One of the bigger surprise players in major league baseball last season found a new team this week, as starting RHP Joel Pineiro signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The 31 year-old Pineiro inked a two-year $16 million contract, pending a physical.
When staff ace John Lackey signed a free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox, the Angels began seeking help for their rotation, culminating in the Pineiro signing. Pineiro will join a pretty strong Angels rotation that includes Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir, and Ervin Santana.
Pineiro started his career in the Seattle organization and posted some good years in 2002 and 2003 for the Mariners, winning 14 and 16 games, respectively. However, Pineiro's numbers waned greatly, as he posted pretty dreadful numbers from 2004-2006 and landed in Boston as a mop-up relief pitcher.
Like several pitchers the last few years, Pineiro's career was salvaged in St. Louis by manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, who help Pineiro learn a sinker and reign in his control. Pineiro was never much of a strikeout pitcher, and even his successful 2009 season produced just 105 strikeouts in 214 innings, but it also produced a 15-12 record, a 3.49 ERA, and a 1.15 WHIP.
Pineiro's success last season was pretty indisputable. He lead all of baseball with a 1.136 BB/9 ratio, walking just 27 batters (!) in those 214 innings (to compare, Roy Halladay was second in baseball at 1.318). He also yielded just 11 home runs for a 0.463 HR/9 rate, good for fifth in major league baseball. This was largely due to his major league best 60.5% ground ball rate.
Despite all the success, Pineiro faded during the last two months of the season and his ability to maintain his ridiculously good ground ball and walk rates is unlikely. Pineiro's ERA during the first four months of 2009 was an excellent 2.84, but the in August, September, and one October start it ballooned to 4.64. He hadn't cracked 180 IP since 2005, and one has to wonder if he can maintain a similar workload in 2010.
Furthermore, Pineiro's career walk rate entering 2009 was 2.8 BB/9, much larger than last year's 0.5. While I'm willing to say that Pineiro has found the second act of his career, I don't see his 2009 stats as all that repeatable. From a fantasy perspective, Pineiro is worth some late-round consideration simply because he plays on a strong team and even a 4.25-plus ERA for the Angels could land him a 16-win season (ala Joe Saunders), but the lack of strikeouts and the switch from NL to AL aren't all that reassuring.