As I laughed at the end of last night’s tie-game vs. the Red Sox, I got to thinking more about Michael Pineda and his velocity. You know the story by now and you don’t need me to rehash it for you. So I played a “what if” game with myself. “What if,” I said, “Pineda is no longer going to sit 95, but rather 91-93? Can he still be effective? Can he rely on his non-fastball pitches? Are they effective enough for him to use number 1 at a lower velocity?” To answer this, I went to Pineda’s page on Brooks Baseball to compare his other pitches–his slider and his emerging changeup–to those of other players.
Pineda’s slider has a solid reputation and for good reason. On the pitch, he garnered a 39.30 whiff per swing percentage. To compare, CC Sabathia‘s slider had a 40.85% W/S. Clayton Kershaw got 41.20 on his. Francisco Liriano? 42.77. Jered Weaver? 27.39. Brandon Morrow? 39.66. Zack Greinke? 41.07. Those guys have some of the best sliders going, and Pineda is knocking on their doors when it comes to hitters swinging and missing at his slider. Pineda also uses the pitch to generate grounders. Of all the sliders batters put into play against Big Mike, 51.77% of them were worm-burners. CC came out at 52.48%; Kershaw at 47.41%; Liriano at 49.5%; Weaver at 36.52%; Morrow at 46.12%; and Greinke at a ridiculous 59.38%. We always want our pitchers to generate swings and misses and get grounders, and that’s what Pineda is able to do with his slider.
As for the changeup, it’s not as good as the others. His W/S% is only 15.28%. Of the other pitchers, the lowest W/S% was Morrow’s 20.07% and the highest was Liriano’s 42.7%. His 53.66 GB/BIP% beat out only Jered Weaver’s mark, but Weaver is a notorious fly-ball pitcher (as is Pineda). While the swing and miss rate may not be all that wonderful, that’s still a solid GB% on the pitch, even if it doesn’t stack up to the big boys presented herein.
So if Pineda’s velocity is down a bit and he has to lean on his secondary stuff a bit more, will he still be successful? I definitely think so. His slider is a knockout pitch and he can turn to it for effectiveness. The changeup isn’t exactly where it needs to be, but the more he throws it, the more comfortable he’ll be and the more effective it’ll get.
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