Not So Pin-Headed?

I’ve gone back and forth on the signing of Joel Pineiro. On the one hand, there’s the lousy results as a starter. On the other, there’s the decent stats as a reliever. On the first hand, there’s the $4 million contract, not much less than gambles on more established relievers such as Eric Gagne and Octavio Dotel. On the second hand, there’s the fact that he heed be only league average or slightly worse to give the Sox 25-30 saves and keep the team in contention.

Mike Edelman at Firebrand is a convert:

In 3.2 innings against the Tigers, Pineiro retired all 11 batters in a row while not allowing a single walk. In doing so he protected just a 1 run lead. He looked like he truly belonged on the mound with a scowl and presence to match that of Mike Timlin. He kept almost all his pitches at knees of the batters while hitting the corners and getting good movement on his breaking pitches. Long story short, I watched many of the other appearances he made out of the pen and found more of the same.

Sample-size concerns abound, of course. Just because a guy looks good at the tail end of a lost season on a lost team when he’s got nothing else to lose doesn’t mean he’ll look great in the ninth for the Red Sox at, say, Yankee Stadium no matter the time of year or look of the standings.

Still, Pineiro has all the earmarks of a scrap-heap acquisition that turns it around and leads the team to victory, a la David Ortiz or Brian Daubach. That would be a terrific story. He’s a likable guy, and easy to root for. It’s easy to picture him succeeding. Hey, it’s spring training! What’s wrong with a little optimism?

(Hat tip: Baseball Musings)

35 comments… add one
  • Joel Pineiro and David Ortiz? I’ll trade you Kyle Farnsworth for Ortiz; Kyle’s got ALL of the earmarks and, unlike Pineiro, he has crazy-person strength.

    walein February 27, 2007, 2:50 pm
  • Hehe. The Yankees already had their shot at Ortiz. No mulligans allowed.

    Paul SF February 27, 2007, 3:18 pm
  • all i can say about jp at this point paul is “why not?”…i haven’t heard anything that would lead me to believe that this guy won’t step up and do a good job…

    dc February 27, 2007, 3:21 pm
  • you have to like his numbers against the yankees….
    over the last three years:
    26 IP / 21 K / 2.42 ERA while holding the yankees to a .227 BA.
    just don’t look at his numbers against the O’s.

    sf rod February 27, 2007, 3:34 pm
  • What a mulligan that would be……

    Triskaidekaphobia February 27, 2007, 3:49 pm
  • Though I think this might be a sleeper acquisition and see cleverness and foresight in the signing, I have to be honest: he has all the earmarks of a July DFA, too.

    SF February 27, 2007, 4:06 pm
  • It’s not just the Yankees Piniero kills. It’s A-Rod. Of pitchers he’s seen more than 25 times, Alex has the lowest career OPS vs Pineiro. I’m guessing Bill James had that stat on hand when they made JP the offer.

    YF February 27, 2007, 4:09 pm
  • How does he do against Miggy Cairo?

    SF February 27, 2007, 4:10 pm
  • i don’t think it’s a bad move, i’m just suprised that they didn’t spend that money on Dotel, who looked good (other than his control). Gagne seems more risk than reward. i thought dotel would have been perfect.

    m.g. yanks fan February 27, 2007, 4:15 pm
  • Dotel, who looked good (other than his control
    Isn’t that a big “other than”?!

    SF February 27, 2007, 4:25 pm
  • not when he’s just coming back of TJ surgery. it’s supposed to take a year to fully recover, and he came back shy of a year. He still had his velocity. It’s now been well over a year, and he’s got something to prove. seemed like a good move for a team in need of a closer.

    m.g. yanks fan February 27, 2007, 4:39 pm
  • Piniero is farther removed from serious arm surgery than Dotel. I would’ve taken on Octavio for some middle relief work, but we’ve got a serious logjam in that area as is. Closer? Eh…
    Pineiro’s got control and command to go along with 4 good pitches (which he’ll be able to uncork more of only working 1 or 2 innings at a time.) I don’t expect miracles from him, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think he could muster 30 saves with a 2.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP (give or take on all three.)
    I do expect him to surprise a ton of people who don’t look at anything but his 6+ ERA from last year. Maybe he repeats that and sucks, if so, we chalk it up to taking a chance and we go back to plan B: hoping that Timlin, Delcarmen, Hansen, or Donnelly can do it.

    Steve February 27, 2007, 5:10 pm
  • Could be a clever acquisition, although not exactly cheap. He could also be Sidney Ponson. Their numbers the last few years are pretty similar..and they both have good arms.

    Nick-YF February 27, 2007, 5:12 pm
  • Maybe if he was an obese alcoholic with an attitude problem.
    You know who else sucked as starters? Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera. Just saying, it happens. That’s FAR from my expectations, though.

    Steve February 27, 2007, 5:24 pm
  • Maybe someone whould try Ponson as closer? Pineiro is really an all-or-nothing proposition. Either he’s the closer and good at it, or he’s $4 million wasted dollars. I’m betting he’ll be good at it, at least for a year, which is all the Sox need anyway. It seems the real trick to being an elite closer is repeating performance from year to year. The recent history of the Red Sox is littered with closers who had single great seasons then flamed out for whatever reason (Lowe, Gordon, Urbina, Foulke).

    Paul SF February 27, 2007, 5:31 pm
  • it isn’t that far off: a 2.90 ERA and 30 saves. Unrealistic expectation? It seems like one to me. His ERA, his k-rate, basically everything has been trending downward the last 3 years.

    Nick-YF February 27, 2007, 5:32 pm
  • I think 30 saves is realistic. 2.90 is a bit low for my taste. I think he could do it, but 3.70 seems more suited. You cans erve 30 games with ERAs even worse than that, but I’d rather not think about that possibility.

    Paul SF February 27, 2007, 5:45 pm
  • I with you Nick. I’d be happy if he can keep his ERA under 4. I’m hoping Hansen will be ready to step up by July. Apparently he had a precautionary MRI on his back today, and everything was normal.
    Off topic, but this should be interesting, from – “A reporter from the New Yorker is in Fort Myers working on a profile of Manny Ramirez.”

    tommy February 27, 2007, 5:52 pm
  • We are thru the looking glass with Joel here. My highschool art teacher Joel has a better chance of posting an ERA lower than the Red Sox’ Joel this season.
    My highschool art teacher: Joel Zumaya.

    walein February 27, 2007, 6:54 pm
  • If it were that easy to get a successful closer, you’d think more teams would try it, or if they did try it they’d have more success at it. I’d say chances of Pineiro becoming an actually productive closer are under 10%, just by looking at history. I really wouldn’t start to get my hopes up.

    Andrew February 27, 2007, 7:56 pm
  • closers are overrated

    dc February 27, 2007, 10:04 pm
  • 10%? Come on, even as a Yankee fan you’ve got to admit the guy has good stuff and has shown flashes of being able to do the job. 10% would be a number I’d give to retreads like Tavarez or Seanez, more or less lifetime middle relievers who’ve never been that good.
    The whole point of the article is to show that “looking at his history” isn’t the most logical way to go about things. You don’t pitch the same way relieving that you do starting. As a 1-inning reliever he’ll be able to unleash more of his pure stuff and put some more gas on his fastballs which could generate much better results.
    Making closers out of failed starters is fairly commonplace, too.
    I’m not trying to say the dude is the next Eck, but looking at his starting numbers to “prove” that he’s going to suck in the bullpen isn’t how it works. His performance going downhill was post major arm surgery, maybe he just doesn’t have it in him to go 7 innings at a time any more. We don’t know. He might be great. He might suck. To say he’ll definitely suck because of his mediocre starting just isn’t the way to go about it, though.

    Steve February 27, 2007, 11:06 pm
  • As a baseball fan I see a youngish pitcher who doesn’t seem to be able to know how to pitch in the major leagues anymore.
    As a stathead I see that even in the first 15 pitches of the game he’s mediocre (so .250/.330/.440 would be a typical inning of closing for the guy. Yowch, get your antacids). In the past three years his strikeouts have gone down, his walks and hits allowed have gone up. The ERA is not misleading at all, it’s a sign that this guy doesn’t belong in the majors. I’m not saying it’s impossible he succeeds as a reliever, just that every possible thing is going against him. I would say that Tavarez has a much better chance of being a successful closer than Pineiro, just because he’s shown an ability to pitch in the past years. 10% chance, and that’s being generous.

    Andrew February 28, 2007, 1:03 am
  • Tavarez? Come on. If you’re really a “stathead” like you claim you can’t be serious. Joel allowed less than a .250 BA as a reliever last year (in a short showcase.) If there’s any bullpen guys out there that have every possible thing going against them, it’s Tavarez (headcase, blows up, lack of out pitches) and Timlin (age, durability, no stuff.)
    For the last time, stop looking at the atrocious starting stats. It’s a whole different ballgame in the ‘pen, that’s why we don’t know. But to say “10%, and that’s being generous” as his chances is ridiculous. Piniero (by your own words in the quotes) “has shown an ability to pitch” out of the pen. Tavarez didn’t, he only succeeded as a spot starter with no pressure on him.
    If you’re going to name a dark horse candidate, at least let it be someone with some actual potential, like Piniero, Delcarmen, or Hansen.

    Steve February 28, 2007, 2:07 am
  • Okay, Steve, I’ll disregard Pineiro’s stats as a pitcher and go by his mythical ‘stuff’ and ‘poise’. Yeah, right. Thing is, he really wasn’t all that much better as a reliever. He didn’t post a 2.90 ERA, I don’t know where SF is getting that from. And plus, I think he only pitched what, 18 innings there? And I’m supposed to think he has a better chance of closing than Tavarez, who actually was a dominant reliever for a couple years before he joined Boston? Face it. Pineiro sucks, he seemingly forgot how to pitch. A guy can have as much ‘stuff’ as you want, but when it comes down to it, the stats tell a lot. I could not get an out as a starter, could I get $4 million because ‘we just don’t know’ how I’d do as a closer? This is a fun experiment if you’re, say, the Royals, but the Sox are supposed to be contenders. Pineiro has become a joke of a pitcher and there is absolutely no reason to think he’ll suddenly succeed this year.

    Andrew February 28, 2007, 3:25 am
  • You’re really dense. The three best closers of this decade (Gagne, Rivera, Nathan) all sucked as starters. A huge percentage of successful relievers are failed starters.
    There’s nothing “mythical” about his stuff. He has four pitches he can all throw for strikes, and IN RELIEF was hitting mid 90s on the gun. There’s a lot of reasons to think he could succeed in this role, the only reason I’m not making any guarantees is because YOU NEVER REALLY KNOW FOR SURE (which applies to any player in the league.)
    I’m supposed to take your word seriously when you refuse to acknowledge facts and your only argument is “he sucks, he seems to have forgotten how to pitch?” But hey…if you can hit 95 on the gun and command a 2-seamer, 4-seamer, slider, curveball, and change, then by all means call up the Boston brass and ask for a tryout.

    Steve February 28, 2007, 4:00 am
  • As a point of fact, it was Paul who pointed out the ERA, not me. Just to clarify. I have nothing else to add.
    Good day.

    SF February 28, 2007, 7:01 am
  • To further clarify, I’m not sure where the 2.90 ERA came from, except that Nick first floated it. I said I thought that was too low and suggested 3.70 as a more realistic possibility were Pineiro to survive and save 30 games for the Sox.

    Paul SF February 28, 2007, 9:29 am
  • Steve, dude, I can’t begin to tell you how many pitchers in the major leagues have good ‘stuff’ and yet are atrocious pitchers. Like someone said, Sidney Ponson is one of them. Yet you don’t see, say, Cincinatti trying to make him their closer. Please, just admit that this is an act of desperation. The Boston bullpen sucked last year aside from Papelbon, honestly it was among, if not the worst in the majors. I don’t have a problem with throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks (although I really enjoy the fact that all you’ll still get is shit), I do remember the middle of 2005 for the Yankee rotation. But at least I admit that Tim Redding, Darrel May, Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon were desperation moves. There was very little reason to think they’d succeed, and the Yankees got extremely fortunate. The Sox will also need to be extremely fortunate for Pineiro to work out. That’s all I’m saying.

    Andrew February 28, 2007, 10:03 am
  • Listen to the professional!
    There is absolutely no way anyone in the Boston bullpen is capable of filling the closer role! Andrew is in the know, much more so than anyone in the Red Sox front office, more so than anyone on this board, and definitely more so than the players themselves.
    Period. End of discussion. Joel sucks, and is always going to suck, and was never really that good anyhow. If Andrew says it, it’s the law of the land. If it’s possible for a under-achiever to find his niche, it’s going to happen in New York, not Boston. There’s a 10% chance, based on my professional opinion, of course, that I’m correct in my assumption that I know how correct Andrew is.

    Brad February 28, 2007, 10:53 am
  • I don’t see any reason to set odds on whether or not Pineiro will be a successful closer. He’s being given a shot, and we know all the reasons why. We’ll know soon enough if he can do it, and if he can’t the Sox will try to cobble together another solution. The closer position is of importance, but legitimately debatable importance at that, statistically speaking. Psychologically it might mean more to any given squad, knowing there’s a lights-out guy coming in, but I don’t know how to measure that. With Pineiro, this is truly unknown territory, so arguing that he stunk it up as a starter is not entirely useful, nor is looking at a small relief sample size. This is a totally wait-and-see situation, for me at least. Low-risk, high return. And we’ll know the initial results quickly. Tagging JP with a “10% chance of success” seems like a dart-throwing exercise. If I understand it correctly, that means that 1 of every 10 former starters with skill (yes, Pineiro was not long ago very skilled) might be able to be converted to the closing position. Does this seem like a good number to everyone? Or does it just sound like a random shot at the Sox and their situation? I lean towards the latter, since no evidence was presented backing up the history of the 10% claim. If you’ve got it, I’d love to see it, as would Baseball Prospectus and many more statheads; it would actully be interesting and useful historical research.
    As for money, $4M is just not a ton of payroll these days, particularly to teams like the Sox and Yanks, as a percentage of payroll it’s barely 1/30th.

    SF February 28, 2007, 11:22 am
  • As for money, $4M is just not a ton of payroll these days, particularly to teams like the Sox and Yanks, as a percentage of payroll it’s barely 1/30th.
    especially if it works out to the tune of close to 32-38 saves.

    Brad February 28, 2007, 11:25 am
  • Hey, it was just a guess. I never said the number was solidly based on hard fact, just that it seems like a lot of people are thinking he has a good chance of being a productive closer. Hey, a save is a save, right? Well, no. This isn’t fantasy baseball where if a player gets a certain number of saves he suddenly becomes valuable. Eventually you’re just throwing an arm out there, and those 3-run leads quickly turn into 1-runs or blown saves. Chacon was a closer in Colorado and racked up 35 saves. Except he probably cost Colarado a lot more games than an actual effective closer would. I think he had 9 blown saves, a 7.11 ERA and 9 losses to his name that year. He was certainly valuable to my fantasy squad, but Colorado saw a record of 74-88. I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that an at least mediocre reliever would have blown 4 less saves, and thus that team would have won 4 more games. And for a contending team, that’s huge. This is an extreme situation of course, no contending team would have kept Chacon in that role, but it’s what I, personally, am expecting from Pineiro. Number of saves means nothing without looking at blown saves.

    Andrew February 28, 2007, 12:52 pm
  • Number of saves means nothing without looking at blown saves.
    That’s partially true. You also have to look at how highly leveraged those saves are as well. Sometimes blown saves come when a closer comes in with the tying run on second, two outs, in the eighth inning. Sometimes blown saves come when a closer comes in with a three run lead in the ninth, starting an inning clean. Those are two entirely different types of blown saves, so just looking at a straight number isn’t sufficient either.

    SF February 28, 2007, 1:14 pm
  • That’s true too, but looking at the ERA gives you a clue as to who was responsible for those runs both getting on-base and scoring.

    Andrew February 28, 2007, 1:17 pm

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