Last season, Michael Pineda threw a professional high total of 139.1 innings at Double-A and Triple-A. This season he has already thrown 136 innings with the Mariners (and if you want to add an inning for the all-star team you can do that). The Mariners already tipped their hand that they will at least monitor his innings by skipping one of his starts earlier this month. Assuming they let him take his turn each time out for the rest of the season, he would have enough time to make 9 starts the rest of the way – three more this month and six starts in September. Over his last ten starts, Pineda has pitched 7 innings only once, so making another assumption that he averages 6 innings per start, he would finish with 190 innings pitched. In other words, The Verducci Effect will eventually be in full effect if the Mariners decide not to pull back the reins in September.
If the rotation isn’t shuffled for the rest of the season, Pineda will be scheduled to pitch against the Twins and A’s in his last two starts of the season. Given that neither one of those teams are heading to the postseason, the Mariners wouldn’t be doing any disrespect to baseball by shutting down Pineda for those two starts. In his third to last start, Pineda would be facing the Rangers. He should pitch in that series out of respect to playing the role of spoiler. It’s possible that the Mariners could skip his turn in the rotation at some other point before that to ensure that he stays as close to 30 innings over as possible. When that would be is hard to predict and maybe Eric Wedge hasn’t even thought that far ahead. My guess would be that it would come some time in early September when the team has access to more players and they are officially eliminated.
I doubt it would need to go beyond Pineda missing more than three starts though. The innings are only one metric to measure a pitcher’s workload. The other important metrics would be pitches and pitches thrown in high stress situations. Pineda has averaged just 96 pitches per start. By comparison, “veteran” teammate Felix Hernandez has thrown almost 700 more pitches on the season and is averaging 112 pitches per start. And as far as the high stress pitches, Pineda’s 1.08 WHIP is an indication that he hasn’t had to throw much with runners on. Pineda has been removed in the middle of an inning in 5 of his last 10 starts when he was going to throw the pitches with the most stress. The Mariners have clearly emphasized caution with the Rookie of the Year all season, so perhaps they are more comfortable letting him go a little over the 30 recommended innings that should be added on from season to season.
In fantasy trade deadlines, Pineda’s name is being pushed by contenders to teams out of the race. If those teams believe Pineda is still effective this season, perhaps they should hang on to him. Missing three starts is hardly the worst thing in the world relative to other uncertain pitchers like Josh Johnson or Stephen Strasburg. As September rolls on, there will be other pitchers that fall victim to being shut down (like Ricky Nolasco last season). A trade for someone who is hot at the moment like Ervin Santana doesn’t guarantee results.
Pineda has been worse in July and August, but he’s hardly been bad. His batting average against in both months has been below .230. His strikeouts to walks and strikeouts per 9 innings have been pretty much where they have been all season. Even with the action that he should miss down the stretch, I would have to be pretty blown away to want to trade Pineda in a keeper league. Opposing hitters have seen this guy now – especially AL West teams that will see him a lot down the stretch. That experience against a guy with an average fastball velocity of 95 MPH and a slider that is equally as devastating is as valuable as a football coach’s knowledge that Michael Vick can scramble. Sure you can prepare for it, but it doesn’t mean you can beat it.
- Cameron Maybin had two steals and a home run for the Padres yesterday. He is now ranked in the top 100 for this season, and so why shouldn’t we consider the 24-year-old a top 100 bet for next year?
- Matt Holliday has missed two straight games because of back discomfort after a weight-lifting incident.
- Ian Kennedy said he would listen if the Diamondbacks came to him on a contract extension, but there’s no reason for the Diamondbacks to rush. Kennedy will be paid the minimum next season and then have three years of arbitration.
- The Twins will active Alexi Casilla and Justin Morneau today in their series against the Indians.
- Michael Morse left yesterday’s game after getting hit by a pitch, but X-rays were negative.
- Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland says he is ready to get an at-bat and the team has set that as a 2011 goal. Westmoreland is now 17 months removed from brain surgery.
- Tyler Matzek had his second straight solid start for Single-A Asheville. Matzek is trying to rebuild his confidence after leaving the Rockies organization to spend time with his amateur pitching coach earlier this summer.
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