Michael Pineda continues to startle everyone with a subpar start that reflects his time with the New York Yankees.
By Emmanuel Berbari
Any way you try to slice it, Michael Pineda is an extremely pivotal piece to the New York Yankees’ starting staff. He is your number two, yet a mystery of a number two that no one can figure out.
The Yankees view him as a top notch starter and so do many fans. However, it is dumbfounding how a pitcher can be so electric and so subpar at the same time.
Take Sunday’s loss for example. Pineda became just the third pitcher in baseball history, according to Baseball-Reference, to surrender seven runs and ten hits while striking out nine.
Inconsistency is the key word, and it starts with his core repertoire of pitches.
When Pineda came back from injury at the end of 2014, it was the first time he was a full-time member of the rotation for the Yankees. He was filthy. He finished the season with such authority that he possessed a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts.
He was burying his slider down and away to righties and down and in on lefties, and had included a brand new pitch to his arsenal: the cut fastball.
Both of those pitches helped Pineda get off to a scorching hot start in 2015, going 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA. This was capped off by a 16 strikeout performance against the Baltimore Orioles which led everyone to believe he was a future number one.
The slider wasn’t hittable and the cutter was complementing it effectively.
Ever since that performance he has not been the same. The inconsistency took over. The two pitches that had been dominant for him became predictable.
He went 3-5 with a 5.80 ERA in the second half of last season, starting his downturn and contributing to the Yankees’ downfall.
While being his most relied upon pitch, the cutter has become his worst. Since the start of 2015, according to Brooks Baseball, opposing hitters have enjoyed a .340 batting average, slugged .547, and launched 11 homers off Pineda’s cut-fastball.
It has also produced the lowest whiff rate (8.61%) of any of his four pitches. Despite the horrifying results, Pineda has used it 54.17% of the time over that span.
His slider, his second most used pitch at approximately 35%, defines inconsistency. It produces his best and worst results at the same time, a model of Pineda’s outings. Opposing batters have hit only .212 and have struck out 102 times since the start of 2015 against that pitch, but have also gone deep 12 times with a total of 29 extra base hits.
In his last start, Pineda used the cutter-slider combo to whiff nine Rays, but also surrendered four home runs with those two pitches. He served up a long ball to Corey Dickerson and two dingers to Steven Souza Jr. on the cutter alone. A hanging slider was the culprit of a towering Steve Pearce homer to left.
Following a disastrous first inning in which he allowed two homers amounting to four of five runs, he struck out the side in the second. There is no sense of uniformity when it comes to Big Mike.
All of the mysterious work on the mound that baffles fans and coaches alike has left the big right-hander with a 6.95 ERA through four starts. Not your typical number two.
The Yankees are certainly relying on Michael Pineda to get where they need to be, but what’s keeping him from taking the next step remains their biggest mystery.