PinheadSoxi01052007 The Boston Herald says Joel Pineiro will "most likely" replace Papelbon as closer in 2007. The Globe agrees, but without really saying so. Scared yet?

The man simply has not pitched well since injuring his elbow in 2004. As a starter in 2006, he was just atrocious:

  • 25 GS, 7-12, 141.3 IP, 190 H, 54 BB, 67 K, 6.62 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, .326 BAA

In 24.3 innings out of the pen, he was better — an ERA of 4.81 but a WHIP of 1.19 and an opponents’ average of just .213, which seem to indicate he got a little unlucky, possibly with other relievers allowing his runners to score. In his final 15.67 innings (over 13 games and not counting a typically horrific start on Sept. 16), he gave up just four runs, an ERA of 2.30.

Tom Gordon was not exactly brilliant, sporting a 5.59 ERA the season before he moved to the pen (although he wasn’t doing too badly and had actually thrown a shutout before making the switch in August 1997). Dennis Eckersley also stunk his final season as a starter, in 1986, going 6-11 with a 4.57 ERA, actually worse than Gordon’s when adjusting for league average.

The Sox seem to believe Pineiro can make a similar transition. In 1998, Gordon’s first full season as closer, he saved 46 games, a team record that still stands. Eckersley cut his ERA by more than 1.5 runs while saving 16 games in 1987 and followed that season up with 45 more in 1988.

“Even when he was having great seasons as a starter, our (scouting) reports were, ‘Wow, this guy can be unbelievable in the bullpen,’” Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer said. … "Then, last year when he went to the bullpen, (reports) indicated he dropped his arm angle a bit and he got more life on the ball, which we thought would make for a very good transition. We think we signed a very good pitcher.”

His numbers out of the bullpen the end of last season were encouraging. Still, I think I’d feel more comfortable with my grandmother Delcarmen or Timlin out there in the ninth come April 1.

30 comments… add one
  • Incidentally, since I spoke positively of this signing when it first was reported, let me reconcile the contrasting tones.
    If this is a speculative signing, hoping that he blows people away in spring training, then great. Throw another piece at the wall and see if it sticks. That’s what spring training is for, after all.
    If this is a signing with the intent — as is being reported now — of Pineiro being the frontrunner for the closer’s job, then I’m a bit more fearful. I’ll be rooting for him, and his numbers from the pen are promising, but the sample size is small and the much larger sample size is all too clear about how (not) good he is.

    Paul SF January 7, 2007, 1:49 am
  • If this is a speculative signing, hoping that he blows people away in spring training, then great. Throw another piece at the wall and see if it sticks. That’s what spring training is for, after all.
    If this is a signing with the intent — as is being reported now — of Pineiro being the frontrunner for the closer’s job

    What’s the difference, Paul? He still has to prove in ST that he can do the job. If he bombs out in Florida, he won’t be the closer. If he’s lights out in Florida, he might be, and deservedly so. Not sure I see this as a big deal. The front office is probably still looking for a proven closer, but my guess is the terms for acquiring that closer aren’t going to change much between now and April, so they’ve decided to go with this. That may be a mistake down the road. But there must be a sentiment that the prospects demanded for a guy like Chad Cordero are simply too much, that they can get enough out of a committee or out of someone on the staff to not have to make a move. Yet.
    I am not saying I like this, but it does indicate that the market for a proven closer isn’t what the Sox want it to be. This move effectively tells teams that they have been dealing with that Boston is no longer in the market, or that if they want to make a deal with the Sox now (in advance of the Sox being in dire need for a closer during the season, in which case this negotiating stance is moot) they have to change what they are asking for.

    SF January 7, 2007, 6:57 am
  • I wonder what the BABIP was over that .213 period. And the homer total.

    YF January 7, 2007, 9:24 am
  • SF: Perhaps (for sure) it’s semantic, but i don’t think your first paragraf agrees with your second. The market for a top closer, as you note off the bat, is high right now, and not likely to change. The Pineiro signing isn’t a signal that other teams will have to change their terms–no one, not even the Sox, spend 4 million bucks to send signals (and i know you’re not arguing that the sox are spending that money as a negotiating tactic). Still, the point is, the fact that the Sox have Pineiro isn’t going to change the calculus on the value of a closer. As you essentially note. If I were negotiating with the Sox, my demands would not change at all–it’s a sellers market out there. What the Sox might be willing to part with—another story.

    YF January 7, 2007, 9:34 am
  • Or let me put this another, less contentious way (i don’t mean to pick a fight here): If you (and by you i mean any team, boston included) want to pickup a top-flight closer before the season even begins—when EVERY team is still in theoretical contention (and remember the Tigers!)—they you’d better be prepared to pay through the nose. No matter who’s already on your 40-man.
    Now, there’s always the Bowden X-factor, but, well….

    YF January 7, 2007, 9:39 am
  • pineiro is probably nothing more than a placeholder for the closer position, and the sox are still going to try to acquire a more established guy down the road…he is as viable as anyone else they have right now [except pap], and the money isn’t huge [relatively speaking…damn, never thought i’d say a couple million wasn’t big money]…anyway, given the sox fo’s recent good success with talent assessment, and knowing which guys can contribute and for how long [and for my yf friends, i know there are exceptions], i wouldn’t sell this one short until we see him in action…i know his resume isn’t the most impressive, and it’s a cop-out for me to say “wait and see”, but i have no reason to believe that this guy can’t do at least a servicable job until they sort out the rest of the relievers, and decide if they need to go get someone else…the only caution is that they may need to be a little less reluctant to part with one of their prized prospects…

    dc January 7, 2007, 9:40 am
  • i hadn’t read yf’s comments before i posted, so let me add that i agree with him…boston’s not sending signals to anyone, like i said, they needed a placeholder, did the best they could for now, and let’s wait and see…my closing comment about being less reluctant to part with prized prospects still stands, another point yf and i agree on…closer’s a funny animal…anybody with a good one doesn’t want to part with them unless you have an extra one [yanks with rivera and gordon]…you don’t see the good ones traded very often, wihout a hefty price tag, and it’s rare to see them acquired through free agency…i know there are notable exceptions, but the operative word is “rare”…

    dc January 7, 2007, 9:50 am
  • Let me put this another way. They can BS around about closing with Pineiro until whenever, and then, at that time, move him back to his customary place in the rotation and—presto!—now the Sox have a great closer available on their own roster….

    YF January 7, 2007, 9:57 am
  • Well, I agree with all the comments and disagree, but as YF says I think it’s just semantics. The market for closers right now is just like YF says, and the Sox have decided to bow out of the bidding. But it is true, as I am saying, that the Sox are basically “telling” the teams they may have been dealing with regarding a potential closer (Wash, Tex?) that they are no longer interested. If the Nats are intent on moving their closer now (which they may not be), then the Sox are clearly not going to give them what they want, until Pineiro (or other solutions) fails at the job. This is delaying a market, as least for the Sox. That’s what I meant by “sending a signal”.
    As for Paul’s seeming turn of opinion, I just don’t see how the Sox acquiring Pineiro and saying that he might be good in relief to shifting to saying more explicitly that he’s their closer as of now (January!) is anything to get one’s bee in a bonnet about.

    SF January 7, 2007, 10:47 am
  • No bees in this man’s bonnet.

    YF January 7, 2007, 11:20 am
  • I think it was Paul’s bonnet I was referring to.

    SF January 7, 2007, 11:57 am
  • What color is this so-called bonnet?

    QuoSF January 7, 2007, 12:24 pm
  • I really just wanted an excuse to use the Pinhead’s picture. As YF said, $M seems to be more than just posturing. True, though, that if he bombs in spring training, they probably wouldn’t use him as a closer — but unless they have a way to avoid paying him the money, they’ll still be using him out of the pen.
    I do agree that the Sox are essentially trying to remove any premium that may have ben placed on them during their closer negotiations. Although this is a seller’s market, the asking price for Chad Cordero would shift I imagine depending on whether the team asking for him had a gigantic hole in their closer’s position or whether they had a couple serviceable guys but are just looking around for an established guy. The Sox have the former, so the Nats can ask for the moon, knowing they have the Sox over the barrell. The Sox may indeed end up using Pineiro as a middle relief guy or setup man, but the message they’re sending now is they don’t NEED Cordero, so maybe the Nats lower their asking price to something like Hansen and Pena — which would essentially make the Arroyo trade one for Cordero. Not sure if it’ll work because the Sox will be in an interesting condition indeed if Pineiro is their Opening Day closer.

    Paul SF January 7, 2007, 12:33 pm
  • I really just wanted an excuse to use the picture of the Pinhead.

    Paul SF January 7, 2007, 12:33 pm
  • Do you own a bonnet, though? People want to know…

    SF January 7, 2007, 12:34 pm
  • uh, no offense guys, but if you really think pin-head is a smoke-screen to fool other gm’s into thinking you don’t still need a closer, you’re delusional, and naive…he’s nothing more than a placeholder like i keep saying, and nobody’s fooled that you aren’t going to try to make a more permanent, more effective move…

    dc January 7, 2007, 5:01 pm
  • Sadly, no bonnets. Though I’ll take one if it’s emblazoned with the YFSF logo.
    Apparently I thought my Pinhead excuse comment so witty, I posted it twice. Ha. Sorry about that.

    Paul SF January 8, 2007, 12:14 am
  • uh, no offense guys, but if you really think pin-head is a smoke-screen to fool other gm’s into thinking you don’t still need a closer, you’re delusional, and naive
    That’s not the point, dc, and that’s not been asserted – read my posts, at least. The point is that the market now is not to their liking, so they’ve either bowed out of the market as currently set or have at least indicated to other teams that they are willing to wait and see. There are no delusions here: Pineiro is a longshot to be effective with the Sox, particularly as a closer, in my mind.

    SF January 8, 2007, 8:57 am
  • “…read my posts, at least…”
    sf, you may not be saying it as dramatically as i did, but the following quote from one of your earlier posts suggests to me anyway, that “fooling” the other teams is what you’re hinting at, if not saying outright:
    “…This move effectively tells teams that they have been dealing with that Boston is no longer in the market, or that if they want to make a deal with the Sox now (in advance of the Sox being in dire need for a closer during the season, in which case this negotiating stance is moot) they have to change what they are asking for….”
    …all i was pointing out is that Boston IS still in the market given the odds against this experiment…i said earlier that it is rare that closers are available at all, let alone this early in the season, unless a team has more than one, so the “price” would tend to be high…but, i don’t see teams actually believing that their guy would be worth less to the sox now because they have pineiro…i don’t think that influences the deal at all, nor has it improved boston’s negotiating leverage [remember, they’re the buyer with a need to fill (unless pineiro surprises everyone) in a market that’s short on supply]…i haven’t heard of one team being “interested” in making such a deal, at discount prices, and that’s unlikely to change…i could be wrong, there may be a closer in the last year of a contract for a small-budget team who can’t afford to sign him and would be glad to settle for a couple of lesser prospects, but i’m not hearing those kinds of rumors…

    dc January 8, 2007, 10:22 am
  • dc, What SF and I are talking about is pretty routine. Last offseason, the Yankees said they were perfectly happy with “(mediocre guy I can’t remember)” in center field, even while negotiating with Boras for Damon. Other teams may or may not believe it, agents for available players may or may not believe it, but if it could lower the asking price or get a deal done, why not?

    Paul SF January 8, 2007, 10:29 am
  • No, in no way am I implying that the Red Sox are trying to fool anyone, dc. I am not saying that. Boston is not in the market for a closer at current prices. They may be in the market for a closer if the prices come down, and if Pineiro (or someone else) can’t take the job.
    Let’s just put it this way: the Sox cannot fool anyone about their closer situation. The only thing they can do, at the moment, to try to affect markets, is become less of a buyer. Which they have just done. In March, things may totally change, as is obvious.

    SF January 8, 2007, 10:37 am
  • fair enough guys, i wasn’t trying to nitpick…at least not intentionally…i see what your point is, and i have to agree that for the moment the sox have eased the pressure to do something that’s not in their best interests…they have a placeholder for closer that might just work out when it’s all said and done…who knows?…signing jp was not a bad move under any circumstances…

    dc January 8, 2007, 10:46 am
  • for the moment the sox have eased the pressure
    That’s exactly it, dc. And the pressure is likely to rise again come Spring Training or some weeks into the season, in my opinion, unfortunately. Though I hope I am completely wrong.

    SF January 8, 2007, 10:49 am
  • the pressure’s likely to rise, but not necessarily…for the sake of competitiveness i also hope you’re wrong…[no, i’m not kidding, and haven’t bumped my head]…it’s much more fun when both teams compete neck and neck for first place, and it gives us more to debate [argue] about…it would be a bummer to have the lack of a closer derail the rivalry, although i’m sure the sox will recognize it quickly enough to mitigate the damage…

    dc January 8, 2007, 11:20 am
  • But why pass on Gange at $6million then take a chance on Pineiro? I thought the sox passed on what was available because they thought they were set or did nott want to spend the money. The Pineiro signing goes against both those lines of reasoning. Are the sox doubting themselves?

    Seth January 8, 2007, 1:27 pm
  • I thought the Sox passed on Gagne because he wanted $6M guaranteed and hadn’t thrown a pitch in two years. As opposed to Pineiro, who cost $2M less and has stunk, but was healthy.

    SF January 8, 2007, 1:49 pm
  • Another factor is probably that Pineiro can also spot-start (if he ends up as a setup guy), which Gagne cannot. So if Pineiro isn’t the closer and settles in to some sort of even half-decent 6th/7th inning role (which isn’t a ton to ask), he can be used as starting relief when injuries hit.

    SF January 8, 2007, 1:51 pm
  • Did the Sox pass on Gagne? There’s an assumption on both fan bases’ parts that we can have any free agent we want, but (and correct me if there’s a report that says otherwise) it’s entirely possible that they offered Gagne equal or even better money and he still chose Texas. More and more, I find it hard to assess any front office’s work on a decision by decision basis. The Pineiro signing strikes me as a shot in the dark, made after the market for closers became unattractive for the Sox front office. I don’t think it’s going to work, but the front office has scouts that obviously think they can turn him around. Anyway, what the Sox intended to happen is probably different from what is now happening. It doesn’t mean they messed up, however.

    Nick-YF January 8, 2007, 2:05 pm
  • Good point, Nick. I do remember reading that the Sox weren’t interested in spending $6M on Gagne, though. But I shouldn’t assume that with all offers being equal a player will pick either the Sox or the Yanks. You are 100% correct.

    SF January 8, 2007, 2:19 pm
  • excellent point, it shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion that the sox and yanks can have any player they want…on the subject of relievers, eddie guardado has a limited no trade clause that allows him to veto a trade to any of 10 teams, including the sox, mets, and yanks…troy percival has a no trade clause that keeps him from going to the yanks or mets, and 2 other teams…

    dc January 8, 2007, 4:03 pm

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