The New York Yankees have no answers for their talented but inconsistent starting pitcher Michael Pineda.
Depending on which numbers you choose to look at, Michael Pineda has either been one of the New York Yankees best starters in 2016, or one of their worst.
He has the worst ERA of any pitcher who has made double digit starts for them this year at 5.12, but he also has the second lowest FIP among that group and ranks second in the Yankees rotation with 2.7 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs.
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What’s the cause of that disparity? I honestly have no idea. As of Tuesday Big Mike ranks seventh in the major leagues with 10.24 strikeouts per nine innings and 15th with a 4.20 K/BB ratio, ahead of big names like Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber, Julio Teheran, and Jose Quintana.
Monday’s 8-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals marked the ninth time this season that Pineda has racked up more than five strikeouts and allowed more than five earned runs in the same game, which is easily the most in the big leagues this year (only one other player has more than four).
Pineda’s problems consistently seem to come in the first two innings of his starts. He has a 7.62 ERA in the first inning this year and a 5.88 ERA in the second. Those are a sharp contrast to his 1.38 ERA in the third.
He also seems to allow an inordinate amount of damage with two outs. Opposing batters have hit .341/.392/.636 with two down this season. For comparison, Pineda has kept hitters to a .215/271/.299 slash line with one out.
Both of these splits seem to suggest a problem with focus or possibly nerves. The last two seasons Pineda has significantly under-performed his peripherals, and this could be the reason why.
After losing Nathan Eovaldi for the 2017 season, it’s especially important for the Yankees to figure out what they have in Michael Pineda going forward. After ace Masahiro Tanaka, the rotation is nothing but question marks for next year. Big Mike was supposed to be the team’s number two starter at this point. He has shown the ability to be that guy, but still hasn’t put it all together.
In addition, Pineda will be a free agent after next season. An extension with New York could make a lot of sense for the team because of their uncertain long-term rotation picture, but Big Mike will need to show some consistency to make that happen.