The story of Michael Pineda has been told a million times by various media outlets. He’s a flame throwing control pitcher who has been immortalized by the words of the late Dave Niehaus as being “Diabolical.” Or at least his slider has. He has had some funny storylines this year too, like when he received his driver’s license, or this awkward exchange.
He’s also known to idolize Felix Hernandez, emulating the ace’s preparation, and his slightly askew hat. His repertoire is quite different, but he uses the same essential game plan, pitching on both sides of the plate and changing speeds often.
Is it possible, however that Pineda has become the best pitcher on the Mariners roster?
So far this year it is almost unarguable. He and Hernandez are equal in WAR, leading the team, but Hernandez has an extra start and 11.1 extra innings pitched. By contrast, Pineda has less innings, but is striking out more than a full batter more per nine innings, while walking about a half-batter less.
But Felix and Pineda are much different pitchers. Felix induces basically double the groundballs that Pineda has, and while Pineda’s overall repertoire may allow him to maintain a below-average HR/FB rate, his miniscule 4.2 percent rate is bound to regress.
But how do their first years compare?
So what does this mean? More than anything it probably means that we need to stop trying to make Pineda the next Felix Hernandez. Pineda doesn’t have a great groundball pitch, and right now he’s a two-pitch pitcher. With those two pitches he’s been enormously effective in his first trip through the league. We saw Felix experience a huge production set back the following season, and it ended up taking him three years to become the Cy-Young-caliber pitcher we see today.
We should definitely be happy to see what we’ve seen out of Michael Pineda, but we shouldn’t be categorizing him just yet.