Today’s Waiver Wire focuses on two ground ball pitchers who are enjoying good starts to their seasons, even though no one seems to be noticing.
Joel Pineiro: 11% owned
After five seasons (2004-2008) of being nearly unownable in anything other than deep AL or NL only leagues, Joel Pineiro has seen his career, both in real life and fantasy, rejuvenated by the addition of a sinker. He was taught the pitch by St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan while with the Cardinals in 2008. The next season he saw ground ball percentage jump 60.5%, more than 12 points higher than the season before. Pineiro also saw his ERA, FIP, and xFIP get below 4.00, the first time any of them had been that low since 2003. He took his new found success to Anaheim where he only pitched 152 innings, but won 10 games and had a very respectable triple slash line (ERA, FIP, xFIP) of 3.84/3.84/3.73.
Shoulder tightness landed Pineiro on the DL to begin this season, but in his three starts since returning he has been excellent, going 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA. He’s never going to strike out many batters – his K/9 the past two seasons hasn’t topped 5.00 – but he should post a better than average ERA, especially with an improved Angels defense behind him. Three starts is obviously a small sample, and he’s due for some regression as a 98.9% strand rate isn’t sustainable, but he looks to be fulled healed from his shoulder injury and would be a good pickup for middle to deep leagues.
Rick Porcello: 7% owned
Other than the nearly one run increase in ERA, Porcello’s 2010 season was very similar to his 2009 rookie campaign. His K/9’s and xFIP’s were nearly identical, and he did produce exactly 1.9 WAR in each season. The increase in ERA from one season to the next can be mostly explained by an increase in his LOB%. In 2009 he stranded 75.5% of base runners, while in 2010 the number dropped to 65.9%, which is very low for any pitcher. In seven starts this season, Porcello’s LOB% is on the upswing, currently sitting at 78.7%, which has his ERA sitting at 3.67.
He also looks to have made a significant change in his approach, relying less on his fastball and throwing his changeup 16.4% of the time, up from 9.4% the past two seasons. Although I wouldn’t put much stock into pitch type values early in a season, or even late in a season because they are influenced so much by the defense, his changeup currently is highest rated pitch. That may be the reason for his increased swinging strike percentage and K/9. He is only 22, and looks to be improving. He’s not a good target for shallow leagues, but, like Pineiro, is more than serviceable in 12 team leagues.
*All ownership percentages based on Yahoo! leagues
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