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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21 Responses to “Pineda’s Pitches”

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  1. futurecfo says:

    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!

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    • This is purely speculation, but I could see the Yankees pushing him to throw his changeup a lot more. Russell Martin got A.J. Burnett to throw his change at a career high rate last year, and it actually looks like it’s a pretty good pitch.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

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

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      • Right. There would need to be some difference in its performance in order for there to be any reason for him to use it.

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      • baty says:

        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.

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      • joser says:

        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.

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      • Mike says:

        Where can one find video of his change-up?

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  2. Ben says:

    Great analysis, I learned a lot. It seems like for a season or two more Pineda, as long as he continues to improve, can get away with two really good pitches. I wonder if after hitters get numerous looks at him they will begin to adjust and he will be forced to develop change-up and begin using it more i games. What will also be interesting to see is how often, in the future, he throws his slider for strike one because the ability to become less predictable especially with only two solid pitches is crucial when facing smart hitters like the ones that run up and down the AL east. As a Phillies fan I watching Cole Hamels emerge as an ace using only 2 pitches (change-up and fastball) that he located well. Once hitters began to adjust he developed the cutter which has truly propelled his game from very good to true ace status.

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      I believe the critical issue for Pineda is going to be development of a third pitch. His fastball now is likely as fast as it’s likely to get – the history for most power is that FB velocity begins decreasing almost as soon as they start having a MLB workload.

      As he loses velocity the pitch is going to be less effective, so his future development is going to depend on his ability to develop and command at least one more effective pitch.

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    • Johnny Slick says:

      It really depends on the second pitch, as well as how the fastball is thrown. Greg Maddux’s fastball was almost like 5 pitches the way he changed speeds and angles. Pineda’s is really just one pitch he throws at one velocity. It’s a great pitch but it’s not like Hamels’, even.

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    • joser says:

      Well, if Pineda needs to learn how to throw a cutter…

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  3. Whelk says:

    With less than 1%, usage, why did you include the sinker? I’m just curious what about it made you decide to call it something distinct, and not just consider them errant fastballs?

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    • I like to split up four-seamers and two-seamers whenever I can because they get different results from each other, but you’re right that it’s really not going to make much difference with such a small percentage.

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  4. Big Baby says:

    I bet the Yankees push a Pineda on him to keep lefties honest. They have Mo to teach it, and I know that they tried it with Hughes with decent success. Hughes just got cutter happy and never got his curve going. Pineda already has his sick breaking pitch.

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    • Big Baby says:

      There should be a “cutter’ after “a” and before “Pineda”

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    • Eric Cioe says:

      What’s his cutter going to look like? His fastball is 94, his slider is 84. A cutter for him would probably be 91 and move like a short version of his slider. The point is that he needs something that goes the other way, at the very least a sinker, and better yet, a good changeup.

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    • baty says:

      Yeah, I don’t think there are many pitchers out there who throw a cutter when they use a high percentage of sliders. Seems like a strange combination.

      So far, it looks like cutters have been used more in combination with pitchers who throw a relatively high percentage of changeups.

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  5. Bob says:

    I’m confused by something: Pineda’s changeup has been described by all as somewhere between ineffective and, as Dave C. says, “brutal.”

    And yet, if I’m reading the numbers correctly, Fangraphs’ Pitch Values and Pitch F/X’ Pitch Values both say the changeup actually had positive run values last year.


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    • Kenny Collins says:

      I think the negative opinions refer to the fact that he threw it for a ball 49% of the time, with a 14% whiff. The pitch may still be effective otherwise, but without improvement there is no reason for him to use it more often. Also, despite the fact that it had positive run values, it was still his least effective pitch. (wFB = 9.6, wSL = 9.0, wCH = 0.5)

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  6. Rob in CT says:

    Does have good movement on that fastball? I sure hope so…

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  7. Bob says:

    So Pineda’s changeup is actually effective…but less effective than his primary two pitches?

    That’s worlds away from “brutal.” Should we be reconsidering how run values are calculated (by BOTH fangraphs and Pitch FX)?

    Or should we be reconsidering the received wisdom that Pineda’s changeup stinks?

    Because it sure looks like we need to do one or the other—if not both.

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