Piniero Primed for Breakout

By Ted Cahill

It looks like the shutout Joel Pineiro threw at Citi Field last month had more to do with the right-hander than the hapless Mets’ offense.

In the 30-year old’s last five starts beginning with New York; he is 3-1 with a 1.63 ERA. Pineiro shut down Milwaukee, one of the league’s top offenses, on the road. He braved Great American Ballpark and beat Arizona himself with a two-RBI double. The only team to get the better of Pineiro was Minnesota, who touched him up for five runs including a Justin Morneau home run.

Overall, Pineiro is 8-9 with a 3.09 ERA and is looking more like the pitcher that won 16 games as a 24-year old than the one that lost 13 just three years ago.

The key to Pineiro’s success has been his command. He leads the league in walks per nine innings and has only issued 12 free passes all year. Even in his five-game losing streak this year, Pineiro only walked four hitters in 29 2/3 innings.

A sinker-baller, Pineiro has been effective keeping the ball down in the zone this year. He has allowed only three home runs, one less than the number of batters he has hit.

But Pineiro’s numbers are not a function of extraordinary luck. Overall, he has a BABIP of .288, just below his career .298 BABIP. In his last five starts, Pineiro has been much luckier, lowering his BABIP to .203.

Even in Pineiro hits another tough patch, his low walk rate makes him worth a look for fantasy owners. After a start against Houston on Monday, Pineiro has to pitch in Philadelphia, a stern test for any pitcher. If Pineiro can get through this week with a pair of quality starts, he will certainly rate a pickup for many teams.

Trading places:
The trading deadline is just around the corner and, as usual, many contenders feel that they need to beef up their bullpen. Many teams are working to acquire closer George Sherrill from the Orioles. Rumored to have contacted Baltimore about the left-hander are the Angels, Dodgers, Brewers and the Cubs. The Marlins may have interest as well if they can somehow stay in the race.

The problem for Sherrill and fantasy owners is that the Angels, Dodgers and Brewers all have established All-Star closers. The Cubs probably wouldn’t move him into the closers role, but he would be an option along with Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol. If Sherrill is dealt before the deadline, he immediately loses most of his fantasy value.

If you eliminate saves as a stat in a standard 5×5 league, Sherrill drops from the 51st most valuable fantasy player all the way to 128 according to Sherrill owners should keep a close eye on trade rumors and start preparing a backup plan in case he is moved.

Main attraction:
Last week San Diego called up Mat Latos one of the most highly-regarded pitching prospects. The 21-year old faced Colorado, striking out four. Latos is on a closely-monitored pitch count, which limited him to four innings in his debut. The Padres are clearly trying to limit his innings due to his history of injuries.

Whether he can make an impact this season for fantasy owners remains to be seen. For keeper leagues he’s probably worth a spot on the bench now, given his tremendous upside and a future of pitching in PETCO Park. For typical leagues, Latos most likely won’t save your season. But for those of you in a bind this week, he does get to face the Nationals on Friday.

Pitcher Pickup of the Week: John Lannan, Nationals

There are some good one-start options for this week (Randy Wells, Jarrod Washburn) but one of the best two-start pitchers comes from Washington. Lannan is part of a young staff that will help the Nationals turn around their track record in years to come, but this week is also very lucky. Lannan gets to face the Mets (Tuesday) and Padres (Sunday) at home, where he is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA this year.

Throw in the fact that the two teams he’ll be facing are among the worst offensively and his four-hitter against the Mets at home June 6 and you have a winner. In fact since the calendar flipped to June, Lannan is 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA and pitched very well against both the Yankees and Red Sox.

The biggest strike against the 24-year old is his walk rate, but he seems to have gotten that under control, issuing only one free pass in each of his last three starts.