Mariners 2011 Season Overview: Michael Pineda

In my ongoing series of Obvious Mariners To Talk About, I continue with our 2010 leader in Holds, Jamey Wright.

Kidding.  Of course I’m talking about pitching phenom Michael Pineda!  To start, I give you my prediction of what I thought his output would be, from a post on March 31st of this year:

You’re going to see a guy who will probably go somewhere around 11-14 with a 4.78 ERA.  But, within those harsh numbers you’ll see his potential break out.  Remember, this is a team that’s not going to score a lot of runs, so he WILL lose more games than he wins.  Nevertheless, you’ll see some real gems where he goes 7 innings of 2-hit ball.  AND, you’ll see some games where he can’t get out of the third inning.  It happens to the best of ‘em.

Pineda will likely start out hot, then the league will figure him out, then towards the end of his season he’ll start making the right adjustments to end on a high note.

Let’s take this line by line.  Pineda, in reality, went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA.  I wasn’t too terribly far off on the record (he DID lose more than he won, thanks to the offense), but there’s no way I could’ve expected that kind of an ERA.  4.78 would’ve been a good rookie season for a guy like him.  3.74 is off the charts!

As far as potential is concerned, he did have some real gems this year.  He had four games where he went 6+ innings while giving up 0 runs.  He consistently threw strikes (173 strikeouts in 171 innings, with only 55 walks).  And he got off to an incredible start (culminating in an All Star Game appearance – mostly thanks to the high number of pitchers who couldn’t make it because they pitched the Sunday before the game).

And, yeah, he ran into some trouble.  His string of games during that 17-game losing streak were about as bad as they get.  But, you know what?  His shortest outing of the year was 4 innings, and that was in his final game (because by that point they were hoarding his innings pitched like greedy ol’ Uncle Scrooge).

To sum up his rookie season:  Michael Pineda surpassed EVERYONE’S expectations.

And he did it pretty much by being a two-pitch pitcher.  We all knew going into the season that the guy didn’t have much of a change up (indeed, that was the primary reason why many believed he should start the season out in Tacoma, to incorporate one into his repertoire; aside from that whole Service Time issue that people stopped caring about once they witnessed his 98 mile per hour fastball).  He also did it by taking a lot off of his heater as the season went on.  A guy who was hitting triple-digits in the first month of the season was regularly around 93-95 miles per hour.  Seemed like he was incorporating a new arm angle too.  Hard to tell if that was fatigue over his first big league season, or if he was trying to adjust to the hitters who were adjusting to him.  Whatever the case, after that rocky July, Pineda seemed to find a nice groove.  He wasn’t nearly as dominating as he was in the first half, but he made it.  He went a full season without missing a game due to injury, without suffering too much hardship.

He will still need that change up, but right now I’m just going to be proud of the guy.  Your rookie season is always going to be the craziest.  He just passed his with flying colors.

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