Michael Pineda has been nothing short of dominant this year. Sure, his 4.08 ERA isn’t too dazzling, but with a 2.73 FIP and 2.80 SIERA, it seems as though sequencing and BABIP have hurt him more than poor pitching. Take a glance at Pineda’s .349 BABIP — a number 60 points above his career average .279 — and it isn’t too difficult to see an overly inflated ERA, especially given a reasonable 0.87 HR/9 thus far. This is all impressive, but I haven’t even begun to wax poetic on his 11.8 percent swinging strike rate or 24.6 percent strikeout rate, both numbers rate him in the top-20 for qualified pitchers. Before we get too invested in what he’s doing, let’s take a look at how Pineda got here.

After a number of shoulder injuries, setbacks and a surgery, Pineda has had more than enough time to think about his approach to pitching. Coming back from his most recent injury last season, Pineda unleashed a new pitch, one which you’ve probably guessed given that it is in the title of this post. Prior to his injury he was primarily a fastball/slider guy, mostly relying on throwing his 94-95 mph fastball by hitters and then finishing them off with his wipeout slider. Since mid-2014 — when he came back from a teres major muscle strain — Pineda has all but ditched his four-seamer in favor of the new cutter. Observe the usage tables below, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

 Date Four-seam Sinker Cutter Slider Changeup
2011 61% 1.0% N/A 32% 6%
First half 2014 44% 1% 16% 26% 13%
Second half 2014 25.0% 2.0% 28.0% 37.0% 8.0%
2015 N/A <1% 55% 33% 13%

Pineda has thrown five sinkers his season, but that doesn’t even account for half of a percentage point. The key here is the massive shift we’ve seen in his repertoire, again, the elimination of his standard four-seamer in favor of his cutter. Certain websites have charted Pineda throwing many more fastballs, however the cut-action and run of the pitch, as well as Brooks Baseball’s hand charting have lead me to call it a cutter.

As his pitching style has changed, so has his release point. Via Texas Leaguers, we can separate his release points before and after adding the cutter. Click below to view the gif.

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Even a quick glance shows the difference. After throwing from an arm slot that tended to drift away from his body, Pineda has seen his release point come higher and more over the top since he added the cutter.

As a general rule, I’m pretty wary of alleged in-season adjustments or sudden breakouts. Knee-jerk reactions and rash decisions don’t have a place in fantasy baseball — unless my league mates want to do that, then go right ahead. That being said, when a real change has taken place, like with Pineda and adding a new pitch while dropping his four-seamer, it’s hard to not buy into him. Account for a more normalized BABIP going forward to help his ERA drop and Pineda figures to be an absolute stud for the rest of the season and beyond. The risk is always going to be a factor with any pitcher, particularly one with an injury history as extensive as Pineda, but I’d be comfortable making a trade for him on his strikeouts and ratios moving forward.

 

 

You can follow David on Twitter @davidwiers.

 
  1. Spyre says:
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    I am confused. Why is phasing out his 4 seam and sinker positive? i get the 4seam is now labelled as a “cutter”, but why wouldn’t he want to keep a sinker in his pocket to pull out when he needs?

    • Davidwiers

      Davidwiers says:
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      @Spyre: He never really used the sinker much in the first place, so saying he phased it out doesn’t seem quite right. In any season listed, he’s never thrown more than two out of 100 pitches that was classified as a sinker.

      Pineda simply changed his approach and execution (in his release point) and his pitch repertoire (changing or eliminating the four-seamer and going to the cutter). Overall, it’s been a positive change given his K%, it’s just he’s been unfortunate in the batted ball department.

      Still small sample size territory, but it’s worth noting Pineda’s 50.3 percent ground ball rate is by far the best of his career.

  2. Streaming Leake says:
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    Re: “Account for a more normalized BABIP going forward to help his ERA drop and Pineda figures to be an absolute stud for the rest of the season and beyond.”:

    Pineda’s record isn’t as stellar as we might expect given how dominant he has frequently been this season. However, of his 15 starts, five have been poor: 4/13 v Orioles, 5/15 v. Royals, 5/22 v. Rangers, 6/12 v. Orioles and 6/22 v. Phillies. His ERA in these games is 9.59, while in the 10 good starts it is 2.00. His corresponding K/IP rates are 0.63 and 1.17. Hits per inning: 1.82, 0.83.

    Pineda has been inconsistent. When he gets hit he attributes it to not having his good slider. On these days he hasn’t been able to adjust to get by with his other pitches. His body language is different; he seems almost resigned to his impending shellacking.

    My point is that this has little to do with the “luck” factor assumed to be inherent in BABIP. When Pineda is bad he gets tagged, plain and simple, and he has been bad in one third of his starts this year.

    • Davidwiers

      Davidwiers says:
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      @Streaming Leake: But the numbers don’t match that his slider has been off when he got hit by the BABIP dragons.

      4-13: 5.94 inches horizontal break, -36.88 inches vertical (gravity included)
      5-15: 2.9 inches horizontal,-35.61 inches vertical
      5-22: 4.21 inches horizontal, -36.55 inches vertical
      6-12:1.69 inches horizontal, -36.01 inches
      6-22: 2.52 inches horizontal, -.33.37

      His average slider has moved horizontally 3.62 inches and dropped 34.7 inches across all his starts. Of the starts you listed, only on 6-22 does his slider fail to be average in terms of both directions of movement.

      • Streaming Leake says:
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        @Davidwiers: So do you think Pineda pitched well and was just unfortunate that he got slammed around to a 9 plus ERA on those dates? While I can’t say what the difference was in his pitches, I have a hard time accepting luck as the difference in these sets of games and I suspect there is another reason.

        Thanks for your work.

        • Davidwiers

          Davidwiers says:
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          @Streaming Leake: Yep. ERA is used as a fantasy tool, but as a player evaluation it leaves a ton to be desired.

          If were to go through each pitcher and throw out their worst start (or two or three), guys like Strasburg, Greinke, Kershaw, Felix, Kluber and even Scherzer this year would look much better. Pineda is no exception to that.

          Always happy to address quality comments and questions!

          • Streaming Leake says:
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            @Davidwiers: I realize I am belaboring the point, but in the last 4 of the pastings (4 of his last 8 starts) Pineda struck out just 7 in 19 innings. Perhaps this is a more probative stat indicating he pitched poorly in these games and the results were not happenstance.

            I think we will have to agree to disagree.

  3. Ryan says:
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    Great write-up! I’m trying to trade for pitching in my 10-team 5×5 roto keeper (+$5 inflation per year). Who would you try (and is fair) to offer for Pineda ($10 next year)?
    Maikel Franco – $5 to keep
    Dickerson -$10 to keep
    Encarnacion -$21 to keep

    Thanks!

    • Davidwiers

      Davidwiers says:
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      @Ryan: I’d see if EE gets it done, assuming the other owner can take on the salary. I don’t love Franco’s game, but it’s easier to find a replacement 1B than 3B, even in a 10-teamer.

      • Ryan says:
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        @Davidwiers:

        I have Arenado at a good price ($10 next year) and Abreu ($22 next year) so I’m using EE and Franco at CI and Util. So they can be replaced with anyone in Util. I’m going to try for Franco. Maybe I can get him to do both for Pineda and a replacement CI (Fielder).

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