Renyel Pinto: The Fredo Corleone of relievers

At the risk of incurring great personal scorn, on this blog I have defended Fredo Corleone and the overall lack of GF knowledge rampant in our society.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more …

Renyel Pinto had a tough game in the Marlins win against the putrid New York Mets on Wednesday. He was predictably getting killed on the morning talk shows. The best line I heard came on the ESPN Deportes station [1450 AM] – Desayuno Deportivo – a caller said that he wanted he wanted Pinto to go far in MLB, … far away. Knowing that fans, like popular emails which are constantly forwarded, are almost never accurate, I wanted to get into the numbers.

There were 95 relief pitchers in the National League which logged more than 40 innings. Here is where Pinto ranked in various categories against those other pitchers:

  • Games pitched: 73 – 16th place
  • Strikeouts per 9 innings: 8.51 – tied for 30th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • ERA: 3.23 – tied for 39th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • Innings pitched: 61.1 – tied for 39th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • HR’s allowed: 4 – Tied for 39th with numerous others [but not Tim Byrdak]
  • Pitches Per Plate Appearance: 4.05 – 73rd place [tied with Tim Byrdak]
  • Walks & Hits per innings pitched [WHIP]: 1.61 – 87th place

Of those 95 National League relievers who pitched more than 40 innings, only 19 were lefties. Here is where Pinto ranked in various categories against those lefty pitchers:

  • Games pitched: 73 – 8th place
  • Strikeouts per 9 innings: 8.51 – tied for 9th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • ERA: 3.23 – tied for 11th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • Innings pitched: 61.1 – tied for 5th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • HR’s allowed: 4 – Tied for 6th with numerous others [but not Tim Byrdak – who inexplicably gave up 10]
  • Pitches Per Plate Appearance: 4.05 – 11th place [tied with Tim Byrdak]
  • Walks & Hits per innings pitched [WHIP]: 1.61 – 17th place

As usual, getting into the numbers led to something even more interesting, Pinto and fellow lefty Tim Byrdak practically had the exact same season in 2008.

Pinto’s WHIP is the one critical area where Pinto is as bad as local fans think he is [especially after a bad outing]. However, if Pinto’s control were to improve — he issued the most walks of any lefty NL reliever — he likely moves up from being an average reliever pitcher to one of the better ones. Better to have a pitcher who needs to improve his control rather than his ‘stuff.’

One other additional factor in Pinto’s favor. His age, he is 27. The average age for the lefty relievers was 30.5. Only five of the 19 lefty relievers were younger than Pinto. For two of those, D Herrera [CIN] & C Zavada [ARI], 2008 represented their first year as a full-time reliever. Another one, J O’Flaherty [ATL] missed most of 2008 with an injury. For W Wright [HOU], 2009 represented his 2nd year as a full-time reliever, as compared to 3 years for Pinto and S Burnett [PIT], the other younger lefty reliever.

Overall Renyel Pinto was an average reliever in 2008. Being a lefty, he has more value that an average right-handed relief pitcher and has showed good durability — between 58 and 64 innings pitched for the past 3 years. In addition, the fact that lefty relievers are typically older — indicating that pitchers need a lot of experience to handle that role properly — Pinto’s relative youth gives him even more of a comparative advantage.

Bottom line, Renyel Pinto is a valuable left-handed relief pitcher with excellent prospects for improvement given his age. So go ahead and boo, flog and request that he be traded every time he goes to a 3-1 count, but understand that you do so out of frustration rather than any appreciation about how pitchers develop to succeed in that role.

Gaby Sanchez vs Johan Santana

Looking for a bright spot in the loss to the hated and gratefully-seemingly-cursed New York Mets, I found it in Gaby Sanchez’s at bats against Johan Santana.

As a Dodger fan long ago, I remember reading in Bill James 1985 Abstract about Orel Hershiser. Although he didn’t make it to the majors until he was 25, in his 2nd year he had a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 34 in 1984. Easy to see now that it was a predictor of things to come, with Hershiser setting the MLB record for consecutive scoreless innings of 58 in his glorious year of 1988.

But in the spring of 1985, Hershiser had his doubters. In the type of analysis which would make Bill James … Bill James, he warned [I paraphrase as I could not find my 1985 BJBA, no doubt pilfered by close friend and book hog / wanna-be E-bay vendor, J. Garcia] those doubters that the list of pitchers who had tossed more than 30 shutout innings in the history of MLB was very short indeed. In effect, average players rarely accomplish things which are rare in MLB history. The James style was to state that if Hershiser turned out to be an average pitcher, that would be unusual.

While Gaby Sanchez — pride of Miami Brito, a fine school, but no Christopher Columbus] — did nothing rare in yesterday’s game, but he did do something unusually good for a young player given the circumstances.

Playing in the season opener in New York, in front of a big crowd and facing one of the best pitchers in MLB in his first 2 at bats, Sanchez had the following results:

  • 3rd inning vs Santana, 11 pitch at bat with six foul balls and ended by hitting a sharp single up the middle.
  • 5th inning vs Santana, 8 pitch at bat with three foul balls and ended by hitting a fly ball to right.
  • 7th inning vs Nieves, doubled to left on the 3rd pitch of the at bat.
  • 9th inning vs Rodriguez, 5 pitch at bat with 1 foul ball and lining out out to center.

The at bat in the 7th is also interesting because it came after the Marlins defensively disastrous bottom of the 6th, in which Sanchez was also charged with an error. So after showing great patience and plate discipline with Santana, Sanchez showed that he could be aggressive if the situation allowed and that he did not allow his fielding miscue to affect his at bat.

My point is not that yesterday’s game means that Sanchez will be a good MLB hitter, it is to say that players who are not good MLB hitters rarely have the type of hitting game Gaby Sanchez had yesterday.

By the way, speaking of short lists. The list of MLB pitchers with 40 or more consecutive scoreless innings have the following characteristics [see list below]:

  • Streak has been accomplished 19 times in MLB history
  • Streak has been accomplished only 7 times since 1967
  • Streak has been accomplished only 3 times since 1969 [did MLB hitters wear black armbands as a protest in 1968?]. Those pitchers are:
  1. Orel Hershiser in 1988
  2. Brandon Webb in 2007
  3. Luis Tiant in 1972
  • Number of pitchers to appear on the list twice: Two
  1. Walter Johnson
  2. Luis Clemente (Vega) Tiant
    If you haven’t seen it, please check out the Farrelly brothers documentary about Tiant
    The Lost Son of Havana
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