Projecting Joel Pineiro’s 2011 Season

It has been a long road back for Joel Pineiro. After producing two excellent seasons for the Mariners in 2002 and 2003 he began a swift decline. It started with an elbow injury in 2004 and continued through 2008. During that time he had pitched for three teams, though his last destination, St. Louis, appeared the most attractive. That’s where he worked under the tutelage of pitching coach Dave Duncan. A year and a half after acquiring Pineiro from the Red Sox, the Cardinals found they had struck gold. He pitched 214 innings in 2009 and finished with a 3.49 ERA.

The difference shows up right in the numbers. Pineiro’s ground-ball rate jumped by more than 10 percent from his career average at that point, and he stopped walking batters. The combination led to not only a solid ERA, but also solid peripheral ERAs: 3.27 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, and 3.19 tERA. His redeeming season couldn’t have come at a better time, either, as he was headed for free agency. The Angels ended up landing him for a relative bargain at two years and $16 million. In 2010 he showed that he might really be a recovery case and not just a fluke.

Before an oblique strain caused him to miss two months, Pineiro was rolling along. While his walk rate jumped a bit and his ground-ball rate dipped somewhat, he compensated by striking out more hitters. It amounted to a 3.84 ERA, and his FIP, xFIP, and tERA were all within .04 of that. That’s quite an impressive feat for a guy who, just two years prior, produced a 5.15 ERA in the NL Central. He’ll be back with the Angels for 2011, and given his last two seasons it would be safe to say he should bring much of the same. But not everyone agrees.

Today Dan Szymborski released the 2011 ZiPS projections for the Angels. The top three pitchers yield no surprises. Jered Weaver checks in with a 3.53 ERA, Dan Haren is at 3.57, and Ervin Santana sits at 4.23. Where the surprise comes is below the league-average line, where Joel Pineiro sits with a 4.44 ERA. Why the pessimism after he produced so well in the past two seasons?

The difference appears to come on balls in play. ZiPS actually projects Pineiro’s walk rate to be under 2.00 per nine and his home-run rate to stay around the same level it was last year. In fact, his FIP works out to 3.98. The extra half-run, then, has a lot to do with the 162 hits in 146 innings that ZiPS projects. That works out to a 1.31 WHIP, which is a bit higher than Pineiro has experienced in the last few years. In both of those years, his hits allowed have been right around his IP totals, so the jump in hit rate will clearly affect his ERA.

Still, there’s plenty of room in optimism. Both Bill James and the Fans have projected Pineiro to perform a bit better. Problem is, we have only 22 Fan projections for him. Let’s pump that up and see where the cards fall. It’ll take just a second, so click here to enter your projections for Pineiro.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


13 Responses to “Projecting Joel Pineiro’s 2011 Season”

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  1. William says:

    It’s unclear to my as to why he is projected so dismally. If anything, his move to the Angels should have been a boon to his ’09, as he went from a poor infield defense to a respectable one. And any luck-based argument seems to be quite a stretch.

    What’s more, not only does his 2-seamer drop even more than average (while also exhibiting very impressive horizontal movement), but so too do his four-seamer, slider, and curve. 4.44 seems absurd, and the only reason I see him doing worse than ’09 is because he is in his thirties… but even then, I’d wager that he does at least as well.

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    • DickAlmighty says:

      4.44 seems “absurd”? I don’t think so. 4.44 seems well within the range of possibilities for Pineiro. If you projected him to have a 2.00 ERA for the season, that would be absurd (because he’s not that good). If you projected him to have a 7.00 ERA over 200 IP, that would be absurd (because he wouldn’t get that many innings with a 7.00 ERA). But, any Pineiro ERA projection between 3.50 and 5.00 isn’t “absurd.”

      Another way to say the same thing is: What wouldn’t be absurd? A 4.00 ERA? A 3.80 ERA? The difference between a 4.00 ERA and a 4.44 ERA over the course of a 180-inning season is about 8 ER. Is it that absurd to think that, if you think he’s a 4.00-ERA pitcher, he might end up giving up an extra 8 ER in 32 starts and have a 4.44 ERA at the end of the season (despite his perceived talent as a 4.00 ERA pitcher)? Put less stock in the precision of projections; understand that a projection is just a single point in a wide range of possible outcomes…

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      • William says:

        I agree that it is a range … I’m not a freakin’ idiot. Where I am coming from is that 4.44 is their starting point, meaning that they think it could be significantly higher. That, in my opinion, doesn’t jibe with what Piniero has shown since he learned to put sick vertical movement on his pitches.

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      • DickAlmighty says:

        Didn’t say you were an idiot. Just commenting on the use of the word “absurd.”

        4.44 isn’t absurd. 5.00 wouldn’t surprise. Neither would 4.00.

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      • Royalsfan says:

        ZiPS projects a 3.98 FIP for Pineiro. To finish with a 4.44 ERA, he would have to have bad luck and/or his defense would have to fail him completely. I do think it is fair to call that projection “absurd.”

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    • William says:

      I guess that’s the reason why I would use absurd … because I would be very surprised, considering that with his current repetoire he is effectively a different pitcher than the one pre-2009 and, based on that, a near-worst of the league number would stun me.

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  2. marshen says:

    As an Angels fan, whenever Joel Pineiro takes the mound, I always feel the team has a good chance of winning.

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  3. jbardo says:

    As a gynormous Angels fan, I don’t think a 4.44 ERA is “absurd.” A tad pessimistic, yes. Pineiro had a 3.84 ERA for the Angels last year compared to a league average 4.14 EA; his ERA was also well below average in 2009, so unless ZIPs is predicting that either Pineiro will majorly decline or the league will return to the boom days of the 90s/early 00s, I think it unlikely that he would have an ERA worse than average.

    Also his 3.84 ERA last year included a 5.76 ERA in April as he adjusted to the Better League. Let’s say the league ERA goes back up a bit to 4.20; an optimistic projection would have Pineiro in the 3.50-3.80 range; a moderate projection 3.80-4.20; pessimistic 4.20 or higher.

    It is interesting to note that almost every projection system ends up with worse than performance, except for maybe Bill James.

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  4. jbardo says:

    To put it another way, Pineiro has established himself over the last two years as a solidly “above average” starting pitcher, what some call a “quality regular” or a #3 starter on an average team. I don’t see why that would change next year.

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  5. Mackerel says:

    This jbardo guy is completely clueless. Do yourself a favor and stop pretending you have a clue what you’re talking about.

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    • jbardo says:

      What are you talking about, Mackerel? I’m not sure what I wrote to offend you – it isn’t like I pooped on your couch. As far as I can remember, at least.

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  6. Nivra says:

    Funny, we were talking in Pineiro over in this thread:
    http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/2011/1/14/1934572/2010-jonathon-sanchez-babip-fluke-or-a-real-step-forward-pitch-f-x

    Pineiro had a .318 BABIP in 2008 and a 21.7% LD-rate. In 2009, he posted a .293 BABIP to go along with a 15.7% LD-rate. In 2010, he posted a .293 BABIP and a 16% LD-rate.

    It seems fairly clear that his BABIP has dropped largely because his LD-rate is dramatically lower. Each LD turns into a hit about .65 more than a FB or GB, so a 5% drop in LD-rate becomes a .032 drop in BABIP which is almost exactly what he experienced.

    The million dollar question is: can he sustain the low LD-rate? I argue in that thread that he can, at least to a certain extent. Unless he flubs his mechanics or gets injured he’s not going turn back into a pumpkin in 2011. He may not post a 16% LD-rate, but it will still be lower than league average. Looking at his start-by-start Batted-Ball graphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=1094&position=P&page=9&type=full) shows that in 2009, his LD-rate dropped CONSISTENTLY after the first couple starts. It stayed in and around 16% from start-to-start. It didn’t get to 16% by fluctuating wildly from start-to-start and get a couple of lucky starts where lots of balls got hit to fielders. He went out there once every 5 days and posted the same LD-rate. In 2010, there was a bit more fluctuation, but nothing like his 2008.

    The LD-rate game-by-game graphs point to a story that Pineiro became a different pitcher in 2009 and learned how to decrease the number of BIP that were hit for LD’s. And that has a large impact on his ever variable BABIP.

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  7. Mike G. says:

    Score a huge win for ZIPS here.

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