Along with the shiny ERA (1.89) and ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.4), perhaps the most impressive part of Michael Pineda’s 2014 campaign was his consistency from start-to-start.
Game Score is a metric devised by Bill James that provides a quick-and-dirty evaluation of a pitcher’s start. Every pitcher begins a game with 50 points and then gets points added/subtracted based on innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, hits and runs allowed. 50 is average, anything above 90 is awesome, and anything below 10 is horrible.
Last year, Pineda posted an above-average Game Score in 11 of his 13 starts — the exceptions were the pine tar game in April and his September 11 start against the Rays when he allowed 10 hits and four runs in 7 1/3 innings (Game Score of 44).
Pineda’s 2015 season couldn’t be any more different. While he’s shown flashes of brilliance — the 16-strikeout gem against the Orioles, the one-hit masterpiece against the Marlins — he’s also had his share of clunkers. Six of his 14 starts have produced a Game Score under 50, including a career-worst Game Score of 5 in his most recent start on June 22. He’s basically been either a stud or a dud this season, and can go from elite to enigma in the blink of an eye.
Strap in, because this roller coaster ride is not for those with weak stomachs:
The peaks and valley have become even more extreme in his last seven starts, which have resulted in the following game scores, starting with his May 15 outing against the Royals: 29, 37, 65, 57, 23, 75, 5. Yikes.
How can we explain this bizarre Jekyll-and-Hyde sequence from a pitcher that last year resembled a metronome (when healthy)?
A scout recently told John Harper of the New York Daily News that one reason for the huge disparity in Pineda’s performance lies in the inconsistent execution of his signature slider:
“His height creates an angle on the slider that hitters don’t usually see and when it has a sharp break they don’t hit it. But when he doesn’t have the tight spin and the sharp break, it hangs in the strike zone and it’s getting hit.”
This is what Prince Fielder can do with a hanging slider from Pineda:
But Lorenzo Cain had no chance on this nasty slider from Pineda:
Pineda’s last two starts have been a microcosm of his season. On June 17 against the Marlins he was at his absolute best, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Five days later against the Phillies, he pitched the worst game of his career.
Just as the scout noted, his slider was much flatter against the Phillies compared to his previous start, averaging nearly an inch less vertical movement and three-quarters of an inch less horizontal movement. Against the Marlins, his slider netted Pineda nine outs — including six strikeouts — with no hits allowed; the Phillies put six of his sliders in play and got three hits off the pitch.
But it wasn’t just a sloppy slider that doomed Pineda against the Phillies. Similar to his other disaster starts this season, he struggled to hit his spots with his cutter and batters pounded the poorly located pitches.
As you can see in the images below, he did a good job of avoiding the middle of the zone vs. the Marlins (on the top). But he threw far too many cutters (dark red dots) over the heart of the plate vs. the Phillies (on the bottom), who got seven hits and made just four outs against the pitch.
When Pineda is at his best, he’s got a sharp slider and devastating cutter that makes him nearly unhittable. But at his worst, he’s forced to navigate lineups with flat sliders and batting-practice cut fastballs — a pitching arsenal that becomes crushable even against the worst offensive team in the majors. Although this inability to execute his pitches probably doesn’t completely explain Pineda’s inconsistency this season, it’s something that can’t be ignored.
Once tabbed as the future ace of the Yankees pitching staff, Pineda is now a mystery with the potential to either dominate or detonate when he steps on the mound. The question remains: can he find the consistent approach necessary to make him a true top-of-the-rotation starter?
I’ve got 13 questions in the mailbag this week. If your question didn’t make the cut, don’t be mad, we get a ton of questions each week and a lot of good ones get left on the cutting room floor.
Guy asks: How does Ivan Nova for Justin Turner sound? Could be an interesting idea.
I like the idea but I don’t think the Dodgers would do it no matter how badly they need pitching. Turner has been unreal — he’s hitting .324/.395/.582 (174 wRC+) this season and has a 163 wRC+ since the start of last season. Only Paul Goldschmidt (172 wRC+) and Mike Trout (166 wRC+) have been more productive during that time. Turner told Eno Sarris he made some approach changes two years ago after working with ex-Mets teammate Marlon Byrd, who revived his career by basically swinging as hard as possible all the time. Turner’s done the same. He’d look great at second base for the Yankees. I don’t think the Dodgers would trade a year and a half of Turner for a year and a half of Nova though. I know I wouldn’t. Also: lol Mets.
Hank asks: Should there be some concern over Michael Pineda as his innings start to build up? 1st 7 starts: 46 IP, 44 hits, 54K, 3 BB, 2.72 ERA, .656 OPS against; last 7 starts: 38 IP, 52 hits, 33 K, 9 BB, 6.10 ERA, .857 OPS against.
I’d say mild concern, yes. Not outright panic. Pineda has thrown 84.2 innings this year after throwing 76.1 innings last year, so he’s already heading into uncharted workload territory post-shoulder surgery. It is absolutely something to monitor going forward and the Yankees are aware of this. They didn’t skip his start a few weeks ago because they had nothing to better to do. Pineda’s a big, young, strong guy and I don’t think his performance will collapse anytime soon. (I mean really collapse. These latest issues are just a blip right now.) That said, the Yankees still have to watch him going forward. Shoulder surgery is no joke. If Big Mike needs rest, he needs rest.
Stephen asks: Why should we expect James Kaprielian to sign for above-slot? It seems like he landed in the draft right around where his talent level indicates he would. Is it just because Boras?
Aaron Judge was drafted right around where he was expected to go as well, and he still got an overslot bonus. It boils down to two things. One, Scott Boras is a really tough negotiator and Kaprielian hired him to get the most money. Mark Appel, another Boras client, walked away from the Pirates as the eighth overall pick a few years go and went back to school for his senior season because they didn’t meet his asking price. Boras doesn’t bluff. Two, how highly does the team value him? All the scouting publications say Kaprielian was a mid-first rounder but the Yankees could have seen him as a top ten talent. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable at all.
Kaprielian might not get an overslot bonus, but the Yankees have a ton of draft pool money saved ($643,900) and not many places to spend it. Chipola 1B Isiah Gilliam (20th round), New Jersey HS LHP Andrew Miller (34th), and Florida HS SS Deacon Liput (39th) are their only unsigned draft picks who are overslot bonus candidates and they may all be dead set on college. The Yankees probably knew Kaprielian’s asking price going into the draft, remember. Letting him go back to school over a few hundred grand and settling for the compensation pick next year is not a viable strategy to me. Get the prospect now and get him in your system. Talent now is greater than talent later.
Mikey asks: Would you have traded, say, Rob Refsnyder to AZ for Bronson Arroyo and Touki Toussaint?
Yes I would have made that trade. The Diamondbacks, who just signed a $1 billion television contract, basically sold Toussaint to get out from the $10M or so they owe Arroyo. (Toussaint was the 16th overall pick in last year’s draft and No. 61 on Baseball America’s top 100 list before the season.) Refsnyder is probably a better player than Phil Gosselin, the utility infielder the Braves sent to Arizona, but I’d still make that trade. The Yankees should be buying prospects in situations like this whenever possible. They have the money. The problem is trades like this very rarely happen. Fans of the other 28 teams are wondering why their club didn’t pull the trigger on a random infielder for Toussaint and Arroyo trade right now too.
Evan asks: If the White Sox get blown up, who would the Yankees need to give up to acquire Chris Sale? It would have to be much much much more than Johnny Cueto.
Yes. Much much much much more. Sale is arguably the best pitcher in baseball at this very moment after coming into the season as a no worse than a top five pitcher in MLB. He’s a stud. And he’s only owed $50M or so through 2019 when you include his two no-brainer club options. (I could have sworn I remember reading that Sale can void the options if traded, but apparently that’s not the case.) Every single team will make an offer if Sale is made available. A package starts with Judge and Luis Severino and includes at least two more very young players. Dellin Betances and Nathan Eovaldi maybe? I’m not even sure I’d take that four-player package for Sale if I was the ChiSox. He’s so, so good and so, so affordable for years to come.
Matt asks: If CC Sabathia moved to the bullpen, could he be a great LOOGY?
The numbers say yes. Lefties are hitting .193/.202/.256 (.200 wOBA) with a 29.8% strikeout rate against Sabathia this season. (He hasn’t walked a lefty yet!) Righties are hitting .332/.374/.580 (.406 wOBA) against Sabathia and that’s just awful. In theory, he would make a great matchup lefty reliever. We don’t know how he would adjust to a bullpen role or anything like that, but there’s evidence to suggest Sabathia fits best as a left-on-left bullpen guy at this point. But he’s not coming out of the rotation. The Yankees will continue to shoot themselves in the foot and decrease their postseason chances by keeping this version of Sabathia in the rotation because of his contract.
Bob asks: With the Cubs allegedly looking for a cost-controlled but proven starting pitcher, what kind of return could the Yankees expect from the North Siders for Adam Warren?
Is Warren a proven starting pitcher? I think he’s promising but not proven. Anyway, I don’t think the Cubs are looking for Warren types. I think they’re looking for high-end young starters, not mid-to-back-end guys. Warren won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season and, at the very worst, he’s a solid big league setup man. Maybe he can be more. Warren’s trade value is probably similar to Eovaldi’s this past offseason, no? Maybe slightly less because Eovaldi’s younger and shown he can hold up as a starter over a full season. Warren shouldn’t untouchable but I don’t think trading him for okay-ish prospects makes sense right now either.
Paul asks: Do undrafted free agents have any impact on draft pools? Like, does signing an undrafted FA take money out of the available pool?
They’re treated like players drafted after the tenth round. If they sign for $100,000 or less, it has no impact on the draft pool. If they sign for more than $100,000, the excess is applied to the draft pool. So if an undrafted free agent gets a $150,000 bonus, the extra $50,000 counts against the draft pool. It’s not often unsigned free agents get big bonuses though. The only instance I can remember is Daniel Aldrich a few years ago, who the Yankees inked for $150,000. He played in 39 minor league games before being released.
Mike in EV asks: Now that Sergio Santos is on the 60-day DL, are the Yankees required to put him on the 40-man roster at the end of the season and keep him there through the offseason? Given all of the young players added to the 40-man roster so far this season, it appears the Yankees are headed for quite the roster crunch in the offseason.
No, the Yankees don’t have to keep Santos on the 40-man roster all offseason. There is no DL in the winter — he’ll be activated after the World Series and the Yankees can release him at that point (if they want). They’re not obligated to keep him on the 40-man all winter just because he’s hurt. The Braves cut ties with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy while they were rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last winter, remember.
Now, if the Yankees do cut Santos after the season, they do still have to provide him with a place to do his rehab work until he signs with a new team. That’s in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Santos doesn’t need to take them up on the offer, he can go and rehab on his own if he wants, but the Yankees would have to give him access to their facilities (in Tampa, I assume) even after releasing him. The player doesn’t get hung out to dry.
Dylan asks: You mentioned Judge as starting RF next year as a possibility … if that’s the plan, would he still be held in AAA for 10 games a la the Cubs & Kris Bryant? Or do those service time issues not apply?
Oh they still apply, for sure. It only takes 11-12 days to delay free agency and about three months to delay Super Two status. I don’t love the idea of simply handing Judge the right field job next year — I think the Yankees would do it, I’m just saying I don’t love the idea — because I’m not a fan of throwing non-elite prospects to the wolves. (Judge is very good but not elite!) If they keep him down for a few weeks to delay free agency, great. That’s the system and teams would be foolish not to exploit it. I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to play Judge just to ensure they manipulate his service time if they feel he’s the best option though.
Ethan asks: Do you think defensive flexibility, a la Brock Holt or Ben Zobrist, is a market inefficiency/currently undervalued skill?
I actually think it might be overvalued. Martin Prado, for example. He’s an average hitter and a below-average fielder. Being able to play a bunch of positions doesn’t increase his value much if at all. Prado’s still an average hitter and a below-average defender, he can just play below-average defense at different positions. Flexibility is wonderful but guys like Holt and Zobrist are an exception because they can not only play a lot of positions, but play them well and produce at the plate. Most versatile guys either aren’t that good defensively or can’t hit, so yeah, they can play all over the place, but that just means they can stink at multiple positions instead of one. Holt and Zobrist are big time outliers. They’re valuable if you have them. Trying to use someone like, say, Jose Pirela in that role usually turns out bad.
Mark asks: Is there a statistic that applies the “league average bullpen” to inherited runners. It seems that pitchers are penalized or rewarded depending on the quality of the reliever who is called in to clean up the mess they leave behind.
I haven’t seen anything that adjusts for inherited runners — that would be a little complicated, because you’d have to consider the base/out situation (easier to strand a runner on first with two outs than a runner on third with no outs, etc.) — and things like that. For some reason I know Pineda had brutal inherited runner luck during his season with the Mariners. Seattle’s bullpen allowed 72% (!) of the inherited runners he left on base to score that year. That’s more than double the MLB average.
Anyway, inherited runners have scored 29% of the time league-wide this season. The Giants are the best at only 13% and the Phillies are the worst at 43%. The Yankees are tied with four other teams for seventh worst at 34%. Here are how the core relievers have done this season at stranding inherited runners, via Baseball Reference:
|Chris Martin (40-man)||16.0||18||9||7||78%|
|Andrew Miller (15-day dl)*||26.1||26||7||1||14%|
So the three worst offenders (Carpenter, Martin, Rogers) are not on the roster right now, partly because they stunk at stranding runners. Betances has actually been crummy overall in his department but a big chunk of the damage came in that near meltdown against the Angels a few weeks ago. You remember that, right? Rogers took over an 8-1 game in the ninth inning and before you knew it, it was 8-7 with the tying run on third. Betances allowed all three inherited runners to score that night. Outside of that game Dellin has been exactly league average (29%) at stranding runners, which is still higher than I would have expected.
As for the starters, Sabathia has had the worst inherited runner luck, but it’s a really small sample: four of nine have scored. That’s it. Eovaldi has left the most runners on base (19) and five have scored (26%). Warren has left 14 men on base and three have scored (21%). Pineda has left ten and two have scored. Masahiro Tanaka has handed two inherited runners over to the bullpen all season. Two! (Neither scored.) I haven’t seen anything that adjusts a starters numbers for inherited runners, and I’m not sure who useful it’s be because we aren’t talking about a ton of runners anyway. Inherited runner rates are more useful for relievers for sure.
Liam asks: What’s it like running RAB? Do you have set routine for daily updates like the Bullpen Workload and DotF? Do you plan your analytical pieces ahead of time or just write them as they come to you? I’d love to get some insight on what makes this site tick.
The RAB life is probably not as time-consuming as it seems. I write up DotF during the game each night — it took 15-20 minutes tops in the first half of the season, but now that the short season leagues have started it’s closer to 30 minutes (so many affiliates!) — and I usually write regular features (mailbag, series previews, etc.) a day or two ahead of time, then just go back and fill in the stats. Those are easy enough, usually.
Other posts I try to write the bare bones the day before, but that isn’t always possible if there’s some breaking news that needs to be analyzed (trade, major injury, etc.). My usual routine is this: piece together the next day’s posts in the morning, go about the rest of my day, handle the game and DotF at night (updating the Bullpen Workload, Announcer Standings, and Prospect Watch is all part of my game coverage routine), then put the finishing touches on the posts for the next day. Sometimes I have to call an audible and write an entirely new post(s) after the game, but that comes with the territory. I keep a list of post ideas and add to it as things come to me. Some get written immediately, some get written weeks later, some never get written. Riveting stuff, eh?
New York Yankees, welcome to Houston, meet the Astros and Dallas Keuchel, and boom, you just got shut out! That’s how I will remember tonight’s game. The offense looked helpess for much of the night as Keuchel induced a bunch of weak contact and strikeouts to prevail through the game. Things got quite interesting in the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs for New York, but the Yankees scored zilch to drop the first game of the four-game series 4-0 in Houston.
The Yankees had a bit of an orthodox lineup tonight. Chris Young leadoff? Gregorio Petit? Well, Joe Girardi had a RHH-heavy lineup out for tonight due to the fact that Keuchel has been like, a death angel against lefty hitters (they are hitting .140/.180/.200 off him so yeah).
But yeah, man is Dallas Keuchel nasty. He’s the embodiment of a great baseball pitcher that doesn’t light up the radar gun at all – probably a part of the reason why he was only a seventh rounder back in 2009 MLB Draft. His formula is simple – locate to low corners, cut, sink, tail the ball, change speeds, and that slider … well, he’s pretty nasty.
One Yankee batter that hit Keuchel hard (“hard” is a very relative term here) was Chris Young. Not only did he have singles in the first two at-bats, Young clocked a huge foul that just missed being a homer in the third AB (he ended up striking out swinging though, oh well).
The Yankees didn’t even get their first runner into scoring position until the ninth. Ninth! In fact, they didn’t just have a runner on second – they got the bases loaded with two outs. A-Rod hit a single with two outs and Mark Teixeira followed it up with a four-pitch walk. Carlos Beltran then hit a single to left to load the bases but Jose Pirela grounded out to third to end the game.
When it was all said and done, Keuchel threw nine innings of shutout baseball, allowing six hits, walking one and striking out twelve, good for a game score of 86. Yes, there were some questionable strike calls from Joe West – it seemed like he called a lot of borderline pitches as strikes and some days, umpires will be like that. Keuchel pitched to how West would call strikes on certain part of (or out of) the zone and he succeeded. Oh well.
Warren-ting a starting spot?
There was a lot of speculation that this might be the last start for Adam Warren before he gets moved to bullpen. Well, if it is … it was a decent departure. The righty went 5.2 IP, allowed five hits, three runs (two earned), a walk and four strikeouts. Actually, that line is one out away from being 6.0 IP with two earned runs, which looks much, much shinier. I’d call it a good start.
In the second inning, the Yankees just barely missed an inning-ending double play when Colby Rasmus beat Stephen Drew‘s throw to first. The next batter, Preston Tucker, lined a double to left where Pirela was playing him way towards center and took awhile to get to the ball. Rasmus scored as a result and Astros drew the first blood. 1-0.
Warren allowed another run in the fourth inning when Colby Rasmus hit a sacrifice fly with runners on first and third with one out. Jose Altuve, the runner on third, scored easily but Beltran’s throw got Luis Valbuena, the runner on first, out when he tried to get to the second base. How about that, a sacrifice double play!
In the sixth, Warren struck out Carlos Correa but allowed a single to Altuve. With Valbuena batting, Altuve attempted to steal second and John Ryan Murphy‘s throw sailed to the outfield, allowing Altuve to advance to third. Warren did end up striking out Valbuena but allowed an RBI single to Evan Gattis, 3-0. Girardi then pulled the plug on Warren’s day and brought in Chris Capuano.
I don’t think this was a bad start by any means. Warren was no Keuchel but I think he warrants staying in the rotation. I still have tons more trust in him than, let’s say, CC Sabathia. Unfortunately that probably won’t be the case.
Capuano came in to relieve Warren and had another meh-outing. He went 2.1 innings pitched, allowed two hits and an earned run while walking two and striking out two. At this point he’s just on the roster to eat innings while the team is losing (or winning by a huge margin) and that’s definitely a role that can be nice to have, I guess.
Box score, standing, highlights and WPA
Hopefully tomorrow the Yankees can get more offense going on against the rookie righty Vincent Velazquez. New York will have Nathan Eovaldi on the hill.
Triple-A Scranton (15-2 loss to Louisville)
- CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 E (throwing)
- RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — first Triple-A homer and his 13th dinger of the year (67 games) … he hit homer No. 13 in his 85th game last season
- C Austin Romine: 1-4
- LF Ramon Flores & DH Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 K
- RHP Jaron Long: 4.1 IP, 14 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 6/0 GB/FB — 48 of 63 pitches were strikes (76%) … can’t remember the last time we’ve had a 14-hit performance in DotF
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 2/3 GB/FB — 23 of 38 pitches were strikes (61%)
- RHP Chris Martin: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven strikes, eleven pitches
In a week or so, the Yankees will send a starter to the bullpen and go back to a normal five-man rotation. All signs point to Adam Warren being the odd man out even though he has been no worse than their third best starting pitcher this season. He’s had success in a setup role and the Yankees do need help there, so it’s an easy move. It would be an undeserved demotion to say the least.
Tonight’s series opener against the Astros may be Warren’s chance to show the Yankees he belongs in the rotation, not the bullpen. I honestly have no idea what he needs to do to keep his rotation spot — anything short of a shutout may seal his fate. Life ain’t fair, man. Having too many starting pitchers is a good thing … as long as the five best are actually in the rotation. Here is the Houston lineup and here is New York’s party like it’s 2013 lineup:
- CF Chris Young
- 3B Chase Headley
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- RF Carlos Beltran
- LF Jose Pirela
- C John Ryan Murphy
- SS Stephen Drew
- 2B Gregorio Petit
RHP Adam Warren
It’s sunny and hot in Houston. The Minute Maid Park roof will probably be closed for air conditioning reasons, not because it’s raining. Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending where you live. Enjoy the game.
Roster Moves: As you can tell from the lineup, both Drew and Petit are back. Drew was activated off paternity leave and Petit was recalled from Triple-A Scranton. Branden Pinder and Diego Moreno were sent down yesterday to make room on the roster. The Yankees are rolling with a six-man bullpen.
Injury Update: Andrew Miller (forearm) played catch again and everything went well. He’ll take tomorrow off then throw again Saturday … Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) is running at 75-85% and isn’t ready for rehab games yet … Brett Gardner and Brian McCann are fine, just an off-day against the lefty starter.
Misc. Update: Andy Pettitte was in the clubhouse and in full uniform before the game. He only threw batting practice though. No comeback planned.
Outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez have been selected to participate in the 2015 Futures Game, MLB announced earlier today. Judge will suit up for Team USA and Sanchez will play for the World Team, because duh. The full rosters are right here. Baseball America has free mini-scouting reports on all the players as well: Team USA and World Team.
Judge, 23, is New York’s best prospect. He is hitting .277/.345/.500 (139 wRC+) with 16 doubles and 12 home runs in 66 games this season, most with Double-A Trenton and a handful with Triple-A Scranton. Judge stands out for his size (6-foot-7 and 230 lbs.) and his raw power, though he has a line drive approach in games, so he doesn’t always tap into his pop. His athleticism and right field defense are assets as well and often overlooked.
The 22-year-old Sanchez is currently on the Double-A DL with a bruised hand after being hit by a foul tip, though the injury is considered minor and he’s expected back soon. Sanchez is hitting .256/.313/.432 (113 wRC+) with seven doubles and eighth homers in 45 games with the Thunder in 2015. He’s a bat first prospect with big power who is still trying to improve behind the plate so he can catch long-term.
Teams do have input for the Futures Game — Bill Shaikin says the Dodgers didn’t approve Corey Seager’s selection even though he’s the best prospect in the minors right now, for example — so it’s possible the Yankees declined to allow right-hander Luis Severino to participate, possibly because they are considering calling him up at some point. Then again, players who are called up are simply replaced on the Futures Game roster. Who knows?
It’s also possible the Yankees pushed for Sanchez to be included so they could showcase him for trades. Crazy? Maybe. But Peter O’Brien was a Futures Gamer last summer and was then traded a few weeks later. If Sanchez goes 0-for-2 in the Futures Game, no one blinks an eye. But if he homers off a top pitching prospect, well hey now, someone will take notice of that. It’s a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Well, unless Sanchez gets hurt, but you know what I mean.
This is the first Futures Game selection for both Judge and Sanchez. Severino and O’Brien represented the Yankees last season and Rafael DePaula the year before that. The Futures Game is Sunday, July 12th in Cincinnati. The final day before the All-Star break. Congrats to Judge and Sanchez. It’s always cool to be recognized as one of the best prospects in the game.