Is Pinerio’s Newfound Groundball Success Sustainable?

Dave covered Joel Pineiro’s defensive dependent tendencies earlier this season. Part of Pineiro’s success can be traced to an increased groundball rate. Pineiro’s stuff is generating over 60% groundballs after producing a little less than 50% last year. Keith Law submitted a post idea involving other large jumps and whether those pitchers were able to sustain the batted ball trait in the following season.

Using our groundball data (dating back to 2002) I looked at every starting pitcher with at least 100 innings during that season and compared their rates to the preceding and following seasons. I found eight cases where a pitcher increased 10% from one year to the next. Those cases include Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, Ryan Drese, Jon Garland, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Kris Benson, and John Thomson. Below you’ll see the data table. The first column is self explanatory. Year N dictates the season in which the large jump occurred. Delta is the difference between Year N and Year N-1. N+1 is the year after Year N, shown to represent whether the jump sustained or regressed in the following season.


None of the pitchers suffered a 50% or higher loss in the next season. Only Jon Garland lost 5% or more, and only two pitchers gained more than 1%. All of which is to say that if the pitcher can show such improvement in causing groundballs, then the improvement is most likely legitimate rather than a sample size fluke. So what’s the improved part of Pineiro’s game? His fastballs.

For one, Gameday is now classifying a large chunk of Pineiro’s fastballs as two-seamers, which seems accurate. Pineiro’s four-seam fastballs are also breaking in to righties more and ‘up’ less. Whatever the pitch is, Pineiro is giving batters of both hands absolute fits this season. Righties have a .702 OPS against despite an inflated BABIP and lefties have a .661 OPS against, albeit with a deflated BABIP. This isn’t the Pineiro we or the batters are used to, but I guess we’re stuck with this version for at least another year.

For more reference on groundball rate spikes, check out Eric’s piece from earlier in the season.

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12 Responses to “Is Pinerio’s Newfound Groundball Success Sustainable?”

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  1. Basil Ganglia says:

    If Piñeiro’s performance is sustained, Duncan should further solidify his reputation as one of the scant pitching coaches who actually is effective.

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  2. Christian says:

    So is Pineiro a descent pickup in fantasy leagues? Sure, he isn’t going to do much for your strikeouts, but sustaining this good ERA makes him at least a good stream option. He seems like a poor mans (what used to be) Derek Lowe.

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  3. rwperu34 says:

    What about year N+2?

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    • Andy S says:

      I’m also interested in the year N-2 deltas.

      “All of which is to say that if the pitcher can show such improvement in causing groundballs, then the improvement is most likely legitimate rather than a sample size fluke.”

      I don’t think you can draw this conclusion so quickly (not sure if it’s wrong). I think it can only be drawn if we can see a similar mechanical change in those pitchers that Pineiro is echoing.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      In case you cannot access my linked article, I looked at N+2, N+3, etc, and found that the number of pitchers with historical shifts such as this are few and far between, but the % of those that sustain rates as the years move forward is quite high.

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  4. Nathan S says:

    It’s also pretty interesting that Jason Marquis’ groundball rate also jumped more than 10% this year (47.6 –> 57.7), and this has arguably his best season since he went 15-7.

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    • Andy S says:

      It’s not THAT interesting, I mean, it’s been shown that groundball pitchers are more likely to post low BABIPs than air ball pitchers, thus likely leading to fewer runs scored.

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      • acerimusdux says:

        Ground ball pitchers post higher BABIP, not lower. Though they do allow less runs (less XBH).

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  5. Glenn says:

    It’s ‘Pineiro’ :)

    Thanks! sfasdf

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  6. Havoc says:

    Actually, it’s “Piñeiro” :-p

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  7. Nick Kapur says:

    I think even more than looking at other pitchers who experienced a similar change, it’s important to look at the peripheral statistics of the specific pitcher in question and see if anything is different.

    Which is to say that if the pitcher’s peripherals are in line with career norms, than it’s probably a fluke, regardless of what other pitchers did in the past.

    But on the other hand, if something has changed in the underlying approach of the pitcher in question, then the change in outcomes is much more likely to be sustainable going forward.

    In the specific case of Joel Pinero, as I have just pointed out in a post over at UmpBump, in at least one area something big has obviously changed, in that he is throwing way more fastballs than ever before – 71% this season, versus a well-established previous career norm of 59%.

    Clearly, Pinero has completely changed his whole approach this year, so if his results have also changed, that is very likely to be based on the change in approach, and therefore at least somewhat sustainable, than to be a year-to-year fluke.

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  8. Tom says:

    Just revisited this post. One major exclusion (per the 100 inning limit)….was Chris Carpenter in 2004. He came over to the Cardinals from the Blue Jays and posted an increase of 10.6%. The Cardinal magic with pitchers yet again. Not to mention the fact that they helped Carp become one of the most talented pitchers in the majors…after having a career era around 5!

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