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The Early Returns From Michael Pineda

As the Twins get ready to finish up the four game series against the Blue Jays, Michael Pineda will take the mound for what will be his fourth start of the season. The early returns of his two-year contract have looked good so far as he was another cheap, low-risk signing by the Twins new management during the 2018 offseason. As we’ve seen how shaky our bullpen can be, much of the Twins success this year will rely on their starters and specifically could depend on what version of Pineda they get.
Image courtesy of © John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Pineda exploded on the scene in 2011 with the Mariners as an All-Star and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately, that success was short lived as he spent all of the 2012 and 2013 seasons recovering and rehabbing from a shoulder injury, which can be a career ending or altering injury for a pitcher.

Prior to this injury Pineda featured fastball that sat at 95 miles per hour, used an above average slider as his out pitch, and mixed in a circle change-up about six percent of the time. Brooks Baseball did count 23 “sinkers” in 2011 (and 36 for his career), but that’s not enough data to glean anything meaningful from and is likely a misinterpretation of the pitch that was actually thrown.

After two lost seasons and a trade to the New York Yankees, Pineda finally returned to the mound for 509 innings from 2014 to 2017. A partially torn ulnar collateral ligament required Tommy John Surgery, causing him to miss a season and half. In his time with the Yankees, his velocity never completely rebounded, sitting at about 94 miles per hour and his slider didn’t have quite the same bite. Despite this, his K-BB percentage held steady and converted in to a ground ball pitcher, although the added ground balls hurt his ERA a little bit, which is evident by his xFIP being almost a full run better than his ERA. Velocity and movement are the two things that make a pitcher effective, but can also be less effective after a pitcher returns from an arm injury, which has help us set some “norms” for what we we’re looking for from Pineda.

To give it to you straight, the small sample we have on Pineda in 2019 looks good up front but the peripherals should leave you a little tentative.

First thing that sticks out is that his fastball is sitting at 92 miles per hour, which isn’t too surprising as he is still getting back into things after recovering from Tommy John, but is something to definitely keep an eye on if he starts to get hit. As far as his other pitches go, his slider has much less movement than in years past but his circle change has the same velocity and movement as usual. Consequently, he has reverted back to a fly ball pitcher which has flipped his ERA and xFIP by about half of a run. On the other hand, his K-BB rate is the best of his career and he’s been having success because hitters are making contact on pitches outside of the zone significantly more than usual (71.8 percent in 2019 versus 57.1 percent for his career), which leads to less walks and weaker contact.

It’s way too early to jump to any conclusions on these figures, but it something to keep an eye as he gets back into the swing of things after a year and a half hiatus. Over his next few starts, the two big things to look at are his fastball velocity and how much “help” he’s getting from the opposing hitters. These tendencies should give you an idea on how the rest of the season will look for Pineda.

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12 Comments

Looks to me like Pineda is gradually getting stronger, but it will take time for him to refine his command as he throws the ball harder. He had it before; he'll have it again.

 

Prognosis: Stud horse in development. 

 

Prognosis: Stud horse in development. 

Stud horse, like, for breeding more pitchers?

    • jimbo92107 and Sconnie like this

Thursdays outing accents your concerns.

    • ashbury and Sconnie like this

 

Stud horse, like, for breeding more pitchers?

That's more of a personal/personnel question. I'm sure Pineda did not come to professional baseball as a gelding... ;-)

    • wallyrichards likes this
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wallyrichards
Apr 18 2019 08:22 PM

Things fell apart for Pineda not because he pitched bad or ran out of gas. Kempler should've called off Crone on the short fly to right and Crone didn't make the over the shoulder catch. Then there was Eddy's attempt on a short fly to left where he pulled up just short. I think he was worried about running into someone but he had a 10 yard cushion but he ends up letting the ball drop right in front of him. It almost hit him in the toe that's how close he was. All he had to do was stick his glove out and he could've made the catch. They brag about there defense but for some reason they just weren't with it today. To lacks out there! Eddy made up for it with the bat but the rest of the guys couldn't get the timely hits to come back. Not sure why they were so lackadaisical today.  

    • TL likes this
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yarnivek1972
Apr 18 2019 08:28 PM

Things fell apart for Pineda not because he pitched bad or ran out of gas. Kempler should've called off Crone on the short fly to right and Crone didn't make the over the shoulder catch. Then there was Eddy's attempt on a short fly to left where he pulled up just short. I think he was worried about running into someone but he had a 10 yard cushion but he ends up letting the ball drop right in front of him. It almost hit him in the toe that's how close he was. All he had to do was stick his glove out and he could've made the catch. They brag about there defense but for some reason they just weren't with it today. To lacks out there! Eddy made up for it with the bat but the rest of the guys couldn't get the timely hits to come back. Not sure why they were so lackadaisical today.


Might have had something to do with playing a noon game the day after a rain delayed night game.
He’s had 3 good starts out of 4. Coming off TJ I’d say that’s pretty good
    • Danchat likes this

Keep in mind, Pineda has a career 102 ERA+ (although his FIP is better). His career high is 175 IP. As Matthew mentioned, he's had shoulder surgery, in addition to Tommy John surgery, and he's 30 years old.

 

Pineda has talent and a big frame, and could still put it all together for a very good year, but I don't expect him to dominate or be a workhorse. A couple solid 5-6 inning starts, followed by an iffy start, is pretty much in character for him. His 4.66 FIP through 4 Twins starts so far is an exact match for his 4.66 FIP in his last season with the Yankees in 2017.

 

Keep in mind, Pineda has a career 102 ERA+ (although his FIP is better). His career high is 175 IP. As Matthew mentioned, he's had shoulder surgery, in addition to Tommy John surgery, and he's 30 years old.

 

That's right. He was never a stud.

 

I was very nicely surprised by his start this year. I was also a little surprised he laid an egg his last time out.

 

Gotta remember this guy is human. ;)

 

I was very skeptical of this pick-up but I think he is going to be one of the better Twins starters this year. As in, it will be him & Berrios pitching well and then a bunch of scrubs......

 

Of course this begs the question ... if the Twins didn't sign him a year ago, perhaps they could have signed someone longer term instead to be that #2 guy now and in the future....and more likely than not they still could have signed Pineda to be the #3 for this year.....

 

I was very skeptical of this pick-up but I think he is going to be one of the better Twins starters this year. As in, it will be him & Berrios pitching well and then a bunch of scrubs......

Yeah, I am sure Pineda can contribute some value. But it's likely much closer to Odorizzi 2017-2018 value than Berrios value.

    • Doomtints likes this

 

Of course this begs the question ... if the Twins didn't sign him a year ago, perhaps they could have signed someone longer term instead to be that #2 guy now and in the future....and more likely than not they still could have signed Pineda to be the #3 for this year.....

Someone would have signed him to the 2 year contract last year. Those seem pretty standard now.

    • Danchat likes this
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Old Twins Cap
Apr 19 2019 08:51 PM

For a guy that big, with that kind of frame and momentum coming forward, his ball just kind of hangs there, in the zone, without a lot of dip or tilt or movement.

 

And, at 92 tops, that's not a winning pitch against a good hitting team.

 

Pineda may beat the Tigers, White Sox and Royals, but no way he will pitch the Twins deep into the playoffs. No way.


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