then maybe a little bit less in 2011. So the price is solid even in today’s down market. With Hideki Matsui and Pineiro the Angels have added some nice pieces, but with their coming regression and the Mariners’ additions, the AL West should be competitive in 2010.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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David Appelman

Those are just about the coolest charts I’ve ever seen.