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Angels reportedly sign Joel Pineiro

The Angels have supposedly signed free agent pitcher Joel Pineiro to a 2 year, $16 million deal.  Clearly a panic move in response to the Colby Lewis signing.

Seriously, though...Pineiro is an odd case.  He was cut loose by the M's after his ERA went up 5 years in a row, peaking at 6.36 in 165 2/3 IP in 2006.*  Beleaguered former Royal g.m. turned Boston special assistant Allard Baird recommended that the BoSox sign him and make him a reliever, and he wasn't very good with them, either, before being dealt to St. Louis midway through the 2007 season.

* To continue the Lewis comparison, Pineiro's ERA+ that season was 70.  Colby Lewis's ERA+ in his famous 7+ ERA season where he had a 10-9 record in 127 IP?  69, dudes.

In 2007 and 2008 Pineiro scuffled about, posting a 4.73 FIP and a 4.71 FIP to go with a 4.33 and 5.15 ERA.  His K rate was sub-par, his walk rate was okay, and he got some ground balls...but really, he was the definition of a journeyman pitcher.

But still, Dave Duncan's reputation as a miracleworker isn't completely without merit, even though folks say his philosophy can be boiled down to, throw a two seamer for strikes, get ground balls and let your infield do the work.  And in 2009, Pineiro took that to the extreme.

Pineiro's 4.42 K/9 rate was the third lowest in the majors, ahead of only Nick Blackburn and John Lannan (and remember, he's pitching in the N.L., so he gets to face a pitcher rather than a DH).

Pineiro's 1.14 BB/9 rate was the best in the majors -- only Roy Halladay and Dan Haren were also below 1.5 in 2009.

And Pineiro's 2.54 GB/FB ratio was by far the lowest in the majors -- only three other pitchers were 2.0 or higher, and his closest competitor was Derek Lowe at 2.18. 

The groundball rate was the huge outlier...Pineiro's career GB/FB ratio is 1.54, and while he'd never cracked the 49% mark on groundballs prior to 2009, Pineiro got grounders on 60.5% of batted balls in 2009.

Pineiro's walk rate was also an extreme outlier -- his career rate is about 2.5 per 9, but his previous career best was in 2008, when he was at 2.12, and he'd clearly become more control-oriented since joining the National League.

In any case, this gave Pineiro a FIP of 3.27, an xFIP of 3.68, and a tRA+ of 3.46.  Yeah, he didn't strike anybody out, but if you also don't walk anyone and get grounders 60% of the time, you'll still have success.

So Pineiro's 2009 season was bizarre...not only was it completely out of step with his entire career to date, it is also exceptional relative to all other pitchers in 2009.  I think you'd be hard pressed to find a pitcher in the last decade who was the best in the league in walks and grounders and one of the worst in the league in Ks.

The fact that it is such an outlier makes it hard to figure out what Pineiro is likely to do in 2010.  There have been 18 player seasons from 2004-2008 where a pitcher has had at least a 60% ground ball percentage, and the list is dominated by Lowe, Brandon Webb, and Jake Westbrook.  And none of those guys were walking just 1 batter per game.

If Pineiro can duplicate his 2009 season, he's a steal at $9 million per year.  But that seems unlikely...2009 was the first time he posted a FIP below 4.41 since the 2003 season, back in Seattle.  His 2008 season is more along the lines for what one would realistically expect from Pineiro, and if he does that, you have to figure the Angels are going to be disappointed.

CHONE has Pineiro as a 4.17 FIP guy in 2010, but I believe that's before adjusting for him coming to the harder league.  Pineiro seems to me to be a guy you give a one year deal at $4-5 million, with incentives...2 years at $16 seems excessive.