I’ll make this short and (hopefully) sweet, so please don’t shoot the blogger. As you may already know, I am an optimist. However, as much as I’d like to see the Mets have a miraculous finish to the 2009 season, every time they lose to second division teams like Arizona, the chances of them playing baseball deep into October at Citi Field seem to be as remote as Mo Vaughn being spotted eating a salad. Therefore, I am temporarily turning my thoughts over to next season. Please hear me out as I present to you my insane thought of the day. When the Mets get together to discuss potential additions to their pitching staff for next season, I wouldn’t have a problem with Omar Minaya (or whoever the GM is in 2010) if he signed soon-to-be free agent Joel Piñeiro in the offseason.
Again, I ask you to please keep your tomatoes and other foreign objects to yourselves while I attempt to explain why making Joel Piñeiro a Met isn’t as bad an idea as you might think.
We’ve seen what happens when starting pitchers walk tons of hitters and register high pitch counts. It stretches out the bullpen and forces the manager to bring in guys like Pat Misch and Tim Redding into pressure situations that they would normally not come into the game for. If a pitcher can go deep into games, the bullpen can be used sparingly and in the proper situations. Joel Piñeiro is a control pitcher who eats up innings.
Piñeiro has made 20 starts this season and has only walked 15 batters. That’s less than one walk per start! He has also pitched 136.1 innings in those 20 starts, or an average of nearly seven innings per start. By comparison, Mike Pelfrey has made one more start than Piñeiro and has pitched 15 fewer innings. Ace Johan Santana has also made one more start than Piñeiro and has only pitched two-thirds of an inning more. Please remember that Piñeiro pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals, whose manager is known for going to his bullpen quite often.
Pitchers who keep the ball in the ballpark also keep their teams in ballgames. Again, Joel Piñeiro fits that description to a tee. So far this season, the sinkerball pitcher has only given up three home runs. Of the Mets’ top four starters (Santana, Pelfrey, Hernandez, Perez), all of them have given up at least eight home runs. Ollie is the one who has given up the fewest (8) and he missed two months of the season.
Joel Piñeiro does not walk hitters and does not give up the long ball. He also keeps his pitch count low to allow him to pitch deeper into games, protecting the bullpen from being overused. Because he has a 9-9 record in 2009, he is overlooked when it comes to potential free agent acquisitions. However, his 2.84 ERA and 1.07 WHIP this season cannot be overlooked. He is still relatively young (he’ll turn 31 in September) and can be signed for less money than it took to retain Oliver Perez’s services, as Piñeiro is finishing up a 2-year, $12.5 million contract.
Of course, die-hard Met fans know the damage he’s done to the Mets over the past few seasons. He pitched eight shutout innings to defeat the Mets in a makeup game during the last week of the 2007 season. This season he has defeated the Mets twice, giving up two runs in eight innings of work on April 22, followed by a two-hit shutout on June 23. By the way, Piñeiro will be facing the Mets again tonight when the Cardinals come to Citi Field.
To quote noted philosopher Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.” I’ve got my Mets poncho on now, so feel free to hurl those tomatoes at me if you don’t think Piñeiro should be signed by the Mets. But before you throw that first pitch, take a look at the list of potential free-agent pitchers. When you do, you’ll see it’s a very weak class with few aces available. I’ve already made my choice. Joel Piñeiro in 2010!