With another inconsistent season from Michael Pineda behind us, looking into next season, how can he turn into the dominant pitcher he should be?
New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda has wrapped up his second full season in the Bronx in what was a was very inconsistent one, a trend that has existed since his first pitch in pinstripes.
Ever since his stellar freshman year in Seattle, which led the Yankees to trade highly-touted Jesus Montero for him, Pineda would struggle deeply with injuries and would not make his Bronx debut until the 2014 season.
In his 13 starts with the Bombers, the right-hander would pitch with an ERA of 1.89 and 59 strikeouts leaving opponents batting just .200 off of him. This successful performance left many experts predicting Pineda as a Cy Young candidate heading into the 2015 season.
That year would just be the beginning of just flat out inconsistent pitching from the right-handed starter despite having the performance of his career on May 10, when he struck out 16 Orioles batters in a single game.
Many thought this would be the beginning of a great season for the 26-year old, but that would be the complete opposite of what would happen. From that point on, Pineda would finish his year 7-11 and pitch to the tune of a 5.04 ERA where opponents batted .288 off of him.
Year in and year out, despite his mind-boggling inconsistencies, analysts proceed to pick the Dominican-born pitcher as a “Cy Young dark horse” prior to each season. The main question that is asked by all when Pineda struggles is “why?” After all, the level of potential is so high that he should not be struggling this much.
In the inception of the 2016 season, Pineda would submit to the worst struggles of his career to date. Throughout the first two months of the season, the right-hander would surrender 41 earned runs leaving him with an ERA of 6.92. At this point, the struggles were becoming, but manager Joe Girardi was trying to figure out how the former all-star could potentially rebound.
“You can learn how to do that, you can learn how to make self-adjustments,” Girardi said when the New York Post asked if Pineda had the ability to learn to grind through a game. “It’s something that he needs to do.’’
My colleague, Christian Kouroupakis of ESNY made a valid point on the solution to the problem Pineda carries.
No, pitching coach Larry Rothschild hasn’t “fixed” this seemingly unfixable obstacle Pineda is faced with but there is no mechanical issue Rothschild can alter for the better. It comes down to his confidence.
It’s evident he has a big-league arsenal, as his AL-leading 10.6 K/9 and career 1.174 WHIP proves just that, but he has to be able to attack batters early and get ahead. When Pineda is ahead in the count, batters are hitting .184 with just four homers and an OPS of .487 but when he falls behind, those numbers jump to .344 with 10 homers and a 1.140 OPS.
While Kouroupakis points to how that’s a customary trend across baseball, batters are also swinging at Pineda’s first pitch 43% of the time and are slashing .291/.300/.550 compared to .254/.331/.421 when they took the first pitch.
Again, that’s fixed by trust in your stuff and being able to pitch to your strengths. His wipeout slider is easily the greatest pitch in his arsenal while his fastball gets hit out of the park on almost a nightly basis.
It seems as though the inconsistencies of Michael Pineda are all mental issues that he should take the whole offseason think about and, god willing, figure it out. In order to be a favorable pitcher in today’s league, you need to be mentally strong and it has seemed throughout the years that Pineda is not. If he struggles in one start, it appears troublesome for him to overcome it and it evidently arranges the tone for the rest of his month.
If the 27-year old is able to solve these mental issues it could do wonders for a depleted Yankees rotation. He would have the capability to provide another top of the line arm to go along with Masahiro Tanaka and solve the Yankees starting pitching woes, which have seemingly been around forever.