Michael Pineda Countdown: Two Starts Left


Michael Pineda has two more starts left this season.  According to Carl Willis, those last starts will take place on September 10th and September 21st, against the Royals and Twins, respectively.  His last home start will be the start against the Royals.  I encourage everyone who can to get tickets and make it out to this game.  I feel like I spend an innumerable amount of time attempting to extrapolate positive things from this Mariners season, and Michael Pineda is one of those things.

I want to spend this recap looking at his start today, while examining the rest of his season up to this point.  The Mariners offense in Oakland has been unspectacular.  One might venture to say calling the offense unspectacular is an insult to the word unspectacular.  I’m sorry, Unspectacular! I say to myself.  Ichiro Suzuki, Dustin Ackley and Josh Bard were the only Mariners to scrape across a hit.  There were no extra-base hits.  The team went 0-for-2 with RISP.  There isn’t very much to talk about in regards to offense.  It was very unspectacular.

While the Mariners offense today was well below average, I felt that Pineda’s outing was very average.  That’s all we can ask of a kid, right?  He’s only 22 years old, and while he seems to have teetered off a bit, he’s only 22 years old.  His natural ability is great, his stuff could be unhittable in the future – he holds great promise.

I don’t ever want to feel like there was nothing good about this game.  And I don’t mean this game specifically, I mean baseball in Seattle.  As Mariners fans, we’ve had to deal with a mediocre product for some time.  The extension of Jack Zduriencik hopes to alleviate that problem.  The team is taking steps towards putting a watchable product on the field every day.

There is always something good about this game, we just have to put forth the effort and find it.  When Michael Pineda starts, he makes it easy to find.

Michael Pineda had an average day today.  He went six innings, struck out seven batters, walked two and gave up three earned runs.  I wonder if Pineda felt like Felix Hernandez today.  It was a very Felix start, you know, the one where Felix goes out to battle, but receives zero offense?  That kind of start.  The kind of start that makes the pitcher go Oh boy I have to win this game myself? kind of start.  I wonder what Pineda’s line would’ve looked like if the Mariners scored five runs in the first three innings.  Would he have given up less runs?  Maybe he would’ve gotten lazy and given up more runs?  We’ll never know.  The only thing we know for sure is that Pineda only has two starts left.

Pineda didn’t miss as many bats as he usually does today, but he was still effective with a 12.9% swinging strike rate – making the Athletics miss seven times out of 54 swings.  Out of the seven strikeouts, three of them were called strikeouts.  This is important, because out of the 105 pitches Pineda threw, 70 went across the plate for strikes.  That’s a 66% strike-rate.  Pineda, for the most part, had great control.

I believe the called strikeout is more indicative of a pitcher’s ability than the swinging strikeout.  The swinging strikeout implies that either the batter sees the ball well out of the pitchers hand enough to take a hack at it, or the batter doesn’t see the ball well enough and he has to fight it off.  Both of these situations require the batter to see the ball in some way.  The called strikeout means the batter was completely wrong.  He didn’t see the ball correctly out of the hand of the pitcher, and was fooled.  Pineda essentially fooled 42% of the batters he struck out enough to the point where they didn’t see where the ball was going to end up, and they flat out made a mistake.  The swinging strikeout may be sexy, the the called strikeout is far more impressive.

Pineda’s velocity on his fastball stayed around 94 mph for the most part, while he touched 96 mph on occasion.  It wasn’t as fast as we’ve seen it, but it was still pretty good.  I’m not sure what the trainers are going to do in the off-season with Pineda’s delivery.  I feel that he could easily add two mph and consistently be throwing 98-99 mph.  My main reasoning for that is Pineda’s arm action is not consistent.  I’ve seen it at times at a 90 degree angle, and that’s about where it needs to be for an efficient delivery.  More often than not, however, I see his arm action at about a 75-80 degree angle, thus decreasing his velocity.  This could mean a couple of things.

Firstly, Pineda is not generating as much speed towards the plate with his hip abductors.  Since he is so tall and big, he requires less force exerted than most pitchers to attain a mid-90s fastball.  Secondly, he could be slacking in his hip-shoulder separation.  Again, the same logic applies.  If these are things that he is consciously doing to take it easy on the body, I’m completely fine with that.  However, if this is a case of Pineda getting lazy near the end of a season, I don’t want to see this turn into a bad habit.  I hope the pitching coaches can catch this, and realize that he could be throwing 100 mph consistently with minimal stress on his body if his pitching mechanics are spot on.  Sidebar: most the the observations I make are during the Mariners Ultra-Mo segments, so if anyone has concrete proof of this, please feel free to contribute!

His mechanics contribute to the workload he can endure.  The shortest outing he had this year was July 24th at Boston, where he went four and a third innings, getting shelled for seven runs.  To put this into perspective: Zach Britton‘s shortest outing was one third of an inning, giving up six earned runs.  Pineda’s worst month was July, where he gave up seven earned runs on two occasions, posting an ERA of 6.75.  His first five starts put together his best month of the year, only giving up three earned runs his first start of the season, and giving up less until May, posting a 2.01 ERA.  Pineda has been more than reliable, and we have been spoiled rotten.

I want to save more Pineda praising for the end of the season, but I have one last factor to look at.  It’s quick and easy: his WAR.  Simply put, he is an asset to the team now, and not just a projection of success in the future.  Two position players have a WAR above two, in Brendan Ryan (2.2) and Dustin Ackley (2.6).  Two pitchers have a WAR above two: Felix Hernandez (5.0) and Michael Pineda (2.9).  Pineda has kept this team in ballgames.  As much as the offense has struggled, it’s great to know we’ve found another workhorse.  Although things are still early, I’m glad the franchise decided to take it slow on Pineda.  I don’t usually abide but this philosophy, but if it worked for Felix, I guess it might work for Pineda.  Oh, one more sidebar: I don’t approve of the nickname Prince Pineda.  This implies that the prince is under the king, and will never be better than The King.  You never know, maybe Pineda will be better than Felix one day.  Thanks to Jesse Mittleider for bringing that up, so, feel proud!

So when I went to the game on Wednesday, Blake Beavan was signing autographs near the home dugout.  I wonder if Trevor Cahill would ever want Beavan’s autograph.  Sports celebrities.  Points go to those who knows which one of these starters was a first round draft pick!


Want to stay current with all the happenings at SoDo Mojo?  Be sure to follow @adamhwong for the latest insights and article updates.