Michael Pineda Provides Upgrade Over Recent Fifth Starters
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports2019 Fifth Starter: Michael Pineda
Stats: 5.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 69.2 IP, 57 K, 13 BB, 4.85 FIP
In the season’s first month, Pineda looked like he was shaking off a little rust from his time missed with Tommy John surgery. He allowed 20 earned runs in 29 innings (6.21 ERA) and opponents were hitting .316/.349/.564 (.913) against him. It was rough and plenty of fans were wondering if Pineda was going to make it in the Twins rotation.
Since the calendar has turned to May, Pineda has settled in nicely. His ERA dropped over two runs to 4.20 (19 ER in 40 2/3 IP) and he’s held opponents to a .670 OPS. Also, he has pitched five innings or more in every one of those appearances. Pineda’s velocity has also increased after a trip to the injured list. It’s been a stark turnaround and he has certainly put the Twins in position to win his starts recently.
2018 Fifth Starter: Fernando Romero
Stats: 4.69 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 55.2 IP, 45 K, 19 BB, 4.35 FIP
Last year was certainly an interesting one for the Twins rotation. Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios, and Jake Odorizzi all pitched over 160 innings. Lance Lynn tossed over 100 innings before being traded near the deadline. This left Fernando Romero as the starting pitcher with the fifth most starts for the Twins.
Romero was once considered the Twins best pitching prospect. Fresh in fans' minds will be his struggles with transitioning to the bullpen this season. He started off strong last season as he posted a 1.88 ERA with 29 strikeouts in his first five starts (28 2/3 IP). His last five starts were a little rough as he allowed 15 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings. He wasn’t a typical number five starter, but he was forced into the role last year.
2017 Fifth Starter: Bartolo Colon
Stats: 5.18 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 80.0 IP, 47 K, 15 BB, 5.31 FIP
Big Sexy has been quite the cult hero among baseball circle’s and he lived up to that billing with the Twins. Minnesota was on their way to an AL Wild Card Game appearance and Colon helped the club in the second half of the year after being traded from Atlanta. He hit a nice little groove for one month (August 4-September 5) where he posted a 3.30 ERA across seven starts.
Things weren’t all flowers and roses as he struggled down the stretch. In his final five appearances, he allowed 19 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings with only nine strikeouts. He allowed more home runs (5) than walks (4) and opponents managed a .995 OPS against him. Minnesota lost four of his final six games with the club.
2016 Fifth Starter: Tommy Milone
Stats: 5.71 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 49 K, 22 BB, 5.54 FIP
Minnesota acquired Tommy Milone back in 2014 at the trade deadline from Oakland for Sam Fuld. It was a unique deal in the fact that Minnesota had claimed Fuld off waivers from Oakland earlier that season. Milone held his own in the Twins rotation in 2015 (3.92 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP), but some struggles would follow him in 2016.
Milone was limited to seven games before the calendar turned to July. In those starts, he only pitched into the sixth inning on one occasion and in the rest of the starts he failed to get out of the fifth. Opponents were crushing the ball against him with a .908 OPS thanks in large part to six home runs allowed. He fared better in July as his ERA dropped to 3.99 and batters hit .280/.312/.449 (.761). Milone would finish the season and his Twins tenure pitching out of the bullpen.
Fifth starters can be a volatile group as teams, like the Twins, can run out pitchers with quite a wide variety of skills. Journeyman pitchers, young prospects, or players returning from injury can all fill the role of fifth starter. Pineda won’t be starting any playoff games for the Twins this year. He is a fifth starter on a very good Twins team and he certainly stacks up well when compared with other recent fifth starters for the Twins.
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