Pineda on the Rebound
Michael Pineda finally pitched in his first official game for the Yankees at Single-A Tampa on Saturday.
Pineda was very impressive, as he pitched 4 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. He only allowed two hits: a bunt and a bloop to right. Also, his fastball touched 95 MPH, he struck out four batters and only walked one.
“His fastball had life,” a scout told Anthony Rieber of Newsday. “His fastball had good life to it. Looks like the guy I saw in Tacoma a couple of years ago. . .Unfortunately for us.”
“I expected to see some red flags,” said the rival scout. “None that I saw. The arm action looked good. All the check marks you want to cross off for a guy’s first outing in a long time, the checkmarks were all there. He threw strikes, competed, held his velocity. Looked good. Looked good.”
This is great news for the Yankees, as they may finally see a return in their investment of Pineda when they traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi for him and Jose Campos on January 13th, 2012. After Pineda went down with a torn labrum in his right shoulder last season the Yankees were getting killed for the trade. However, Montero has been terrible for the Mariners (.208/.264/.327/.590 this season) and was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on May 23rd. The Yankees still have a solid chance of winning the trade.
The Yankees were hoping that they acquired a top of the rotation starter in Pineda, and he still has the talent to be that guy. In 2011 in Seattle, Pineda was 9-10, with a 3.74 ERA, a 3.42 FIP and 9.11 K/9. Pineda wowed people with his blazing fastball (94.7 average MPH) and a devastating slider (19.27 Whiff %). The key in Pineda’s development was developing his changeup to keep hitters off balance.
Pineda was dominant in the first half of the 2011 season, as he was was 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA and made the AL All-Star team. However, he struggled in the second half going 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA. What those numbers don’t tell you is that Pineda was more unlucky in the second half than he was poor.
Opponents only hit .236/.298/.391/.688 against Pineda in the second half of the season and he struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings. His BABIP went from .247 in the first half to .286 in the second half. Also, his second half FIP was still a solid 3.78, so Pineda did not pitch as badly in the second half as his standard numbers would indicate.
Anything the Yankees get out of Pineda this year would have been considered a bonus at the beginning of the year, but they have to be pleased with his progress so far. Considering how much they gave up for Pineda, the Yankees are very likely to insert him into the rotation once he is ready to come up to the Bronx. Assuming there are no injuries- which is never a safe assumption with the Yankees- it will be very interesting to see who is the odd man out in the rotation. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are all safe, which leaves Phil Hughes and David Phelps.
Phelps has continued to prove me wrong this season and has done a great job since he has been inserted into the rotation. Phelps’ ERA as a starter this season is 3.38 and his overall FIP this season is 3.37. The most surprising thing about him is that he has averaged 9.10 K/9 this season without what you would call great stuff. His poise and confidence on the mound are also big for him.
While Phelps has gotten the most out of his talents this season, the opposite can be said for Hughes. Hughes has a 4.80 ERA this season and has been very inconsistent again. It has usually been either a very good game or a brutal game with no in between. Home runs have once again been an issue, as Hughes has allowed 12 long balls already this season. His fly ball percentage is 50.5%, which is a career high even for Hughes.
The Yankees should try and trade Hughes if Pineda comes back healthy, although he probably would not fetch much with him pitching poorly and being a free agent this upcoming winter. Hughes and Phelps both have bullpen experience so they can make the transition easily.
With Jayson Nix, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart as regulars in the Yankees lineup they need all the pitching help they can get. The Yankees already have one of the best starting pitching staffs in all of baseball, but a healthy Pineda would only make it better if he can perform like he did in Seattle.
The Yankees need to find out what they have for Pineda not only for this season, but for down the road since Sabathia is the only top of the line starting pitcher under contract for next season. With everybody talking about the offensive reinforcements Pineda has kind of been the forgotten man, but he can have a big impact and give the Yankees a great boost for the stretch run.