Michael Pineda could either be the fourth or fifth man in the rotation depending on Phil Hughes' success in 2013. (Image: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)

What can the Yankees expect from Michael Pineda?

With the state that the back-end of the rotation is in, at least the spot of the fifth man, the New York Yankees are going to expect big things from Michael Pineda. Unfortunately for both parties, Pineda won’t be back until June at the earliest. We like to speculate who that fifth spot belongs to and with David Phelps and Ivan Nova already fighting for it, this creates a small window for Pineda to fit in. Now, where does Pineda fit with the Yankees once he comes back?

There’s a solution to this problem, right? 

First thing Michael Pineda needs to know is he definitely can’t wear his hit like that being a part of the Yankee organization. (Image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The option I can think of is probably the most sensible. Pitch Nova and Phelps from the bullpen and have Pineda start and rotate the three if anything goes haywire. That way, Nova can regain his confidence, Phelps can get used to pitching from the pen when needed and Pineda can find his pitching groove once again. Then, you look beyond just 2013. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte won’t be around forever. That’s when you implement Nova and Phelps into the rotation alongside Pineda, CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes.

What this option does is not only fix the temporary problem, but also looks at the long-term. Pineda won’t be a free-agent until 2017 and is arbitration eligible after the 2014 season, so his arm will play a vital role into this rotation in the long run. However, how confident can and should the Yankees be in a pitcher who has A) only had one-year of experience in majors and B) is coming off shoulder surgery?

Well, let’s take a look at Pineda’s 2011:

  • 9-10 record (28 starts), 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 171 IP, 173 K’s, 55 BB’s, opponent’s BAA of .211

So really, those stats aren’t too awful, especially his low opponent’s batting average. The one thing that sticks out from his 2011 is the percentage of fly ball outs. Pineda’s fly balls accounted for 44.8 percent of his outs and we all know even the shallowest of pop flies in Yankee Stadium could be homers. Okay, maybe that’s an over-exaggeration, but you get the point. His HR/FB percent was at 9.00 which is rather average for any caliber pitcher, but we must take into consideration the dimensions of both Safeco Field when he played with the Seattle Mariners and Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium:

  • Right field – 314 feet
  • Center field – 408 feet
  • Left field – 318 feet

Safeco Field:

  • Right field – 326 feet
  • Center field – 405 feet
  • Left field – 331 feet

While it may not seem like a whole world of difference, the fact that Pineda relied on the fly ball so much is concerning in a smaller dimension ballpark. That said, Pineda was also very effective with strikeouts as those accounted for 24.9 percent of his outs and his overall K/9 of 9.11 is efficient, almost to the point of complete domination. Pineda also got 36.3 percent of his outs via the ground so perhaps he’ll focus more on getting hitters to swing over top of pitches and at those low zone pitches that go straight into the ground when hit.

Breaking down Pineda more, err perhaps we should avoid the word ‘breaking’, but you get my point, we’ll see he had a pretty decent SIERA rating of 3.36. SIERA, for those of who you don’t know, is a more accurate depiction of a pitcher, maybe more so than ERA. SIERA asks the question of how well did a particular pitcher do and was their ERA a correct judgment of their talent? So, for Pineda to have a rather decent SIERA rating, it shows us that perhaps the 3.74 ERA we saw out of him in 2011 may not paint the entire picture of the type of pitcher he may prove to be.

Pineda offers three main pitches, a dominant fastball, a slider and a change-up. In 2011, Pineda threw his fastball 62.2 percent of the time, his slider 31.5 percent and his change-up 6.3 percent of the time. His fastball has been noted as his best pitch and was even rated as the best fastball in the Mariners’ farm system back in 2010. Also to note, his fastball averaged in the mid-90’s, and even hit 100 MPH, in 2011 so he definitely has some firepower.

At age 23, and turning 24 on January 18th, Pineda has a long career in front of him, provided he stays healthy. The last thing the Yankees want is the second coming of Carl Pavano. If there’s anything to be excited about, Pineda is a former All-Star, so while that may not say much in 2013, it shows that he’s a rather competent young pitcher as the pitchers for the All-Star Game are selected by the managers and not the fans.

So all in all, what can the Yankees expect out of Pineda? It remains to be seen. We know he has great stuff and an explosive fastball, but he also has issues with being a fly ball pitcher. If Pineda can manage to tone down the amount of fly ball outs he relies on, he’s going to do well in New York. Pineda can easily earn his pinstripes if he does well once he comes back around June or so and may end up being the face of the rotation in years to come.

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

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Tags: Michael Pineda New York Yankees

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