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Michael Pineda; A Sell-High Candidate

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After turning in another dominating performance last night, it seems like a good time to look at Michael Pineda. As a Mariners fan (full disclosure!) he's been someone I've been following since 2008, when he started to dominate the minor leagues. Even seeing him consistently graduate, get bigger, add velocity, and never have a single hiccup against the competition, I am still stunned by how dominating Pineda has been in the majors.


How amazing has Pineda been? Courtesy of Fangraphs, here's how amazing:

  • Pineda is 11th in the majors in K/9 at 9.12. However, the top 10 in this category are in the National League (you know, the league where they face pitchers) so that would make Michael the best strikeout pitcher in the American League so far this season.
  • He is 15th in the major leagues in ERA amongst qualified starters and 8th in the AL.
  • Pineda ranks 6th in the majors in FIP, 3rd in the AL.
  • His 4 to 1 K:BB ratio is 12th in the majors, 5th in the AL.
  • The .204 average against is 13th in the majors. I also found it interesting that no pitcher ahead of Pineda in this category has a higher BABIP against than Michael's .265.
  • His 2.52 tERA is tied for 4th in the majors.
  • The 96 MPH average fastball velocity is first in the majors. A full 1 MPH faster than 2nd place Justin Verlander and 2 MPH faster than 5th place Josh Johnson. Add in Pineda's large 6'5 frame, his arm angle, and movement, and it's quite possibly the best fastball in the major leagues.
  • Hitters swing at pitches outside of the zone from Pineda 38% of the time. 2nd highest in the majors. From what I've followed on Pineda, its the classic high heat that gets aggressive hitters to chase.
  • Overall contact against Pineda is 75.4%, 13th lowest percentage in the majors.
  • First strike% is a phenomenal, league-leading 73.2% and his swinging strike% is a major league leading 13%.

But my favorite fact about Michael Pineda is this: He is 22 years old. This also might be why some owners should look to sell on Pineda at some point this season. My reasoning after the jump.

I'm as big a Pineda fan as you can find, and I really don't have anything bad to say against the guy. He developed into a pitching prospect that nobody ever expected when he was signed as a tall, lanky kid with a low-90s fastball. Now he's a beast of a young man, and his velocity can touch 100.

It's amazing that he's never really struggled at any point in his career. Even as a 21 year old in AAA Tacoma last season, when he had an ERA of 4.76 in 12 starts, he was dominant. He struck out 76 batters in 62.1 innings. His only issue was 9 HR allowed. It's happened a couple of times this season and its a healthy reminder that pitchers who throw as hard as Michael will sometimes face a batter who just gets the bat around in time to make a collision of "really fast ball" and "really fast bat" and of course, that means that ball is going to "really far."

The main cause of concern would be how lefties would do against Pineda. Without a stellar changeup, it was seen as a probability that he would struggle against opposite-handed batters as a rookie. Sure enough, he has "struggled" to a .704 OPS against when facing lefties. Still not too bad. Even batter when considering that righties can't do anything against Pineda. They are hitting .167 against Pineda with 33 strikeouts in 102 at bats.

There's so many good things to say about Michael Pineda. I could go on for a long time, cite many more numbers, and continue to impress any baseball fan that had any doubts that this kid is one of the better rookies to come along in a very long time. I can't wait to see how he does as the season goes forward, and obviously I hope he wins Rookie of the Year and helps gives the M's a 1-2 punch with Felix that rivals any other starting pitching combination in the majors.

But as a fantasy owner (not me, I was able to grab Pineda, frowny face) there is one major cause for concern. If you are in a keeper league, than this may not concern you. However, that also depends on the details of your league and whether or not you see yourself able to keep Pineda after this season. But if you are going for the fantasy championship this season, you may want to sell Pineda while you've got a chance.

Pineda is currently at 51.1 innings for the season. It's already been made clear that he will have an innings limit this year, as the M's want him to stay healthy for the long run and eventually develop into the workhorse that Felix is.

He pitched 139.1 innings across two levels in 2010. This was following an injury shortened 2009 that saw him only go 47.1 innings. Combine the injury history and the already large jump in innings from 2009 to 2010 and it's safe to assume that Pinda probably won't cross 180 innings this year, and that could be a very generous estimate.

If Pineda throws 175 innings this year, that gives him 125 innings left to go. He is currently averaging 6.1 innings per start, which if he kept that up, would give him about 20 more starts left on the season. If he averaged 5 starts per month, that would give him 4 more months left from today, which means his season could end in early to mid-September.

Now, that's a long time for Pineda to give you a solid, potential-ace pitcher. However, we also know that's a crucial time to lose one of your top players. If Pineda has gotten you to the playoffs, he may disappear as you make a run for the championship. If you are in a single season league, I don't see these coming weeks as a bad time to move Pineda for a package of a starting pitcher and a hitter that could hep fill a gap in your lineup. There's almost no chance that Pineda will be giving you starts during the homestretch, no matter how creative the Mariners get.

If you hold onto Pineda and ignore this advice, you very well may be doing yourself a fine service. But there's not really any way to tell now, it all depends on your team, your league, and the offer. But its worth considering that even as amazing as Pineda is - he most likely won't be Mr. Amazing during this years fantasy playoffs.