After years of inconsistency, New York Yankees 28-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda has finally discovered himself.
Now that the New York Yankees have won seven of the last eight contests that began with Michael Pineda on the hill, his status has elevated from mind-boggling to steady — yes you read that right.
Ever since that first start of the 2017 season in which the Tampa Bay Rays blasted him for four runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings, the 28-year-old has given New York exactly what they have needed: a rotation stabilizer.
Against the Kansas City Royals Monday night at Yankee Stadium, Pineda took them down for the second consecutive start with 6.1 innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts. It marked the eighth straight start Big Mike surrendered three runs or fewer runs — the longest such streak since April 5 to Sept. 5, 2014 (nine starts).
Since the dud in his first start, he has posted a 2.88 ERA with 55 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. Overall, he is 5-2 with a 3.35 ERA and an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.778 coming off a season in which he became one of six players in the history of the sport to strike out more than 200 but manage an ERA over 4.80.
For some context, the last three Yankees’ starters to post a better ERA than Pineda’s 3.35 within the team’s first 42 games played (min. nine starts) was Masahiro Tanaka (3.22) in 2016, Hiroki Kuroda (1.99) in 2013, CC Sabathia (3.19) in 2013 and Sabathia (3.06) again in 2011.
Manager Joe Girardi, when asked what has been the key to Pineda’s turnaround, pointed to the ability to get the most consequential outs when the situation calls for it.
“It’s the ability to get big outs when he needs to get them,” Girardi said in his postgame press conference on Monday night. “The difference between winning and losing is getting big outs when you need them.”
— Platano Power RD (@PlatanoPowerDO) May 23, 2017
Opponents slashed .267/.329/.500 and posted an OPS of .829 with runners in scoring position last season, much worse than the .143/.162/.229 line and .391 OPS batters are posting in that same situation here in 2017.
No one expected Pineda to come out every night and shut down the teams the way he did against the Rays on this year’s home opener or against the Baltimore Orioles back in 2015 when he sent down 16 batters. But we knew a consistent Michael Pineda may be the difference between playoffs and no playoffs for the 2017 Yankees.
Of course, it can’t just be Pineda. Tanaka finding himself is possibly the most significant determinant of Yankee success, but Pineda just has to keep being the version of himself that has taken the hill since April 10.
If Pineda continues to keep the potent offense in the game and handing the bullpen a lead on a steady basis, nothing but good things will come.