According to Adam Rubin, the Mets are “particularly intrigued” by Joel Pineiro.
It makes sense, because Joel Pineiro is particularly intriguing. Not necessarily as an answer in the Mets’ rotation, but just in general.
Looking at Pineiro’s counting stats, I’d immediately dismiss him as a potential free-agent fit. After all, he’s 31 and coming off his only decent year since 2003. Plus he doesn’t really strike anybody out.
But Fangraphs paints a more interesting picture, as it often does. Turns out Pineiro pretty decidedly changed his approach in 2009, confirming various reports. He threw way more fastballs (sinking ones, no less) than he ever did before — which probably contributed to his miniscule walk totals — and so, predictably, induced more contact.
His groundball rate went from hovering in the mid-to-high 40s to an outstanding 60.5 percent, dropping his line-drive and flyball rates accordingly. He cut his home runs per flyball rate in half.
There’s probably some luck and randomness in there, but Pineiro pretty clearly figured out a way to pitch to bad contact more effectively than he ever had before. Simply put, batters just didn’t hit him hard.
Whether that’s sustainable is something else entirely. Pineiro succeeded under Cardinals pitching guru Dave Duncan, and, like I said before, doesn’t have much of a track record to fall back on.
Essentially I just wanted to throw out the idea that Pineiro could be more than a one-year wonder. I’d expect him to regress toward his mean, but, assuming he can maintain his adjusted approach, be a pretty decent pitcher in the next couple of seasons.
The Mets could do a whole lot worse, in other words.
Also, for what it’s worth, I had a video game once in which Pineiro always ended up a Hall of Famer when you played in franchise mode. So there’s that.