It's likely that Joel Pineiro was pitching to keep his spot in the rotation last night. The question is, did he pitch well enough to keep it?
As it stands now, the Cardinals rotation includes: -Chris Carpenter -Kyle Lohse -Todd Wellemeyer -Braden Looper -Pineiro
Within a week or two, it's expected that Adam Wainwright will rejoin the rotation after making a couple of rehab starts. Who will be forced to make room for Wainwright?
Obviously, Kyle Lohse isn't going to be the one to lose his job. Lohse has been the Cards' most consistent performer this season, so I doubt he's going anywhere. That makes it basically a three man race, between Wellemeyer, Pineiro, and Braden Looper.
Of the three, Wellemeyer has the lowest ERA, with a 4.01. Looper is next, at 4.29. Pineiro brings up the rear, with a 5.04 ERA, over a run higher than that of Wellemeyer. If you would prefer to look at Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP), which is generally considered to be more predictive, the order changes a bit. Wellemeyer is still the best, at 4.27. Pineiro comes next, with a 4.47 FIP. Looper brings up the rear on this one, with a 4.84 FIP.
Looking at those numbers, it's obvious that two of these players have benefited from the defense behind them, whereas Pineiro is actually under-performing compared to what you would expect. Turning to Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), we see more evidence of the same. Both Looper and Wellemeyer have BABIPs right smack dab where you expect, at .296 and .289, respectively. Pineiro, on the other hand, is sitting at .325, which, while not terribly high, could certainly fall a bit. Right around .290 is pretty much average for a pitcher's BABIP; anything much higher or lower than that is likely due to regress a bit toward the mean.
More importantly, though, getting back to our original query, which pitcher is most likely to lose his spot when Wainwright comes back? Well, to honest, Joel is far and away the most likely. Wellemeyer, in particular, has been trending up recently, as he finally appears to be rediscovering the feel for his slider that's been so noticeably absent since his return from his earlier elbow issues. Looper has been solid his last couple of times out as well, while Pineiro has been wildly inconsistent, unable to hold leads time after time.
The bottom line is this: Pineiro has been a little bit unlucky this year, but he's also pitched very poorly. Add to that the fact that converting Looper to the starting rotation is a pet project of Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa's, the power stuff that Wellemeyer is capable of bringing, and the seemingly less than thrilled attitude La Russa has expressed toward Joel and his struggles this season, and I think the writing is there on the wall.
So, did Pineiro pitch well enough last night to keep his job, even with Wainwright coming back soon?
In a word, no.
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