January 20, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly in signing Joel Pineiro

Reports are circulating that the Angels have signed Joel Pineiro to a two year, $16 million contract. Pineiro went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 2009. If you listened to “The Drive” this afternoon with Jeff Biggs, you’d think the Angels just won the lottery. I don’t necessarily share that view, but think this could be a fairly good move for the Angels.

Let’s take a look an objective look at the addition.

First of all, Pineiro had a solid 2009 campaign. He only walked 27 batters in 214 innings. His 1.1 average of walks per nine innings was the lowest in the league. Pineiro made 32 starts; had three complete games and two shut outs. His 1.145 WHIP was outstanding and he only gave up 11 homeruns. Just about everything he did in 2009 was pretty good.

You’d think I’d be jumping up and down for joy, right? Well, color me optimistically cautious. You see I’m a little skeptical of one-hit wonders. Pineiro was never this good in his previous nine seasons. Granted, he had his moments in 2002 and 2003, but it’s those other years that have me somewhat concerned. 2006 and 2008 were particularly bad years for Pineiro. He had a 6.36 ERA in 2006 and 5.03 ERA in 2008.

Perhaps he’s finally figured it all out; at least I hope so. That being said, you have to remember that I’m still recovering from the Gary Matthews, Jr. signing. Face it, Matthews cashed in after one good season and hasn’t come close to that one good season since. I’d feel better if Pineiro had been more consistent over his ten year career.

Jeff Biggs kept calling the deal a “steal” at two years and $16 million. He kept lamenting that Pineiro was seeking a Randy Wolf-like contract at three years and $30 million. Okay, he signed for less, but is that because he’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is or is Tony Reagins just shrewd? I mean if Pineiro really is as good as Wolf, why didn’t he get Wolf-like money? It’s a fair question, don’t you think?

How many times have we heard that pitching comes at a premium? Why didn’t he get better offers from more teams? I’m just asking.

Another question I have is how much of his success came because of where he pitched and who his pitching coach was in 2009? I think most experts would agree that Dave Duncan, the Cardinals pitching coach is probably the best in the business. I mean this is a guy who turned around Jeff Weaver in 2006 and Kyle Lohse in 2008. My concern is what happens to Pineiro when he doesn’t have Duncan looking over his shoulder? No offense to Mike Butcher, but I’m not certain any other coach can get the same results.

Pineiro is not a strike out pitcher and that usually means the margin for error is a lot slimmer. Hitters put the ball in play when they face Pineiro and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Granted plenty of “ground ball” pitchers like Pineiro are successful, but it’s just another thing to consider.

I do like Pineiro over Matt Palmer as a starter and moving Palmer to the bull pen is a good thing. This move gives the team some much needed depth and buys Trevor Reckling some time to develop.

Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a good signing for the Angels. It’s just not the “holy cow” moment some people are trying to make it out to be.


  1. Your cautious optimism is well-founded.

    Pineiro's GB% in 2009 was 60%; for his career up to then, it was 48%. He also used his fastball more (71%; prior career norm 58%) in 2009.

    If he continues his '09 pitching philosophy, this will be a good signing for the Angels. It should be clear early this season which Joel is wearing the Halo.

  2. Thanks Mike. That's encouraging insight.