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Article: Michael Pineda Provides Upgrade Over Recent Fifth Starters


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It was hard to know what to expect from Michael Pineda when the Twins signed him prior to the 2018 season. The front-office knew he would miss all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but there can be some issues with performance in the first year back on the mound. Pineda certainly hasn’t been perfect, but he might be an upgrade over other fifth starters the Twins have used in recent years.2019 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.

 

What have you thought about Pineda’s performance so far? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

 

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His fastball has gained 2 MPH in velocity since May, I think there's reason to believe he's going to improve as the rust falls off. I'm fine looking for upgrades, but he might not end up being the starter that gets bumped.

 

Coming into the year I figured his control would be an issue after such a long layoff, he's been really good about limiting free passes though. 

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$8 million to Pineda. $620K to Berrios. The inadequacies of the Players' Union's agreement. Pineda was the 4th starter at the beginning of season, no? I hope he continues to pitch better. Both he and Perez need upgrades for a playoff run, I think. They woud be great depth.

Edited by h2oface
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$8 million to Pineda. $620K to Berrios. The inadequacies of the Players' Union's agreement. Pineda was the 4th starter at the beginning of season, no? I hope he continues to pitch better. Both he and Perez need upgrades for a playoff run, I think. They woud be great depth.

Exactly. They can’t both be the 5 starter. Right now, Perez is trending the wrong way after a good start. In the playoffs, I could see a situation where they would piggyback, each going once through the order.

 

But a better option would be someone who could successfully navigate a lineup 2 or 3 times by himself.

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I like Big Mike. He keeps getting better. I believe this will prove to be a good signing even if he ends up being our 8th inning guy in October. Perez same - except he isn't getting better right now. For us to end up playing in October, I see both these guys in the pen. Last nights game was playoff baseball and in playoff baseball, pitching beats hitting. We need reinforcements and everyone knows it. 

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Either Pineda or Perez could become bullpen pieces if another starter or two is acquired before the trade deadline. Both have pitched from the pen in the recent past.

Pineda has never pitched in relief at the MLB level. Other than his rehab last year, the last time Pineda relieved in the minors was 2009.

Edited by yarnivek1972
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Either Pineda or Perez could become bullpen pieces if another starter or two is acquired before the trade deadline. Both have pitched from the pen in the recent past.

Pineda has never appeared out of the bullpen in a MLB game. (Edit: coke to yarnivek!)

 

Aside from a rehab appearance at Rochester last year, in which Pineda pitched 4 innings following an opener, his last professional appearance out of the bullpen was over 10 years ago, on May 16th, 2009. I think it may have been health related, because he began that season starting and was doing quite well, but then missed a few turns, made 2 pen appearances, and then missed about 3 months.

Edited by spycake
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More important are the upgrades at the #1, #2, #3, and #4 slots.

 

Yes and no. It's nice to have 5 pitchers that give you a shot at winning, rather than 4. Those extra 10 or 15 good starts a year lead to 6-10 more wins over the season (WAR's biggest weakness for pitchers, imo). 

 

For the playoffs, yes, bigger deal at the top. But not having to start guys that give you good starts less than half the time, having to cycle thru them and manage the roster, and saving the bullpen some innings is a big deal over 162 games (or 20-30 starts).

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I thought we were looking at least a four, if not a three. But, the very instant I first saw Pineda on the mound this spring, I lowered my expectations. I found myself less concerned with his pitches than with the possibility that he would injure himself simply navigating around the mound or experience some type of cardiac event.

 

10 short weeks later, he's in a position to exceed my lowered expectations.

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If Pineda throws around 130-140 innings of 4.50 ERA we break even on his contract. I don't think he should be much over 150 for the year tops. He will probably have another IL stint and maybe some time in the pen to help limit his innings.

 

I don't think the Twins need to go out and add a starter as we have plenty of fill one during his IL times.

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If Pineda throws around 130-140 innings of 4.50 ERA we break even on his contract. I don't think he should be much over 150 for the year tops. He will probably have another IL stint and maybe some time in the pen to help limit his innings.

 

I don't think the Twins need to go out and add a starter as we have plenty of fill one during his IL times.

Who would that be exactly? So far Smeltzer is the only one they brought up that has done well. There’s really no starters at AAA doing well.

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Comparing the 5th starter for the team with the best record in the majors to that of worse teams, including the one that ended up with the worst record in the majors makes no sense.

 

The Twins are competing.  Their 5th starter should be compared to those of teams that recently made the World Series.

Not sure that Pineda cuts it, in that comparison...

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I believe that is called damning with faint praise. I don't think we need to keep finding these Minnesota nice descriptions for players that aren't performing as they should. When Pineda was signed I believe they look at him to possibly be the number two not the number five. With Perez struggling now the team needs to look real hard at at least one more starting pitcher as well as relief pitching support.

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I believe that is called damning with faint praise. I don't think we need to keep finding these Minnesota nice descriptions for players that aren't performing as they should. When Pineda was signed I believe they look at him to possibly be the number two not the number five. With Perez struggling now the team needs to look real hard at at least one more starting pitcher as well as relief pitching support.

#2 pitchers get $100 million+ when they hit free agency, not $10 million. There is no way that #2 was ever a reasonable expectation of Pineda.

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Calling someone the “No. 5” starter is somewhat a function of the health of the rest of the rotation. This year, the Twins have been fortunate in only needing four starts outside of Berrios-Odo-Gibson-Perez-Pineda, and two of those four starts were Stewart’s 26th-man starts.

 

So while I see what you did in using the guy with the fifth-most starts as your comparison poin, that’s not completely accurate. For example, last year Romero started 11 times, but he was really only the No. 5 starter for the six weeks or so when he was in the rotation with Lance Lynn. For a few starts, he was actually the No. 4.

 

In reality, the No. 5 starter last year was the amalgamation of most of Romero’s starts, plus the starts from Kohl Stewart, Gabriel Moya, Ervin Santana, Stephen Gonsalves, Adalberto Mejia, Chase DeJong and a few others.

 

So yeah, I’ll take 2019 Pineda over that cohort.

 

And the same would apply to the partial seasons of Colon and Milone. In 2018 Colon had the fifth-highest number of starts, but during a good part of his time with the Twins he was really the No. 4 starter behind Santana, Gibson, and Berrios, with guys like Dillon Gee, Adalberto Mejia, and Felix Jorge serving as the No. 5. The No. 5 starter comparison for that year should also include Ryan Tepesch and Phil Hughes.

 

I’ll take Pineda over that cohort as well.

 

The bottom line is that Pineda’s ERA+ is currently 89. Take out three late-April starts and he’s probably over 100. If he pitches to a 100 ERA+ for another 15-18 starts and is outpitched by Perez, Pineda will very much have been an outstanding No. 5.

Edited by IndianaTwin
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We signed him and paid him for an injury recovery year in addition to this pitching year. I think we had expectations.

I didn't say no expectations. I said not #2 starter expectations.

They paid him $2 million last year to recover, and $8 million this year.

On the open market, that's #4 money, at best.

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Calling someone the “No. 5” starter is somewhat a function of the health of the rest of the rotation. This year, the Twins have been fortunate in only needing four starts outside of Berrios-Odo-Gibson-Perez-Pineda, and two of those four starts were Stewart’s 26th-man starts.

 

So while I see what you did in using the guy with the fifth-most starts as your comparison poin, that’s not completely accurate. For example, last year Romero started 11 times, but he was really only the No. 5 starter for the six weeks or so when he was in the rotation with Lance Lynn. For a few starts, he was actually the No. 4.

 

In reality, the No. 5 starter last year was the amalgamation of most of Romero’s starts, plus the starts from Kohl Stewart, Gabriel Moya, Ervin Santana, Stephen Gonsalves, Adalberto Mejia, Chase DeJong and a few others.

 

So yeah, I’ll take 2019 Pineda over that cohort.

 

And the same would apply to the partial seasons of Colon and Milone. In 2018 Colon had the fifth-highest number of starts, but during a good part of his time with the Twins he was really the No. 4 starter behind Santana, Gibson, and Berrios, with guys like Dillon Gee, Adalberto Mejia, and Felix Jorge serving as the No. 5. The No. 5 starter comparison for that year should also include Ryan Tepesch and Phil Hughes.

 

I’ll take Pineda over that cohort as well.

 

The bottom line is that Pineda’s ERA+ is currently 89. Take out three late-April starts and he’s probably over 100. If he pitches to a 100 ERA+ for another 15-18 starts and is outpitched by Perez, Pineda will very much have been an outstanding No. 5.

Doesn’t seem likely that Pineda will be outpitched by Perez.

 

Since the start of May, Pineda has made 8 starts. He’s pitched at least 5 innings in all of them, at least 6 in 5 of them. He’s given up 3 runs or fewer in all of them. In short, he has given the Twins a chance to win all those games.

 

 

Since May 12, Perez has made 7 starts. He’s allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of them, 5 or more in 3. He failed to get through 5 innings in 2 of those starts and failed to get through 3 innings once. That’s not a good stretch and it is an alarming trend.

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