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Michael Pineda in Pinstripes

So Michael Pineda has parlayed his All-Star performance in Seattle into a gig in the Big Apple due to the overwhelming needs of Seattle’s offense. Many are thinking Pineda slots in right behind C.C. Sabathia as the team’s #2 starter, but as far as fantasy baseball is concerned, I think a degree of caution is prudent.

Pineda demonstrated a pretty tremendous amount of talent in 2011, no question. He was among league leaders in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched at 9.11 K/9 — just shy of Tim Lincecum and a touch ahead of Justin Verlander. That’s pretty good company.

But we have only one season to gauge and frankly, Pineda entered 2011 as a fringe possibility in Seattle’s rotation to begin with. Before you go drafting him as your savior in fantasy baseball, take a step back and look objectively at the situation.

Pineda’s hit trajectory in 2011 reveals a 45% fly ball rate, and if you’re pitching at Safeco Field, that’s not too difficult to get away with as his 9% HR/FB rate demonstrates. The move to Yankee Stadium might have a different effect, however as Stat Corner rates Yankee Stadium as 143 versus left handed batters where 100 is neutral, and 115 versus right handed batters. Compare that to the 95/82 rating Safeco Field receives versus LHB and RHB, respectively, and you can see why Pineda might make a fan or two scream something about being a bum by mid-Summer.

This is not to say that Pineda will fall apart, but his success certainly has the whisper of Safeco influence. His home/road splits aren’t at all damning, and in fact, his home run per fly ball rate was even a tad lower on the road, not to mention obviously working under the evil shadow of small sample size – but his average, BABIP, and strikeouts were quite different at home:

Pineda was other-worldly versus right handed batters and just pretty good versus lefties in 2011. His K/9 vs. RHB was 10.44, and he held them to a .184 batting average, and registered a 3.24 xFIP. On the other side of the dish, he averaged 7.77 K/9 vs. LHB, holding them to a .234 batting average, and registered a 3.82 xFIP.

Now, Pineda is still going to throw hard, and he’s still going to have that wicked slider, but one of the knocks on him is that’s pretty much his repertoire. He’s peppered in a change here or there, but he used in less than 5% of the time. When you’re throwing 95 miles per hour and slinging an 88 mph slider, you can get away with that. But there are some pretty seasoned hitters in Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto that he’s likely to face more often – and as the educational campaign on NBC goes, “the more you know…”

My expectation is that Michael Pineda will be very good in New York and in fact, looking at his average draft position at Mock Draft Central, he’s being taken on average at 97, which seems like a darn good value to me. This trade will likely raise his profile and positively impact that ADP, but Pineda as a #3 starter in a good rotation looks like a pretty nice idea to me. But I’d avoid drafting him to anchor your rotation because I think there may be some growing pains related to adjusting to pitching in Yankee Stadium.