Mar
22

And the drum beats on: Michael Pineda, velocity, and AAA

By

(AP Photo)

Last year, when he was competing for a spot in the Mariners rotation, Michael Pineda did not face intense scrutiny. People watched and dissected his performances, as they do for every pitcher. But given the Seattle media market combined with the Mariners current place in the baseball world, the attention paid him was relatively mild. One year later, you can’t click on three Yankees-related links without seeing a Pineda mention. And most of it isn’t exactly glowing.

The level of scrutiny that Pineda faces is new to him, though it’s not to us. We’ve seen it happen dozens of times before. In Pineda’s case it makes all the sense in the world. He’s a young pitcher with high expectations, due to his 2011 performance, his former top prospect status, and the trade that brought him to New York. Yet it seems that attention paid him has gone from intense to overkill. Let’s quickly review the timeline of Pineda’s brief Yankees tenure.

1. When the Yankees acquired Pineda, Brian Cashman himself said that Pineda adding a changeup to his arsenal was the key to his success. Many analysts and scouts agreed.

2. Pineda comes into camp overweight, a cause for instant criticism.

3. Pineda receives early praise for his changeup, and throws it often in his early spring outings.

4. Now lacking a point of criticism, the media turns to his missing velocity as a point of major concern.

5. He builds velocity over a few starts, going from 89-91 in his first start to hitting 94 in his most recent one. But that’s not 96-97, so the criticism continues.

It’s all a bit absurd, and it grows even more so. At least one beat writer has led the charge in calling for Pineda to start the season in AAA, criticizing him at every opportunity (and even when there is no clear opportunity). Thankfully, the Yankees don’t operate to satiate the media and their desire for clicks and page views. They operate in a manner that will benefit them on the field, both now and in the future.

Are there solid, logical arguments for Pineda to start the season in AAA? There is the issue of his service clock, which the Yankees could delay by starting him in the minors. That would afford them another year of control, making Pineda a free agent after the 2017 season rather than 2016. Held back long enough, they could even delay his arbitration clock, setting his first hearing for 2015 rather than 2014. That seems like a decent incentive, especially knowing the front office’s desire — nay, mandate, as Hal Steinbrenner tells it — to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season.

Today at FanGraphs Dave Cameron offered an additional argument. He points to Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who, like Pineda, experienced a drop in velocity when he came into camp before the 2010 season. Cameron admits that the situations don’t line up, but I think he undersells the degree of difference between Pineda and Bumgarner. Bumgarner had experienced his velocity dip during the 2009 season. When it persisted in 2010 spring training, the Giants decided to keep him in the minors. This is quite different from Pineda, who not only spent all of 2011 in the majors, but also retained his velocity throughout (discounting his final start, which came on 11 days’ rest).

What both the service time and the Bumgarner arguments miss is the effect a minor league assignment would have on Pineda. Instead of looking at the situation from your armchair, look at it from Pineda’s point of view. He pitched successfully for a full major league season. He has pitched reasonably well all spring — better, certainly, than at least Ivan Nova, if not others. And now the Yankees are going to send you to the minors to work on your velocity, with the added benefit of them gaining more of your services for a cheaper price. Oh, and by the way, the Triple-A team is on a perpetual road trip because of stadium renovations. How would you feel if you were in his shoes? It’s an important consideration — as Joe Torre liked to say, there’s a heartbeat to the game.

If the Yankees feel that they can get the most out of Pineda by sending him to the minors, and if they think his confidence won’t go into the crapper, then it’s something to consider. But by all indications, this is a guy who has given it his all this spring. He might have shown up a bit overweight, but are we going to blame a 23-year-old for taking it easy the off-season after experiencing his most intense workload ever? Even so, Cashman says he’s already dropped 12 pounds and has worked as hard as anyone this spring. Is that someone you want to send away? Or is it someone you want to put in your rotation? He is, after all, one of the five most talented pitchers in camp. It seems like he should be treated as such.

Categories : Rants

79 Comments»

  1. Raza says:

    Pineda should be in the starting rotation come opening day. Too talented not to be.

    • Bryan__from NZ says:

      Not advocating demoting Pineda to the minors. But people are genuinely entitled to be concerned about his reduced velocity, considering he was traded for Jesus. It doesn’t help that the media have followed his velocity drop closesly, with Wallace Matthews even reporting yesterday that Pineda’s numbers (who isn’t)are markedly worse when he’s not pitching at 95+.

      Until Pineda and Yankee management give more indepth explanations about his reduced velocity, the media and others will continue to come up with their own conclusions.

  2. Eric says:

    Agreed, nice work as always. The media seems to be manufacturing a controversy since there is not much else to get excited about this spring.

  3. Sarah says:

    I feel as though the overweight thing has been totally overblown. First is was ten pounds and he’d lost 7 or 8 of them within the first week of camp. Not surprising for a guy of his size to drop weight quickly, and also, ten pounds on a 6’7″ guy is like 5 lbs on everyone below 6 feet.

    Now it’s twenty pounds and he hasn’t lost any of it? Unlikely. And again, 20 lbs on a guy of his size is not 20 lbs on me (5’2″) or most anyone else in the world. He can probably drop the 20 lbs by eating more vegetables for a week.

    Poor kid. I hope he can’t read English and no one in his family reads it either.

    • Fin says:

      That issue was all Cashman, as was the initial focus of his change up by the media. I feel in trying to manage every ones expectations on Pineda he has at the very least contributed to the media scrutiny if not created it.

      He could have kept the change up thing between Pinea and the organization or Girardi could have said something in camp about a change up being Pineda’s focus.

      It started out as non issue 10lbs until cashman threw out 20lbs and then said he didnt work during the offseason, and didnt know if he even threw during the offseason. Shouldnt he have found out what he did during the offseason before making negative comments to frenzying press? And with all the frenzy by the media in regards to Pineda already, couldnt he have kept that to himself to protect Pineda a bit?

      Also, after the season Pineda had last year, how is he not gauranteed a spot in the rotation? If he isnt guaranteed a spot, no one but CC should be. I dont see how Kuroda is more of a sure thing than Pineda, he has his questions as well. I doubt even if the Yankees wanted to screw him, and set back his arb and free agency timers they could get away with it, the union would be all over it.

      I am by and large a fan of Cashman, but I do not like how he has handled the media in regards Pineda thus far.

    • jim says:

      I also heard twenty. But, he does look thinner than the first February interviews. I think the speed will pick up and the new pitches will help. I’m sure with a taste of Yankee expectations, he’ll come to camp in shape next year. As for Nova…it seems he learned one thing from the best…AJ….and that’s to immediately, BLAME YOUR CATCHER.

  4. Fin says:

    The only thing I disagree with, is that he is one of the 5 most talented pitchers in camp. Its seems to me hes one of the 2 most talented pitchers in camp. Unless of course you’re including bull pen guys. Then he would be 1 of the 3.

  5. Jason says:

    Well put – leave the kid alone.

  6. RetroRob says:

    Can we get on with the season already and have Pineda go out and pitch a real game where he throws something like 7 innings, gives up four or five hits, a walk, strikes out ten for the win, all while still only throwing 93?

    Seriously, right now he’s throwing harder than Hughes and clearly has more natural movement on his fastball, has a better breaking ball, and his work-in-progoress changeup has shown more promise than Hughes has during his entire career. Yet Hughes is this Spring Training’s darling while they want to send Pineda off to AAA.

  7. A.D. says:

    Personally I blame Phil Hughes and Joba, if those guys came to camp in worse shape this year, and in Phils case, really sucked it up then they might take some of the spotlight of Pineda.

    In all seriousness unless you think Pineda isn’t healthy, start the guy, he’s one of your best 5 pitchers and he’s earned it if you go by spring training stats

  8. Johnny O says:

    I think once the regular season starts, if he’s getting good results at 92-94 people will shut up. If he stinks up the joint at 92-94….well, you ain’t seen nothin yet.

    And if he’s pitching poorly at 96-97mph….well, CLEARLY HE’S OVERTHROWING?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!! sEND hIM tO tEH mINORS!

  9. Looking at you, Andrew Marchand.

    • RetroRob says:

      Wally annoys me more, although on this one issue, Marchand is giving him a run for his money. I’m sure it’s generating lots of clicks, which is why the story won’t die.

      • Jason @ IIATMS says:

        I think half my reason for leaving ESPN / Sweetspot was so I wouldn’t have to muzzle myself about the espnny banalities. Just awful.

        Preach it, brothers.

    • putt says:

      I unfollowed him on Twitter the other day – his VeloRection was just getting to be ridiculous. I guess it was my mistake for following him in the first place, but what can I say, I just like to access as many information sources as possible. But I guess at some point it stops being information and just becomes ratings/click-driven hyperbole.

  10. Dan 2 says:

    If I were a Yankee beat writer and had done such a miserable job uncovering Cashman’s series of Ninja moves over the past few years, I would be angry and picky too.
    What is there to do? Find holes in the roster? For the eighth or ninth consecutive year write about the “aging” Yanks? Write about CC weight loss? Its too much like work to go to the minor league complex and write profiles about up-and-comers. Only thing left is to pick on the new guy.
    In this age of 24/7 sports news these princes of the keyboard are holding on by a thread.How do they stay viable and if not, what kind of a real job could they get?

    • vin says:

      You’re absolutely right. The Yankees are FAR too functional an operation relative to the size of the media covering them. They need to be more Mets-like. Even Cashman’s personal issues have been nipped in the bud (from a media point of view).

    • thurdonpaul says:

      great comment !

  11. the Other Steve S. says:

    It’ this hat, straighten that thing out. The aerodynamics are all screwed up.

    • Tom says:

      Where can I buy one of those hats? When I go to the store they only sell the hats that stick straight out.

      /Herc’d (semi-obscure The Wire reference)

  12. thenamestsam says:

    Very well said Joe. I think there are real reasons to hypothetically send Pineda down to AAA: along with what you mentioned, if they want to trade Garcia than giving him a few turns through the rotation and demonstrating that he’s not pure excess might help his trade value.

    But the game isn’t played in a vacuum. As you say he would be justifiably pissed if he gets sent down. And I think that’s a bigger deal when you have a guy with a new organization. He probably doesn’t have the same kind of mentors in place in this organization as he would have in Seattle to make sure he takes it the right way and understands the reasoning. Without those voices the negative aspects of it might be even more pronounced.

    • Fin says:

      I dont think those reasons are justifiable, they are reasons, but would be hard to justify. Why would you send him down over Nova or Hughes? He has more talent than either, had a better year last year than either and has looked better than Nova in camp.

      I still dont think barring bad regular season performances that the Yankees could get away with sending Pineda down. It would be looked at, and rightly so, as away to mess with his arb/FA time clocks and the Union would be all over it. Not to mention the Yankees dont have a history of screwing guys over like that. Your job is never safe with the Yankees (unless your Jeter) but I dont recall them ever screwing anyone like is proposed could be done to Pineda.

      • thenamestsam says:

        Big one to me is service time. I don’t buy that they couldn’t get away with sending him down. Between the velocity and the fact that the other guys are established with the Yankees I think they could get away with it. And it would be a big savings. The difference between Pineda and Garcia over a few weeks is (as Cameron pointed out) essentially zero. Maybe a tenth of a win or so. The potential for an extra pre-arb year of Pineda could be immensely valuable, certainly more than what is lost. That to me counts as justifiable.

        As for whether they actually would do it, it’s irrelevant to my comment. I agree that they wouldn’t, and I agree that they shouldn’t (because of the potential to effect him emotionally), but the reasons to do it are real.

        • Havok9120 says:

          My understanding is that to get another pre-arb year he’s gotta be down a loooooong time. No one’s said how long, but its supposedly much longer than just getting another year of team control would take.

        • fin says:

          LOL, hes off my 3mph from last year with a couple starts to go, before the season starts. This velocity thing is fucking silly, and i’m guessiing the arbitrator would see the same thing. Its more than likely by the time the season starts he will be very close to the same velocity he had last year, earasing any stupid reason to send him down.

          THe reasons are real alright, real low class and duechebaggery at its finest. For people to even suggest doing this to a young guy is rather crappy in my opinion and for fans to suport it so Stienbreener can put more money in his pockets at the expense of a dude like Pineda is disgusting.

          As it is the team gets him for 5 years that will most likely be well under his value, that is plenty.

  13. Peter R says:

    Rotation: CC, HK, Nova, Hughes, Pineda.

    Freddy to Bullpen or trade him with Maxwell (or JoVa) for something prospect-y (gotta get a B at least right?).

    Have a hard choice when Andy comes back…my guess Nova or Hughes to AAA again (and one of the AAA guys to the AAA or ML bullpen – DJ Mitchel maybe).

    • Fin says:

      Cant see them sending Hughes down, hes too close to FA and if they want to get any value out of him he has to pitch. I dont think a 40yr old 1yr rental will stand in the way of that. I think Nova would be sent down, but because of the AAA traveling circus, I dont see them doing that to him, unless he really needs the work.
      I think if everyone is healthy when Petite is ready to go, they almost have to trade Garcia. Under that circumstance I think the ideal situation is have petite replace Garcia as the 6th man. Though I doubt that happens. If they trade Garcia the most likely scenario is Nova as the 6th man.

  14. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Whatever the hell he was throwing yesterday, at whatever speed it was, after a rocky first inning, which any pitcher on the face of the earth will have sometimes, people weren’t hitting it. That’s what matters.

    He belongs in the rotation come Opening Day.

  15. pat says:

    The service time thing isn’t that great of a reason to leave him in AAA either. He’d have to be down there until mid June for it to affect his service time enough to squeeze out another year of salary control. That’s simply too long.

  16. TomH says:

    What GM pays attention to sports writers?

    • Kevin Winters says:

      @ChrisVernonShow: Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace said he first got idea of signing Arenas from a blog post that was given to him

      Not the same thing but similar

  17. Suffocating D says:

    “He builds velocity over a few starts, going from 89-91 in his first start to hitting 94 in his most recent one. But that’s not 96-97, so the criticism continues.”

    As it should

  18. Reggie C. says:

    With regards to the 20 pounds of excess weight Pineda is trying to shed, I expect Pineda to take better care of himself next offseason. The man has to be aware of that coaches and Cashman are not pleased that conditioning is still an issue.

    • jsbrendog says:

      he said seattle told him not to do anything this offseason, a la yankees and wang. so this is irrelevant

      • fin says:

        I was wondering if maybe seattle told him not to do anything and just rest. It makes sense. Any idea where u read that he said this?

  19. Guest says:

    The service time thing makes no sense to me with Pineda. In fact the whole situation makes me feel like I am taking crazy pills.

    You hold players back due to service time if (1)the player might be ready to contribute, but aren’t very developed and will likely struggle at least a little, or (2) your team isn’t going to really contend that season and having that extra year of team control is worth more to you than what they can contribute that season.

    Pineda is a big time prospect, with ridiculous stuff, who dominated the minors, then dominated the majors for the first half with great peripherals, and then struggled in the second half BUT still had great peripherals!! What’s more, he pitched a lot of innings without being stretched too far past his prior innings totals and is ready to give 200 innings this year.

    At this very moment, I think there is a better chance that he finishes the season as “Ace Jr.” to CC’s “Ace” than have a disappointing year.

    So he’s ready to compete at a high level. Are the Yankees in a position to take advantage of what he can contribute? Absolutely. They certainly have a great chance to make the playoffs, and with their rotation, have as fair a shot of winning the playoff crapshoot as anyone else.

    Why would you send him to AAA under these circumstances? Because he’s taking a bit of time to build up his velo (which, btw, has increased throughout the spring)? Really?

    Again, I ask, am I taking crazy pills? Or did everything that Pineda has already accomplished in his young professional career not happen?

    Pineda to AAA. *Sighs* *Shakes head* *Huffs* *Smacks face with palm*

    • Sarah says:

      Marchand is the one taking the crazy pills. You’re being very logical and rational about the whole thing.

    • fin says:

      Damn, dont you know he did it for Seattle, outside of the AL east so its like it never happend, in that its irrelevant. Unless hes throwing full out after 3 ST games and dominating he cant cut it and should go travel the country with AAA until he proves he can at least compete on the Yankees AAA team which is the equivalent of the rest of MLB outside the AL east. OH, not to mention hes blocking the beast that is Freddy Garcia, or Nova or Hughes all of which have had varrying degrees of success in the all important AL east. I dont know why other teams even play.

    • thenamestsam says:

      I mostly agree with you. I just want to add that the real reason you hold a player back for service time is because the cost to doing so now is less than the expected gain from an extra year in the future. The reasons you list are just subreasons of that larger reason: In the first situation the loss now is small because the guy isn’t that great, so the year in the future is better. In the second situation the guy represents a serious upgrade now, but since it doesn’t affect your chances to compete the actual cost is quite low.

      For the Yankees you could make the case that their starting pitching depth puts them in a unique situation where although Pineda is very good right now, the cost to sticking him in the minors for a few months is actually quite low. That might make it worth it. It’s not the most common reason, but few (no?) other teams have the depth of the Yankees, and it does make some sense in the bigger picture.

      • fin says:

        It doesnt make sense with a major league pitcher like Pineda, he is not a prospect or a rookie. IT would be a low class move by the Yankees, it would piss Pineda off enough where he might never get over it, and pretty sure it wouldnt sit well with any of the players who not only want to win now, but dont want to see another vetern player screwed like that. Not to mention, its reasonably certain the union wouldnt let it happen without Pindeda struggling. Trying justifying to the Union sending the second best pitcher on your team down.
        That type of thing is fine to sit here and talk about, but it wont float in the real world. When we see guys get held back for clock reasons its when they havent played in the majors, not after having a very successful full season in the majors. THe Yankees have all the money and all the power, Pineda is making league minimum and will play for far under his value for years. For fans to really even discuss the Yankees screwing him so Stienbrenner can pocket some more money in a few years, is pretty lame.
        If the Yankees budget is so tight, that they become the least classy organization in baseball, it is indeed a sad day.

      • Guest says:

        My main counter is that I believe there is a huge difference between Pineda and the rest of the “depth pitchers” (Warren, Phelps, even Hughes and Nova).

        I think we’ve all been trained to be really cautious with pitching prospects, and the Yankees have recently been bitten by underwhelming performances by their big time prospects.

        So, I think people actually are being TOO cautious with their expectations for Pineda (which might just be a “ninja” move on Cash and Girardi’s part know that I think about it).

        The man is a 6’7″ (while ducking), thick but not fat, BEAST with sick control, who has been a big time prospect, lit the world on fire last season in the first half, saw his ERA rise in the second half while quietly maintaining an elite K:BB ratio. If he were homegrown and we had been following him on DoTF for the last four years, he’d be a sensation.

        Again, no one can predict the future. He might fall flat on his face this year. But I believe there is a better chance that he looks like CC by the end of the year than he looks like Nova.

        And I do not want Warren/Phelps/Garcia taking a single inning from someone who can be that dominant.

  20. chmch says:

    Who really thinks this guy is not going to be on the team come opening day? It’s Spring Training silly season.

    • Slugger27 says:

      i dont think anyone thinks theres a realistic chance the AAA thing happens. lets be real, the 5man rotation was decided in january

      • fin says:

        I think plenty of people have bought into it. I have seen people on RAB making cases for him to go to AAA so Garcia could pitch. Its not the normal posters, but there are a significant amount of people that get their news from ESPN, probably alot more than follow RAB and fangrpahs of the world.

  21. Manimal says:

    Lets be honest, he probably shits 7 pounds.

  22. forensic says:

    EVerybody loves all the coverage the yanks get, not to mention the extra news, quicker stories, and every aspect of the org being covered because of the vast number of beat writers. But then, if there’s one issue they don’t like, everyone bitches about it all saying they all suck. Nothing they’ve written is wrong. He did come in overweight, he did have to work on his change up, he is not throwing as hard as he did last year.

    Everyone would be bored with like 2 beat writers or whatever teams like the royals probably have. The high number necessitates stories being repeated/duplicated and the lack of competitions or anything else that the Yankees have means certain stories get extra. You can’t have it both ways.

    And I thought on a stats site like this, heartbeat and feelings don’t matter? Yes, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it gets pretty close to that sometimes.

  23. Robert says:

    Send him to AAA.It would send a message to all the players in the organization to stay in shape during the off season.

  24. Holy Ghost says:

    If he were a 35 year old veteran free-agent pitcher, no one in NY would care about his weight or velocity. NY Yankee fans love to eat young players alive for no apparent reason…

    • CJ says:

      Not fans. Media. They do make it extremely difficult for a highly touted (hyped) young player to succeed in NY. Guys like Nova, robertson and Gardner did it under the radar.

      • fin says:

        Its the fans that catch on to this non sence that causes all the fuss. If your a casual or uniformed fan, at this point you have to be covinced that the Yankees aquired a fat, lazy guy who lost his fastball and has no secondary offerings. That the Yankees will send him down to AAA and hope to see him again in a few years. Go read the MLB forums to find said fans.

  25. fin says:

    How long after pineda dominates some regular season games does it take for Pineda to have to answer questions regarding his wieght, fastball, changeup issues of the offseason? Shit will probably go on all year no matter how well he pitches. By Cashman saying he has to develp a change up or its a failed trade the guy will be answering change up questions until he has one as good a CC or retires.

    • Bo Knows says:

      The first time he throws a stinker (as all pitchers will do from time to time) the rabid chihuahua’s that are the media and ignorant masses will call him a bust and want him cut

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        He hasn’t even done that and they already are.

        Every time Pineda gives up a hit, they just should quickly pan to a shot of Tim Tebow.

  26. awy says:

    i’m sorry to see that you got trolled by cameron into having to write about this.

  27. Dave says:

    You don’t trade for the guy to send to him to Scranton. If it comes to it trade Garcia for some kind of a reasonable fifth or sixth OF piece or something to make room for Pineda and Hughes. We have to get of this we have to win the WS every year crap and develop some in house starting pitching.

  28. Steve S. says:

    What both the service time and the Bumgarner arguments miss is the effect a minor league assignment would have on Pineda. Instead of looking at the situation from your armchair, look at it from Pineda’s point of view. He pitched successfully for a full major league season. He has pitched reasonably well all spring — better, certainly, than at least Ivan Nova, if not others. And now the Yankees are going to send you to the minors to work on your velocity, with the added benefit of them gaining more of your services for a cheaper price. Oh, and by the way, the Triple-A team is on a perpetual road trip because of stadium renovations. How would you feel if you were in his shoes? It’s an important consideration — as Joe Torre liked to say, there’s a heartbeat to the game.

    Weakest part of the argument. As I’m sure you know, the Yankees like to test player’s mettle, see what they’re made of. New York provides all sorts of stress to perform, high expectations, media attention many times that of smaller cities. Someone who can’t handle a demotion wouldn’t be a good fit here anyway. Better to find that out sooner than later.

    Fans love to blame the franchise when prospect X doesn’t reach his ceiling. I couldn’t disagree more. This is the big leagues, not only that but its most demanding place to play. If you want to punch the clock and go play golf like those late 90′s Braves teams, you’re probably not a fit.

    • awy says:

      your spartan ideology is not reality based, sorry to say

    • Rich in NJ says:

      Who are we talking about? They jerked both Hughes and Joba back and forth between the pen and the rotation, which kind of skews any real test of their “mettle,” and they didn’t give IPK an extended shot.

  29. sports writers bashing pineda, thats all it is. new york sports writers have been bashing there own [ ny sports teams ] every since i can remember. most ny sports writers suck. they are leeches.

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