After just two starts this season it has become clear that Michael Pineda is poised to have another season as Major League Baseball’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It’s Time for Michael Pineda to Find Himself
His First Start
His first start of the season was shaky to say the least. He allowed eight hits and four runs, in just 3.2 forgettable innings.
Pineda gave up a lead-off home run before retiring the next three hitters, which made it seem that he was ready to settle down and start the season on a good foot. But in the second inning, he allowed back-to-back hits to start the inning; albeit one of which was a fluky shot off the catwalk at the Trop. Things then began to go south.
A wild pitch, a couple of stolen bases, and a few singles later and the Tampa Bay Rays led 4-1. He came out and pitched a good third inning, but after allowing two hits in the fourth, manager Joe Girardi decided that he had seen enough of New York’s own Mr. Hyde.
The Yankees bullpen shut down the Rays to end the fourth inning and for the remainder of the game. However, the bats couldn’t salvage a lackluster outing from their starter and the game ended in a 4-1 loss.
His Second Start
Fast forward five days and Pineda was on the bump for the Yankees home opener against the very same Rays and Alex Cobb. Fans were left wondering which version of the 29-year-old starter was going to show up, and they were certainly in for a show.
Dr. Jekyll sliced through the Rays lineup to the tune of 7.2 phenomenal innings, flirting with perfection for 6.2 of those. He racked up 11 strikeouts and allowed but two hits; a double to Evan Longoria which ended his chance to make history and a Logan Morrison home run which ended his shutout.
Pineda walked off the field to raucous applause after a masterful day’s work, complete with a deceptive slider, just enough changeups, and a fastball with more than enough heat on it.
His cap was still tilted just askew, something which has become a signature of his, and he left it all out on the field, something which his emotional outbursts made all the more obvious.
Pineda’s 2016 Season
The brilliance of Dr. Jekyll can be blinding at times, but so can the blunders of Mr. Hyde. This becomes all the more apparent when one looks back on Pineda’s performances in 2016.
In the month of June, Pineda went 5-1, allowing less than three earned runs in each start. He went six innings or more four times and struck out eight or more batters five times.
Pineda entered July with all the momentum of his solid June, and still went 2-3. He allowed five earned runs in three of the five starts, to the White Sox, Red Sox, and Rays.
In his two victories he allowed just one run; a lead-off home run to George Springer in the bottom of the first. Outside of that he pitched 13 scoreless innings and struck out 16 batters. These games were against the Houston Astros and the Baltimore Orioles; both teams whom the Yankees were chasing for a playoff spot.
Making Sense of Pineda
Michael Pineda has had good “stuff” throughout his entire tenure in the Bronx, but this has never made him a great pitcher. He has struggled with giving up two-out runs and also with surrendering the long ball, which isn’t aided by the fact that he pitches at Yankee Stadium for half the season.
More than anything, he has always struggled with consistency. Pineda can get shelled in one start, only to seem unhittable his next time out.
Therefore, while his near perfect game in the home opener was captivating and certainly a step in the right direction, it was likely far from an indication of things to come. Nonetheless, while this could easily be the season Pineda finds himself, it could also be another season with double-digit losses and a 4.00+ ERA.
One thing is certain, when Pineda takes the ball every five days, it is must-see TV because Yankees fans and coaches alike have no idea what is about to happen.