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.