Archive for Michael Pineda
The Yankees opened their season sans Michael Pineda yesterday, as the young right-hander started the year on the disabled list with a bout of shoulder tendinitis. Pineda has played catch in each of the last two days, suggesting that the injury isn’t too serious. Joe Girardi said yesterday that it’s “safe to say” we won’t see him in the big leagues this month though, which jives with the ultra-conservative approach they’re reportedly taking.
Reports indicate that Pineda came to camp 10-20 lbs. overweight, and Brian Cashman openly questioned his offseason routine. “I betcha it’s the first time he picked up a ball and started working out, and he’s probably using — it doesn’t make it right, if it’s the case, but I can’t tell you it’s the case — but he’s probably using Spring Training to get himself in shape,” said the GM a few weeks ago. Turns out there’s a little more to the story than that. Courtesy of Marc Carig…
A wrinkle in the Michael Pineda Saga: Turns out that Pineda was slated to arrive at M’s camp Jan. 22 to work out early, just as he did before his great rookie year. Then Pineda got traded, and there was a 10-day lag before it became official. Ultimately, Pineda didn’t arrive in Tampa until Feb. 14, still early, but not as planned. Impossible to know if extra 3 weeks of work would have made difference. But Pineda knows this much: “Next year, I’m coming early. I’m doing my plan.”
The Yankees agreed to acquire Pineda on Friday the 13th, but the trade didn’t become official until ten days later as Carig said. By then he was already a day behind, and by time he actually got to Tampa, he was already 23 days behind schedule. It’s not a surprise he came down with an achy shoulder after ramping up his throwing with three fewer weeks of workouts than originally planned.
Patience is a big part of how the Yankees’ front office has operated in recent years, and it served them well this offseason. They acquired Pineda (and Jose Campos!) for two young players rather than four, which is what it took for other teams to land guys like Doug Fister, Mat Latos, and Gio Gonzalez. That patience also appears to have hurt the club and specifically Pineda due to the timing of the trade and the right-hander’s offseason schedule. It’s unfortunate more than anything; it’s not like the Yankees are keeping tabs on the offseason routine of every other player around the league. Hopefully this unplanned but extended break gets Pineda back to where he was last season, because that guy was really awesome.
Got a few quick updates on some injured and returning hurlers…
- Michael Pineda played catch yesterday for the first time since being diagnosed with shoulder tendinitis last week, and the good news is that he played catch again today. Joe Girardi said it’s “safe to say” he won’t be back in the bigs this month, however. [Erik Boland & Bryan Hoch]
- Andy Pettitte is not injured, and in fact it’s quite the opposite. He threw 45 pitches in a bullpen session today and is still on track to throw two innings in a minor league game on Monday. [Boland]
- David Aardsma threw a bullpen session today, his first since having Tommy John surgery last July. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a significant step in the rehab process. [Aardsma]
Via Joel Sherman, right-hander Michael Pineda played catch for about eight minutes off flat ground today and reported no problems with his shoulder. He also worked on his delivery in the bullpen without actually throwing a ball.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he and Pineda worked on staying more in line with the plate rather than getting around the ball today, which he was doing both in camp this year and at times with the Mariners last season. That caused the cut we saw on his fastball and sapped some velocity. I’m not sure what the next step will be, but it’s obviously good news that he was able to throw without discomfort so soon after being diagnosed with shoulder tendinitis.
Update (12:59pm): Via Marc Carig, Brian Cashman said Pineda will be shut down for 10-15 days. That’s pretty much the only thing they can do. Cashman also said the MRI revealed no structural damage; Pineda’s labrum and rotator cuff are fine.
11:18am: Via Marc Carig and Dan Barbarisi, the Yankees are sending Michael Pineda to the 15-day DL with shoulder
inflammation tendinitis. They’re obviously relieved that it isn’t anything more serious, and you should be too.
I don’t like that Pineda kept the soreness from the coaching staff and trainers, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re told you’re in a competition for a rotation spot. The Yankees plan to be very conservative according to David Waldstein, which isn’t surprising at all. Hopefully he heals up after some rest and comes out throwing darts sooner rather than later.
Via Erik Boland and Marc Carig, Michael Pineda complained of soreness at the back of the right shoulder following tonight’s start. The right-hander also said he was flying open in his delivery, causing his fastball to cut. It’s been cutting all spring, really. There’s almost no chance Pineda opens the season in the rotation now, but the shoulder soreness thing is obviously worth monitoring.
Update: Jack Curry said during the broadcast that Pineda was sore before the game but didn’t tell anyone. He did describe it as normal soreness, however. Sweeny Murti said the Yankees will play it safe and send Pineda for an MRI in the morning. For what it’s worth, his pre-trade MRI was clean.
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.
A few days ago Brian Cashman talked to Ian O’Connor on ESPN Radio, mainly about Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda. You can listen to the whole thing here (the Pineda bit starts at around five minutes). Cashman said that it’s “a great thing for him to experience right now” in regards to Pineda and the New York media scrutiny he’s faced this spring. He called Pineda’s missing velocity “a curiosity,” noting that he “has more velo in the tank.” The most interesting line, however, comes when Cashman discusses Pineda’s work habits this past off-season. “I bet, the way — you know, he showed up 20 pounds heavier than he was with Seattle at the same time last year. I betcha it’s the first time he picked up a ball and started working out, and he’s probably using — it doesn’t make it right, if it’s the case, but I can’t tell you it’s the case — but he’s probably using spring training to get himself in shape.” He then goes on to praise Pineda’s secondary stuff, saying that hitters are getting poor swings. “We have a really good pitcher as is right, and and he’ll be a great pitcher when that velo comes back.” Comme si, comme sa.
Update: I’ve been told, in certain and unfriendly terms, that the term “v-lo” is unacceptable. Velo it is, you authoritarians.
The good news is that the Yankees have two and a half weeks to sort the final three spots in the starting rotation. The bad news is — really, there is no bad news. The difficult news, if it can even be called that, is that they don’t have a spot for everyone. Right from the start someone is getting traded, optioned to the minors, or sent to the bullpen. Then, a few weeks later, assuming Andy Pettitte‘s comeback goes according to plan and schedule, they’ll have to make another similar move.
Given the guys on the roster, the Yanks could move in a number of directions. They face a few restrictions, but few enough that they can both populate their rotation with five high-quality arms and retain depth. They might even find upgrades in other spots along the way.
While it was seen as meaningless banter when he said it, Joe Girardi did reveal a truth when he talked about his rotation earlier this spring. In discussing his starters, he said that only CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were guaranteed spots. Yeah right, people said in reaction. As though they’re going to send Ivan Nova or Michael Pineda to the bullpen or to the minors. Yet right now the possibility of just such a move has increased.
Without reading too far into Girardi’s statement, he did make one thing clear: Sabathia and Kuroda are unmovable. Kuroda secured a no-trade clause when he signed on with the Yankees. Given his desire to stay in LA last season, despite having no prayer of making the postseason, there is a close to zero chances that he waives it at any point this season. He committed to New York, and given everything we’ve heard about him, he intends to honor that commitment. Sabathia, of course, is the team’s ace and is essentially irreplaceable. We don’t need to forget about the idea of moving him, because it was never there in the first place.
If the Yankees would like to retain their depth, they could take advantage of the three pitchers on staff who have minor league options. Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova can head to AAA if the Yankees feel that is the best course of action. Chances are, however, that AAA isn’t the best option for these guys, for a number of reasons.
1. A full AAA rotation. The Yankees already have D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos in the AAA rotation. There have long been talks of Mitchell and Betances going to the bullpen, but it appears the Yankees would prefer for that move to come of necessity. Optioning one of the big leaguers to AAA would mean bumping someone at AAA, which causes a chain reaction across the organization.
2. The AAA road show. As we know, the AAA Yankees — the Empire State Yankees — will have no home turf this year. They will essentially be a traveling roadshow. That makes life a bit tougher, and it might make them think twice before optioning one of their more highly regarded pitchers. Then again, they do plan to have Betances and Banuelos travel all season, so perhaps it’s not that big a deal. In any case, it seems like an unideal situation to force someone into.
Along with those two general points, each pitcher has something going himself. It seems unlikely the Yankees would trade their up-and-coming slugger, and 2012 full-time DH, for a guy they’re going to stash in AAA. Last year Nova was one of the Yankees’ more reliable starters, and even earned the call in Game 2 of the ALDS. Finally, how silly would it look if the Yankees optioned Hughes to AAA a month after Brian Cashman referred to him as a “top-of-the-rotation starter”?
To the bullpen
Before the Pettitte news broke, it was pretty much assumed that the Yankees would move the odd man out of the rotation into the bullpen. From the start of the spring it appeared that Freddy Garcia would head that way, since the Yankees want to continue giving Phil Hughes chances in the rotation. Since Pettitte won’t be back to start the season, the Yankees could simply continue on this path and table their decision until Pettitte forces the issue.
Eventually the Yankees will have to make another rotation decision. Once Pettitte is ready, someone will get bumped. By that point, things might work themselves out. Someone might get hurt, someone might pitch horribly, whatever. That would give them a chance to shuffle things around and make room for Pettitte in the rotation.
Still, the Yanks could decide to get out in front of this issue and make a trade now to keep the picture a bit clearer. Chances are Garcia would agree to a trade — they need his permission if they want to trade him before June 15th. Otherwise, would they trade Nova for the right package? Hughes? It seems as though it’s Garcia or bust when it comes to a trade. That lessens the chance that one will happen.
All of this is predicated on the idea that Pettitte will indeed come back in good form. There is always the chance that he does not, which is why the Yanks might want to avoid the trade route. Then again, they do have considerable depth in the minors, so losing Garcia might not hurt that much, even if Pettitte does not return.
Looking at it from a wider angle, there doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. The Yankees can proceed as normal through the final weeks of spring training. Pettitte only complicates things a bit further down the road. Maybe this increases the chances the Yankees look to trade someone, but for right not it’s unlikely that they do anything too drastic. Seven starters for five spots seems like excess, but that can chance in a heartbeat. Despite possible complications, the Yanks are in a great spot right now.
A pitcher can do nothing better than record strike three. Strikeouts take the defense right out of the equation, meaning hits, errors, weird bounces, and everything else is impossible. It’s not an accident that pitchers with high strikeout rates traditionally have lower ERAs since keeping the ball out of play means nothing bad can happen.
The Yankees had the American League’s best strikeout staff in 2011, leading the circuit with 7.54 K/9 and 19.7 K%. At 8.46 K/9 and 22.2 K%, the bullpen missed more bats than any other unit in the league, which is a great way to protect leads in the late innings. At least part of that high strikeout rate had to do with the arrival of pitching coaching Larry Rothschild, who has a history of improving strikeout rates. The Yankees figure to again have a dominant strikeout staff in 2012, one that could be even better than last year given a new arrival and good health.
After posting a mid-7.0 K/9 in each of his first two years in pinstripes, Sabathia had the second best strikeout season of his career in 2011. His 8.72 K/9 and 23.4 K% were the sixth and fifth best marks in the AL, respectively. During one stretch from late-June to late-July, CC struck out 72 batters in 54.2 IP across seven starts, good for an 11.85 K/9 and 35.5 K%. He tied his career-high by striking out 13 Brewers on June 30th, and just about a month later he set a new career-best by fanning 14 Mariners.
The strikeout boost appears to have come from an increased usage of his slider, as Sabathia broke out his top offspeed offering 26.6% of time in 2011 after using it no more than 18.5% from 2008-2010. Batters did not make contact on 40.9% of the swings they took against the pitch (54.6% vs. LHB), which is just ridiculous. His changeup drew a swing and miss 33.2% of the time as well. That’s just silly, the guy’s offspeed stuff was just unhittable last year. With any luck, that’s something Rothschild has instilled in Sabathia and it’ll carry over into this year.
Few pitchers were better at getting strike three last season than Pineda. The young right-hander struck out 9.11 batters per nine with a 24.9 K%, the seventh and sixth best rates in all of baseball. Right-handed batters had a three-in-ten chance of being struck out by Pineda, which isn’t terribly surprising given his lethal fastball-slider combo. Even his 20.7 K% against left-handers is pretty strong, impressive for a guy that doesn’t really have a changeup. Batters missed 39.3% of the time they swung at his slidepiece.
Pineda is working on that changeup now, but maintaining a strikeout-per-inning rate is a very tough to do regardless of ballpark or division. His strikeout rate might take a step back in 2012 just because it’s hard to ring up that many guys each time out, but Pineda has more than enough stuff to miss bats regularly. An 8.0 K/9 and 22.0 K% going forward is more than doable. If he improves that changeup to the point where it’s a usable third pitch, the sky is the limit for team’s new hurler.
This might be a bit surprising, but Logan has missed a ton of bats during his two years as a Yankee. Last year he posted a 9.94 K/9 and 24.9 K%, the former of which was a top ten mark among AL relievers (min. 40 IP). His strikeout rates against left-handed batters — 11.20 K/9 and 28.8 K% — were among the very best by southpaw relievers. Over the last two years, Logan owns a 9.26 K/9 and 23.7 K%. Boone can be maddening at times, but he uses his fastball-slider stuff to regularly prevent hitters from putting the ball in play. There’s not much more you can ask from your lefty specialist.
The world’s most expensive setup man battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness during his inaugural season in New York, but at least Soriano missed bats regularly. His 8.24 K/9 and 22.0 K% were essentially identical to his strikeout rates with the Rays in 2011 (8.23 K/9 and 24.1 K%) thanks to his fastball-cutter-slider repertoire. Right-handed batters swing and missed with 30.5% and 34.5% of the swings they took against his four-seamer and slider, respectively. That’ll work. With career marks of 9.49 K/9 and 26.4 K%, there is absolutely no reason to think a healthy Soriano will do anything but generate whiffs in the late innings this summer.
The king of the strikeout heavy staff, Robertson’s dominant 2011 season was built on his career-best strikeout rates: 13.50 K/9 and 36.8 K%. Both rates were top five among all big league relievers and the second best among AL relievers behind only Al Alburquerque (min 40 IP). Batters came up empty on 35.0% of the swings they took against his curveball, which is just ridiculous.
Robertson’s strikeout ways are nothing new. He’s never whiffed fewer than 10.40 batters per nine or 26.0% of the batters he’s faced in a single big league season, and he doesn’t discriminate either. Robertson’s strikeout rates against right-handers (11.19 K/9 and 28.9 K%) and left-handers (12.98 K/9 and 33.7 K%) are both through the roof. He’s already had a minor injury scare this spring, but assuming Robertson comes out of this bone bruise fine, he’ll again be counted on to lead the setup staff in 2012. The strikeouts will come pouring in.
The greatest reliever of all-time saw his strikeout rate take a huge dip in 2010 (just 6.75 K/9 and 19.6 K%), but Rivera rebounded in a big way last season: 8.80 K/9 and 25.8 K%. Mo’s strikeout rate has actually improved with age, and his K/BB ratio has been quite literally off the charts for years now…
Rivera’s famed cutter has generated a swing and miss just 20.8% of the time during the PitchFX era (19.8% in 2011), which is relatively low compared to the primary pitch of most high strikeout relievers. Of course Mo has historically great command and generates an ungodly amount of called strikes; ~20% of the pitches he’s thrown during the PitchFX era have been called strikes, well above the ~16% league average. A little less than 11% of all the plate appearances against Rivera have ended with a called strike three during that time, again well above the league average (~4.5%). Strikeouts are great, but they’re even better when the hitter doesn’t bother to take the bat off his shoulders.
According to Erik Boland, Michael Pineda reached 93 with his fastball during the first inning of his appearance today. That’s a tick faster than he threw this past Monday, when he topped out at 91 mph. That’s a bit reassuring, at least. It goes along with what Dave Cameron wrote on FanGraphs on Tuesday, noting that Pineda is not a guy who has to fire bullets every single time. Relatedly, it’s interesting to hear that Brian Cashman mentioned that he’d read Cameron’s article (via Bryan Hoch).