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The New York Yankees’ biggest X-factors heading into 2017

Michael Pineda

I’m not going out on a limb by saying Michael Pineda was the difference between playoffs and no playoffs for the Yankees a year ago — and he very well may be in 2017.

Coming off a year in which he showed flashes of dominance, like his Mother’s Day performance against the Orioles, the 2016 version of Pineda made baseball history in terms of inconsistency.

Pineda became one of six players in the history of the sport to strike out more than 200 but manage an ERA over 4.80. He also led qualified AL starters in strikeouts-per-nine innings.

Additionally, the righty maintained a 17% home run rate but walked just 53 batters (3.91 BB/K ratio), helping his FIP (fielding independent pitching) finish at 3.79, over a full run lower than his ERA was and in the top-25 among major league pitchers last year.

Frustrating, ain’t it?

However, with a change in approach, Pineda could even out these two sides of himself and become the perfect No. 2 starter to complement Masahiro Tanaka.

At the end of the day, the rotation’s ability to hold it’s own will be a major challenge for the Yankees to overcome. And if they can, it could determine where the team stands come October 1. Pineda’s production, proficient or inadequate, will particularly influence that record.