Forget about the pine tar controversy, the real Michael Pineda story is his quest for the American League Strike Out crown. And his quick start may soon have fans calling him Michael ¨See Ya Later¨Pineda.
Yes, I know, the standings don’t show him near the top in total AL strike outs yet, but here is why that is bound to change. Take a look at the strike outs per nine innings and what do you see?
That’s right, Pineda is right in there with the big boys! His 9.0 per nine innings matches Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer. Not bad company. Sure, there are others like Felix Hernandez and teammate Masahiro Tanaka that he must overcome, but for a pitcher who until recently was regarded as a mystery, Pineda is on his way.
All Pineda needs is more innings. That’s why manager Joe Girardi should consider moving him up in the rotation and also leaving him in games longer. Ivan Nova has been inconsistent to say the least. Hiroki Kuroda is off to a good start, but fewer starts before September could make him stronger down the stretch.
Pineda’s biggest challenge in the strike out race is that most of those guys mentioned are number one starters. They have a leg up, just as a lead-off hitter gets a few more at-bats in the hits race.
The concern in this of course, is the injury risk. Girardi, who has always been extremely careful to avoid straining players, may be even more so with Pineda due to his long absence. But the Yankees are no longer in the position of saying ¨We have so much talent that we can hold our hand until it’s necessary to play our cards.¨
Of course, it’s the team results that are important. But as Girardi continues to see CC Sabathia haunted by gopher balls and Nova struggle with his form, it is inevitable that the bottom of the rotation may prove itself as the top.
And who’s going to complain if the extra starts result in the American League Strike Out crown going to Tanaka or Michael ¨See Ya Later¨ Pineda?