With all the discussion about Michael Pineda’s ability to pitch in the AL East following his trade, our readers should be very familiar with how good of a season he had with the Mariners in 2011. Such an impressive rookie season is rare to see, so I decided to take a look at how rare it actually is. I’ve compiled a few tables comparing Pineda’s rookie season numbers to other rookie seasons over the last decade. The players and numbers listed are taken in order, within Pineda’s range, based on Fangraph’s leadership board.
|2006||Cole Hamels||26.0 %|
|2001||Roy Oswalt||25.2 %|
|2011||Michael Pineda||24.9 %|
|2002||Josh Beckett||24.6 %|
|2007||Tim Lincecum||24.3 %|
|2009||Gio Gonzalez||23.3 %|
K% is equated by dividing season strikeouts to total batters faced. This gives you the percentage of batters that struck out facing the pitcher in subject. The average K% by starters in 2011 was 17.7%, so Pineda’s 24.9% was well above the average. The table listed above is one of the more impressive lists I found. Four of the six names, Hamels, Oswalt, Beckett, and Lincecum, were or are considered aces at a point in their careers. The other name on the list, Gio Gonzalez could be on his way to ace status as well.
You can find K/BB by dividing season strikeouts by season walk totals. The resulting numbers gives you the amount of strikeouts the pitcher in subject had to walks, giving you an idea of how effective a pitcher’s strikeout ability and command are. The average K/BB by starters in 2011 was 2.37, which is nearly one strikeout less than Pineda’s 3.15. Again, we see a couple of aces on the list, (Weaver and Hamels) as well as a group of very young pitchers who project to sit at the top of the rotation. (Anderson and Bumgarner)
|2005||Scott Kazmir||75.1 %|
|2003||Dontrelle Willis||75.4 %|
|2010||Daniel Hudson||75.5 %|
|2011||Michael Pineda||75.8 %|
|2007||Tim Lincecum||76.0 %|
|2002||Jason Jennings||76.1 %|
|2009||Gio Gonzalez||76.3 %|
Contact% is the percentage of times a batter makes contact when swinging. The average Contact% by starters in 2011 was 81.8%, 6% higher than Michael Pineda’s. Gonzalez and Lincecum again appear on the list, and while Kazmir, Willis, and Jennings could be considered busts, all three were projected to be top of the rotation pitchers at their prime, and spent time in that role.
|2006||Francisco Liriano||16.0 %|
|2003||Brandon Webb||13.4 %|
|2002||Mark Prior||12.8 %|
|2006||Cole Hamels||12.8 %|
|2002||Josh Beckett||12.4 %|
|2011||Michael Pineda||11.8 %|
SwgStr% calculates the percentage of swings and misses a player achieves. The average SwgStr% by starters in 2011 was 8.1%, 3.7% lower than Pineda’s numbers. Of the other five players, each one arguably spent part of their career as an ace, and each one has drawn Cy Young votes. Though Webb and Prior had short careers, they were considered to have some of the best stuff of the last decade. Webb won the Cy Young in 2006, and finished second in 2007 and 2008, while Prior finished third in 2003.
For all the talk about Pineda needing a changeup to become a top of the rotation pitcher, these comparisons should show how good his pitches compared to other rookies. While other pitchers obviously grew, those on the lists, mostly had a better developed repertoire at that point in their career. That he compared to rookies with three or four plus pitches shows how deceptive and impressive Pineda’s slider and fastball were in 2011. If he adds a third plus pitch, Pineda will continue to rank with the best of the decade.
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