Pineda’s Pitches

Michael Pineda is coming to New York, as the Yankees and Mariners were able to swing a four-player deal Friday evening that also sent 19-year-old pitching prospect Jorge Campos to the Yankees’ organization in exchange for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.  Pineda, who will turn 23 years old next Wednesday, is a pure power pitcher.  He relies mainly on a hard four-seam fastball and a slider, though he’ll show some changeups to lefties as well as the rare two-seam sinker.

Below are some generic pitch results for Pineda in 2011.  Ball% is balls per pitch, whiff% is whiffs per swing, and gb% is groundballs per ball in play (excluding bunts).

          mph   #     LHB%   RHB%  ball%  whiff%  gb%
Fastball  94.7  1602  62%    60%   32%    20%     26%
Slider    84.1  831   26%    37%   32%    38%     48%
Changeup  87.7  162   11%    2%    49%    14%     54%
Sinker    94.2  23    1%     1%    35%    18%     75%

Particularly to right-handed batters, the four-seamer and slider dominate Pineda’s repertoire.  And why not?  While exhibiting good control, Pineda was able to generate above-average swing-and-miss rates on both offerings.   His four-seamer had the sixth highest whiffs per swing of qualified* starters’ fastballs, and his slider was the 12th best for starters’ breaking/offspeed pitches.

*My definition for “qualified” is minimum of 500 swings on fastballs and 300 swings on breaking/offspeed pitches.

His pitch selection by count situation shows that when he tries to put hitters away, he’s going to go with his two best pitches.

vs LHB   first  2s      behind
Fastball 71%    55%     93%
Slider   18%    39%     7%
Changeup 10%    5%      0%
Sinker   1%     1%      0%
vs RHB   first  2s      behind
Fastball 64%    59%     91%
Slider   34%    39%     9%
Changeup 0%     2%      0%
Sinker   2%     1%      0%

A concern about Pineda is that his fastball is an extreme flyball pitch.  He’ll probably give up a fair share of home runs given that he will be pitching half of his games in Yankee Stadium.  (In the 2011 Hardball Times Annual, Greg Rybarczyk found that Yankee Stadium had the second highest home run park factor to Minute Maid Park.)

In addition, his changeup is really a non-factor at this point, considering he threw it for a ball half the time and couldn’t get batters to miss when they offered at it.  He put up a 3.45 FIP in his 357 plate appearances against left-handed batters last year, so maybe he’ll just be able to continue working in his fastball and slider.

Taking into account his flyball rate and weak changeup, Pineda still looks like a great acquisition for the Yankees.  He’s young, throws hard, gets the ball over the plate, and can make batters miss.  Pineda’s arrival, combined with the signing of Hiroki Kuroda, gives the Yankees a plethora of pitching depth and makes them the clear favorite in the AL East.

A huge thank you goes to Harry Pavlidis, whose pitch classifications were used in addition to my own for this post. 

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10 years ago

Should be interesting to see if the Yanks change his heavy use of fastball given his flyball tendencies as pointed out in this article. Love the analysis here!

Dave Cameronmember
10 years ago

His change-up is brutal. Unless it gets a lot better, having him throw a lot more is a bad idea.

10 years ago

I don’t know… Brutal if you compare it to the rest of the league, but in terms of a 22 year old… You don’t see many rookies his age flashing 2 strong off speed pitches to start.

I think it’s unrealistic to expect all high ceiling pitchers to polish their off speed stuff at the MILB level. There aren’t enough polished hitters to test what you have, and you’re also relying on how that particular system is pushing the guy through. It could speak more to the manner he was developed in the Mariner’s system. He only threw 130 innings above A+ ball, and you’re not going to come across too many guys that will challenge someone of Pineda’s ability within that time frame. I think he’s still very projectable with a 3rd, even 4th pitch. It seems that more and more pitching prospects enter MLB and receive a repertoire makeover within the first 3 years anyway.

There’s still tons of time. Pineda could become something very different depending on how the Yankees view him.

10 years ago

Don’t see many rookie pitchers his age in the majors, period. And that’s the problem with him “working on” a pitch that isn’t MLB-ready: rather than doing it in the minors, where he can keep failing at it while he learns, he’s got to do it in games that count. It could be true that the Yankees will push him to throw his change-up a lot more, but that may happen in Scranton after he’s given up enough crucial HRs that they’ve sent him down for more seasoning. More likely, they just try to work on it in the offseason and it develops very slowly, if at all.

10 years ago

Where can one find video of his change-up?