Pinto’s hit-suppressing ways

Renyel Pinto has been a staple in the Marlins bullpen since coming over from the Chicago Cubs in 2006. In that time, he has not endeared himself to faithful Marlins fans due to his roller-coaster, up-and-down pitching performance. I’ve always shared this sentiment myself, as I could never stand Pinto’s inability to put pitches in the strike zone. For his career, Pinto has handed out free passes in 14.6% of hitters faced.

But FishStripes regular 3.3seconds has made mention in more than a few occasions that Pinto has been effective as a pitcher, citing his career batting line against of .222/.349/.352 as a display of effectiveness. Certainly that line is solid for a pitcher, but much of that is a part of pitching and not necessarily his own pitching. For his career, Pinto has posted a BABIP of .271, way below the league average of .300. We know that pitchers have very little control over BABIP, meaning that we would expect Pinto to regress plenty towards that average of .300. But how much has that difference really helped Pinto?

I took a look at Pinto’s 2008 and 2009 Pitch f/x data to pick up the batted ball data according to MLB Gameday. I only considered balls in play, meaning no PA that resulted in homers, strikeouts, or walks were considered. Using this data and the rates of hits of different types based on batted ball type (provided by Colin Wyers, having trouble finding the link, however), I was able to determine an estimate for expected hits (singles, doubles, and triples only) allowed by Pinto based on those batted balls.

According to the Gameday numbers, Pinto allowed 89 hits out of 331 balls in play (not including bunts), good for a .269 BABIP. Of those BIP, 75 were singles, 11 were doubles, and three were triples. The distribution of those BIP based on batted ball type were as follows:

GB: 156 (47.1%)
FB: 86 (26.0%)
LD: 56 (16.9%)
PU: 33 (10.0%)

The ground ball rate looks average (it drops to 45% when the 13 home runs are added to those BIP, putting the rate close to the league average), as does the fly ball rate. The line drive rate according to Gameday was not as impressively low as it is with the BIS scoring system used by FanGraphs. Still, the popups are the most intriguing part of the tale. Including the homers, Pinto induced a popup in 9.2% of plate appearances, about 1.5% better than the league average as measured by GameDay and presented by Harry Pavlidis here.

It turns out that, based on the batted ball types and the rates provided by Wyers, Pinto should have allowed 90 hits on his BIP, just one more than he actually allowed. I was floored when I read this, as this means the .270-ish BABIP was actually “appropriate” given the league’s performance and Pinto’s batted balls. The difference between what Pinto did allow and what he was expected to allow was surprisingly only in type of hits he was expected to allow. According to the rates I used, Pinto should have allowed 68 singles, 20 doubles, and two triples on his batted balls. It turns out Pinto allowed 74 singles, 12 doubles, and three triples in 2008 and 2009.

Obviously he did better on balls in play than he perhaps should have, though I attribute some of that to perhaps pitching out of the bullpen (it’s easier to pitch out of the pen, so you would expect pitchers to allow fewer bad outcomes) than anything particularly Pinto-related. Nevertheless, how much better did he do? Using simple linear weights for the three hit events and the extra out, Pinto was calculated to have saved 2.6 runs. That’s about a quarter of a win. If you think Pinto is making some BIP magic with his hits allowed, I think it is highly unlikely.

Topics: Miami Marlins, Renyel Pinto

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  • Smilin Jay

    I love the fact that I have to think hard on what you are saying. What I also love is that it is a game and statistics are only a representative view of his actual performances. It appears when he’s off, he bad. When he’s on, he’s really good. Please take those numbers and boil them down one more level to identifying those situations where he was good and those where he was bad. You could distinguish those on the situations where he’s allowed inherited runners to score, where those runs either tied the game or lost a lead. Then let’s further look at those numbers. My feeling is that he is random in his quality performances, and not good in in pressure situations, particularily with runners on base. If your article points to the fact that you consider him a good pitcher and a good value, I’d have to disagree. Seems far too many times, he’s hurt us more than he has “held” situations. Probably at or below league average in those situations. Thanks for the thought provoking analysis. Go Marlins!

    • Michael Jong

      Smilin Jay,

      My argument is that, even if Pinto had some magical way to “pitch to weak contact,” it certainly wasn’t worth too much to us back in 2008-2009. By no means would I ever say “he’s good;” this just considers his BIP without considering his awful K/BB/HR situation (particularly BB).

      For what it’s worth, here are FanGraphs’ splits for his career for low, medium, and high leverage situations (the higher the leverage, the more important or impacting the event is):

      Low Leverage (509 PA): 22.8% K%, 13.6% BB%, 8.3% HR/FB%, 40.3% GB%, .284 BABIP
      Medium Leverage (260 PA): 25.4% K%, 13.5% BB%, 15.6% HR/FB%, 40.3% GB%, .260 BABIP
      High Leverage (187 PA): 16.0% K%, 19.3% BB%, 5.6% HR/FB%, 53.3% GB%, .251 BABIP

      Take it as you will, know that it’s a small sample size, and know that we would have to look at Pitch f/x data to know what’s going on with him.

  • http://nothingxs.net Andres Velasco Coll

    Michael,

    What you posted essentially tells us that in stressful situations, his control goes to crap — he walks batters like crazy in those situations (roughly 1/5th of the time). However, because his pitches suck more in higher leverage situations, he winds up getting a lot of ground balls and almost no home runs or fly balls. This wouldn’t be so bad, but our defense can be notoriously spotty in high leverage situations.

    Renyel Pinto, consequently, is good when we don’t need him to be, and bad when we most desperately need him to be good. Fangraphs shows he has absolutely no value — or less! — than a replacement player.

    • Michael Jong

      Andres,

      Well, everything I posted still has to be regressed to the mean. I would not make any claims about how a pitcher pitches in the clutch, my guess is that those splits are going to be HEAVILY regressed.

      Take him for what he is. He allows a ton of walks and not enough strikeouts to make up for it. He doesn’t suppress hits as well as we’d like to think, and overall he just isn’t a very good pitcher. FanGraphs probably has his talent level down.

      • http://nothingxs.net Andres Velasco Coll

        I honestly wonder why the Marlins are so infatuated with keeping him in the clubhouse. He’s pitched poorly for years.

        • Michael Jong

          Andres,

          That’s a very good question, and it’s something I don’t have the answer to either. They must think he has something out of the ordinary in terms of hit suppression, because we KNOW he walks too many guys and we also know he isn’t going to strike out 30% of the batters he faces.