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Pineiro's terrific changeup?

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So I was intrigued about Joel Pineiro while watching him pitch last night and decided to try and figure out just what was going on. I mean, it’s not like he was a strike throwing machine last night. He threw 38 balls and 53 strikes and threw 1st pitch strikes to only 15 of the 30 batters he faced. Still, the numbers looked really good – 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER. All in all, one of the better outings by a Cardinal starter so far this season.

Pineiro thrived last night by pounding the bottom of the zone. I used MLB’s gameday to chart how Pineiro got his outs. According to Gameday, he got 5 outs w/ his fastball or sinker, 1 w/ his curveball, 4 w/ his slider, and a whopping 12 w/ his changeup. Sounds like a lot w/ his changeup, doesn’t it? So it occurred to me to look through all his pitches to see what was going on. Gameday told me that Pineiro threw 22 fastballs and sinkers, 6 curveballs, 9 sliders, and 48 changeups. (somehow I missed a few pitches). Anyway, for his career 12.8% of his pitches have been changeups. He’s always been much more of a fastball-slider guy than a changeup guy. Initially, when I saw all those changeup outs, I figured that he and Yadi locked onto the fact that his changeup must be really sharp so they’re just going to go w/ it. Then I noticed that the changeup speeds were in the 87-88 mph range. Those aren’t changeups from Pineiro. Motte…maybe. Not Joel Pineiro.

The bulk of those changeups must have been sinkers and the sink on the pitch fooled Gameday into thinking they were changeups. He was pounding the bottom of the zone w/ really good sinkers last night. Still, it’s not like 2/3 of his pitches were strikes. So was it great pitching or bad offense? Probably a little bit of both. As I said, he wasn’t exactly throwing one strike after another and yet the Mets only saw more than 4 pitches in a PA 4 times in 8+ innings – 30 batters worth. Pineiro’s low pitch count is indicative of someone who had a much higher strike % than he did last night. The Mets swung at almost everything.

The 1 thing that’s concerning about Pineiro’s outing, except for the fact that it’s going to be difficult to reproduce w/o facing a similarly impatient lineup, is that when the Mets swung, they made contact. Pineiro had 18 called strikes last night, and Mets’ hitters made contact – either w/ a foul ball or by putting the ball in play – 32 times against him. Pineiro only got 1 swinging strike – by Delgado in the 6th. He’s only thrown the ball by a hitter 12 times in his 3 starts so far this season. That said, Pineiro’s formula for success this year is pretty clear – throw strikes and keep the ball down. In his 2 quality starts, he has 30 ground ball outs and 10 fly ball outs. In his 1 poor start (where he was still credited w/ a win), he got 4 ground ball outs and 8 fly ball outs. He must keep the ball down b/c he’s not going to throw it by anyone. He’s struck out just 5 against 6 walks in 19.2 IP so far this season.

This just in – Colby Rasmus is pretty good. Remember when a number of Cards’ fans were suggesting that he begin the year at Memphis since he tends to begin the season very slowly anyway. Well, I hope he is starting the year slowly b/c he’s playing very well so far. He had 2 more hits last night to raise his BA up to .270. He also has the highest BB% on the team – yes, even higher than Albert’s – at 17.1% and has now raised his OBP up to .386. I know it’s early but he has a great approach at the plate – so far, more BBs than Ks – and can really swing the bat. The only thing he really hasn’t done to this point is hit for any power, but it will come. He does have 2 doubles but his other 8 hits have all been singles. Additionally, he’s only swung at 11.8% of the pitches he’s seen outside the strike zone.

Defensively, he’s the only OF to have played all 3 OF positions and, according to UZR, he has been the best defender on the team so far this season. Granted, it’s very early and we’re dealing w/ dreadfully small sample sizes, and defensive numbers are not always as clear-cut as offensive numbers, but he’s been worth 1.7 runs in the OF so far this season. The good news – Colby’s only 22 and will only get better. To be sure, he’s going to suffer from some growing pains at times, but I think we’ve got a keeper!

Game thread goes up around lunch time as the Cards play yet another day game today. This will be, I believe, their 37th day game out of the 16 they’ve played so far. Yippee! Another game I don’t get to watch! I’ll try to follow along on Gameday at work. Hopefully, it’s better in determining Lohse’s pitches than it was w/ Pineiro!

A couple other notes -- Geoff Young over at THT has an interesting review of the famed Ozzie -- Garry Templeton trade from 1982. Take a look.

You should also take a look at Harry Pavlidis' fanpost on the Cards' hitters' plate discipline. Terrific work, as always, Harry.