With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time where we go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this past season.
Today, we look at relief pitcher Jesus Tinoco.
I always think of Tinoco as being a chain of gas stations, or maybe some fictional conglomorate. Wasn’t Tinoco the big sponsor that Lightning McQueen wanted to get to race for in Cars? Or is Tinoco the company that made the House of the Future in that Mr. Show episode?
Did you know that Jesus Tinoco pitched in the Futures Game once upon a time? He did! Or at least he was on the roster, in 2018, when he was one-half of the Colorado Rockies’ contingent, with Brendan Rodgers being the other half. I’m not sure if he actually appeared in the game, because looking up the 2018 Futures Game box score is not something I feel motivated to do right now.
Jesus Tinoco seemed destined to be most known for being the least known player involved in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, back when the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Tulo and LaTroy Hawkins at the trade deadline in 2015 in exchange for Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and our friend Jeezy T.
And it occurs to me that Tulo and Nomar Garciaparra had very similar careers, where they spent several years as one of the best players in the game, missed almost all of their age 27 seasons, and then, in the middle of their age 30 seasons, were dealt from the team they had spent their entire career with, at the trade deadline, to a city on one of the Great Lakes, which was followed by a run of injury-plagued mediocrity prior to their career coming to an end in their mid-30s. Their bWARs are almost identical as well — 44.3 for Nomar, compared to 44.5 for Tulo.
Anyway, that digression aside, Tinoco is no longer best known for being an appendage in the Tulo trade. Instead, he now is officially a footnote in MLB history, being the pitcher who allowed Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run in 2022, which gave Judge sole possession of the all time single season American League record for home runs, and in some people’s view made him the “real” single season Home Run King, even though those people are dumb.
Tinoco gave up the Judge bomb in Game 161 of the season, on the third pitch of the game. Tinoco was either the opener or the first guy used in a bullpen game, depending on your point of view. I had predicted that Judge would get his 62nd homer off of Kolby Allard, and I was wrong. Judge did face Allard his next time up, in the top of the second inning, but Allard struck him out in what would be Judge’s final plate appearance of his record-setting season.
The kind of funny thing is that, while one could say, of course Judge would homer off of Jesus Tinoco because Tinoco isn’t good, Tinoco wasn’t particularly home prone in 2022. He gave up just two home runs while in the majors last year, the other being off the bat of Eric Haase, who sounds like a Bundesliga midfielder but is actually a catcher for the Detroit Tigers. Tinoco gave up just three homers in 2022 while pitching for Round Rock, which is pretty impressive, given the nature of the Pacific Coast League.
Tinoco, signed a minor league free agent prior to the 2022 season, had a pair of stints with the big club, spending a little over a week in the bigs in mid-June, and then being tapped as one of the September callups on 9/1. The surface numbers were impressive, as he put up a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings over 17 games, and one can wonder, looking at that, why Tinoco was 1) waived after the season, and 2) went unclaimed by any other team.
The problem was that the 2.18 ERA was pretty much an illusion — Tinoco allowed a .189 BABIP while with the Rangers, and paired that with a 89.1% strand rate. If you’re keeping track at home, the strand rate was 13th best in the majors (min. 20 IP), and the BABIP was 7th best. That is what we call in the biz “unsustainable”.
Looking at the periphs (I’m going to start calling peripherals “periphs,” gonna see if it catches on), Tinoco had a walk rate in his brief big league stint well above average while striking out batters at a below-average rate. He’s a sinker/slider pitcher, and sinker/slider guys often don’t strike out a ton of batters, and sometimes walk a number of guys, but they have success because they get a ton of ground balls. Tinoco uses his sinker, though, up in the zone to arm side, and so doesn’t generate a ton of grounders. Or at least he didn’t in the big leagues in 2022 — he generated a 58.7% GB rate in AAA last year, which is great, and much better than his 37.0% GB% in his stint with the big club.
For some reason I had thought Tinoco had been claimed on waivers in early November when I first started writing this, but that was not the case — as noted above, he went unclaimed. Tinoco inked a deal with the Seibu Lions of the NPB in December, and so he will be taking his talents to Japan for the 2023 season.