I've heard it said that Joel Pineiro "earned" his contract in one day. On September 27th of last year, Pineiro 3 hit the Mets over 8 innings. He struck out 6 and walked 1 while beating Pedro Martinez who was also superb. The Cardinals signed Pineiro to a 2 year contract extension on October 15th -- 5M in 08 and 7.5M in 09. I have to imagine they regret that right now.
In the 4th inning of last nights game, Dan McLaughlin said, point blank, that Pineiro just "needs to pitch better". I'm quoting him not because he offered some marvelously unique insight but because hand and Al are often decent barometers of the Cardinals organization. We've seen Tony keep Pineiro on surprisingly short leash this season and I have to imagine that, all things being equal, Pineiro is on his way to the bullpen when Wainwright is ready to come back.
The truth is good teams don't keep players like this on their roster much less in their starting rotation. After Boston DFA'd Pineiro last year and he came over to the Cardinals, Dave Duncan was lauded for his work with Pineiro as having turned him around and corrected him tipping his pitches. Obviously that was a bunch of crap as those kinds of statements usually are (the Mariners are still waiting to see Silva throw his new 40M dollar splitter). Pineiro is what his statistical record showed he was -- a mediocre, barely above replacement level pitcher.
Watching last night's game and seeing how easily the Braves AAA team beat up on Pineiro, I was perturbed. I don't know Joel Pineiro and I (try to) never let my inferences about a player's demeanor affect my evaluation of him but he looked, for lack of a better word, heartless on the mound last night. Hanging fat breaking balls and throwing fastballs right in the hitter's wheelhouse was typically followed by him slumping his shoulders and hanging his head. From a fan standpoint that made me want to change the channel. He was very honest and forthcoming in his post-game interview but the damage was done.
To compound the suckitude of my viewing displeasure, Pineiro was relieved by no other than my favorite reliever Kelvin Jimenez. With Randy Flores gone, Jimenez is, in my mind, the worst pitcher currently on the roster. In Memphis this season, Jimenez has thrown 37 innings allowing 35 hits. He had a 1.35 ERA and a 3.07 FIP. This isn't a prima facie case for me though. We saw him last season and he was nothing short of abominable for 40 innings. During his time at Memphis this season, he only struck out 18. He's not dominating AAA hitters in the same fashion as say Jason Motte. He's featured some improved location at AAA but Jimenez doesn't seem to have the combination of location and stuff to get big league batters out on a regular basis.
Jimenez was called in to mop up innings last night but I can't help to wonder what would have happened had he tossed up some zeros as Brad Thompson did after Chris Carpenter's abbreviated start. The Cardinals were only down by two going into the 7th -- certainly still in it. Anything more is wishcasting on my part, but the question still resides in the back of my mind.
It is worth noting that the pitchers weren't really done any favors by the Cardinals fielding their worst outfield arrangement of the year. Joe Mather looked surprisingly capable in CF but he's no Rick Ankiel/Colby Rasmus with the glove. I have to admit that I didn't expect to see his name in CF although it's was probably the right decision. I just don't always expect TLR to make the right decisions when it comes to guys like Skip Schumaker. Pineiro and Jimenez were dealing with an outfield arrangement of below-average:slightly-below-average:slightly-above-average moving from left to right. Not the typical stellar defense but certainly not the root problem of the pitching last night.
Which brings me full circle to the trade deadline yesterday. Nothing happened and that's ok. The Cardinals have the ability to make some significant upgrades to the bullpen internally, for example. Swapping out guys like Kelvin Jimenez and Brad Thompson for Chris Perez and Jason Motte (who has righted himself after some mid-season lumps) would add two power strikeout arms that are the equal or better than anything the Cardinals could have found on the trade market. As Larry noted yesterday, the market for left-handers was good and yet not a one was moved which probably indicates how much the sellers were asking for.
If the Cardinals are looking to make a move after the waiver deadline, they'll probably still have that opportunity to add a player like Jarrod Washburn (i.e. salary dump). I'm not advocating that at all. The on the field impact of a player like that is likely to be less than a win over the last third of the season. Add in that those players likely won't be called upon if they were to make the playoffs and it's just not worth a significant sacrifice in prospects to acquire a modest upgrade. Power relievers (or a bat like Barry Bonds -- not gonna happen) are the players that I would have wanted to see given their ability to change an indiviidual game. Some big moves were made yesterday as a lot of names were moved. The Cardinals weren't involved but that shouldn't have particularly suprised anyone.
Dance with the one(s) that brought you.