Wednesday night’s pitching matchup at Fenway underscores the alternate (some might say “cheap”) route the Angels took during the off-season in putting the team together. 82 million dollar man and former Angel lead dog John Lackey will take the mound against Joel Piniero, who was on sale during the off-season.
Entering the 2010 season, it was not hard to see the value in getting a guy like Piniero for less than one-fifth the total cost of Lackey, while also collecting two high draft picks because of his departure to Boston.
Joel Piniero (2009): 214 IP, 218 H, 105:27 K:BB, 3.49 ERA, 15-12 W-L
John Lackey (2009): 176.1 IP, 177 H, 139:47 K:BB, 3.83 ERA, 11-8 W-L
Of course, Lackey’s numbers were compiled in the AL and Piniero’s, merely the NL. Yet, the difference in leagues didn’t mask the fact that the Angels were taking a relatively low-risk, high-reward gamble in Piniero versus a high-risk, high-reward one in Lackey. As unpopular as these type of decisions are with fans, they are almost a necessity when trying to maintain an annually competitive ballclub with relatively limited resources.
Many Angel fans fumed this off-season, accusing Arte Moreno of going on the cheap. But, the truth is that the Angels have been remarkably consistent in their budget ever since he took over the team. The payroll is usually between 100-120 million annually. However, the cost of the team’s young players significantly rose from 2009 to 2010. Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli, Howie Kendrick, Jeff Mathis, and Maicer Izturis cost a combined total of 4 million in 2009; their collective cost shot up to over 20 million in 2010.
Keeping that in mind, I still say that the Angels did the right thing this off-season by avoiding the long-term, high salary deals.
Meanwhile, Joel Piniero could not have gotten off to a better start in 2010 by giving up only 4 ER in 20.1 IP over his first three starts. Even Nate was starting to come around on him!!! But of course, the next two starts happened (if you didn’t see, be thankful and just know he gave up 15 ER in the 2 combined). And today certainly doesn’t get any easier for the guy. He’ll be facing an annual playoff foe at their home stadium, with seemingly less confidence than he had earlier in the season. Oh, and he’ll also be facing a guy named Lackey.