A nightmarish first two months of New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda’s season can be put to bed once and for all with a few adjustments.
By Emmanuel Berbari
The notion of wasted potential involving New York Yankees‘ right-hander Michael Pineda has become awfully redundant. A true focus, however, should hone in on just how the 27-year-old can right the ship. A clean bill of health, a lively arm, and plus-stuff provide Pineda with the opportunity to make his own revisions.
What is it exactly that Pineda can do differently? What can turn this previously witnessed potential into true consistent reliability? There are certainly, whether glaring or slight, factors that can either revive or lethally inject his season.
So often it is Pineda getting ahead in the count, and not using it to his advantage. With a slider with as much downward tilt as Pineda’s, opposing batters should not stand a chance. An unacceptable .289/.300/.500 is what opponents are slashing after falling behind 0-2 on Pineda (40 PA). Even more baffling is the four long balls and .310/.344/.571 slash when he jumps ahead with the first strike.
You can point the blame at Pineda, Brian McCann, or both, but they have both shown the inability to utilize the repertoire properly when he is ahead. In addition, Big Mike has had the tendency to miss spots and leak pitches over the heart of the plate.
After a two-run bottom of the third inning last night, the frustration skipper Joe Girardi had with both Pineda and his battery-mate was apparent as ever. Girardi simply gave the “enough already” face to Pineda following another irritating inning.
With Pineda’s level of stuff, there is no reason to think Larry Rothschild cannot enforce the proper mechanical tweaks. Once those tweaks are executed, he should no longer be missing spots and his sometimes unhittable slider should be buried rather than hung.
This goes without saying for any major league pitcher but the failure to keep the ball in the yard has particularly hurt Pineda as his career has progressed. He surrendered 21 homers in 27 starts a year ago and has already allowed ten dingers in eight starts so far this year.
Source: FanGraphs — Michael Pineda
As displayed in the graph, courtesy of FanGraphs, Pineda’s rate of home runs allowed per nine innings has risen to an abnormal level as he continues to leave pitches in vulnerable spots.
This is almost exclusively due to the amount of grooved pitches coming out of Pineda’s right hand. According to Brooks Baseball, the rate of grooved sliders from Pineda has increased 3.54% throughout the first month and a half of 2016. It is easy to comprehend that grooving a slider does not make for good results. Ultimately, it speeds up the opponent’s bat and appears as a slow fastball rather than a breaking pitch.
Pineda needs to stay out of the middle of the plate with his bread and butter off-speed pitch, which comes with release point (mechanics) that is worked on during side days.
Pineda also has a tendency to bury himself early, and then somehow improve significantly as the game moves along.
Heading into last night, his ERA in innings one through three was 9.00. When you move along to innings four through six, he pitches to a stellar 3.06 ERA.
In pitches 1-25 of his outings, opponents hit .500 off Pineda. However, they only muster a .154 mark when facing him in pitches 51-75. Looking at it further, opponents hit .474 off the right-hander in their first plate appearance against him, and then a mere .196 in their second.
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Perhaps it has become psychological at this point, but Pineda is putting his team and himself in sometimes insurmountable holes. It then becomes a case of too little, too late.
The characteristic that has had the greatest effect on Pineda is arguably his lack of composure.
Especially when in some sort of trouble, you can often find a 6’7″ 260-pound frame gesticulating frequently on the mound. This may be part of a superstition Pineda has, but it does not appear too inviting.
However, the real concern is when Pineda surrenders a big hit and promptly throws his arms in the air. Most times, he will just trot to where he needs to be while vociferating over his recent mistake.
He often allows for his own emotions to gush out for everyone to see and, to make things worse, lets them get the best of him. There have been numerous big innings that could have been avoided throughout the past year if Pineda had acted his age on the mound.
Pineda’s 1-5, 6.60 ERA start is not a product of a bad pitcher, it is a product of a good pitcher doing all the wrong things. Clearly the proper revisions have not been made and no one is on the same page, causing circumstances to get out of hand.
Solely in Pineda and management’s hands is the difference between a continued bust and a formidable major league starter.