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Should the Yankees be worried about Michael Pineda’s missing velocity?

Mar 6, 2012, 11:19 AM EDT

New York Yankees starter Pineda warms up on the mound during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater Reuters

Ken Rosenthal of has a worrisome report about Michael Pineda‘s velocity early in Yankees camp, writing that “scouts yesterday had Pineda at 88-91[miles per hour]” after he averaged 94.7 mph with his fastball last season.

He also quotes a scout as saying “and there was some effort to get to 91.” And then while noting it’s very early in spring training, Rosenthal adds that “scouts were taken aback, asking each other if readings were accurate.”

Now, in fairness to Pineda his diminished velocity in some early spring training action would probably have barely been noticed had he still be with the Mariners. On the other hand, Keith Law of says he scouted Pineda on March 7 of last season and clocked him at 93-96 mph, so it’s not just an “it’s early” thing.

On a related note, the Yankees have apparently been stressing to Pineda that he needs to work on improving his changeup and commit to throwing it more often, as they believe he needs a consistent third pitch to go with his mid-90s fastball and hard slider. Of course, if his velocity stays in the low-90s perfecting a third pitch will be the least of the Yankees’ concerns.

  1. phukyouk - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    so we just change “Pineda” to “Hughes” and this is 2011 all over again?

  2. Ari Collins - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Despite the fact that he was throwing hard in ST last year, it’s probably still just because it’s March. Building strength and velocity is one of the things spring training is FOR.

    If he’s still throwing 91 in April, then start to worry.

  3. rollinghighwayblues - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    This can happen to any pitcher at any time. There’s just those days where you can’t run it up there like you usually do. This story reminds me of Chapman last April when his velocity came all the way down to the low 90’s on his fastball; he took a few days off and was back to throwing gas.

  4. uyf1950 - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Has anyone stopped to consider since last August Pineda has thrown only 18 innings of “real” MLB before yesterdays 2 inning outing. Does it make sense that he would want to “build up” to throwing in mid 90’s rather then right out of the gate. He threw 30 pitches yesterday take out the change ups and the sliders he threw, that probably means he threw about 15 fastballs may be less.

    Seems like this blog and I’m sure the comments to come are a lot of fuss about nothing. But then what do you expect this early in spring training.

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      I’m not concerned either, uyf/ If they wanted him to work on change-ups, etc. why would he be bothers to throw heat.

      • proudlycanadian - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:20 PM

        I think that you Yankee fans should be concerned. In the second half of 2011, his ERA was well over 5.00 and his velocity had declined. Teams rarely trade young controllable pitchers who have the potential to be an ace. The Mariners knew that he had problems in the second half of 2011.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        Proudly Canadian

        While his ERA jumped in the second half, most of his peripherals actually improved (whiff rate, ground ball %, etc). I don’t know if he has arm trouble or not, but I would not look at the second half of last year to say he definitely DOES have arm trouble.

        Good hitters don’t want to sign with the Mariners, so it does make some sense to trade from a position of strength to get a elite hitting prospect who is MLB ready.

      • gilbert718 - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:37 PM

        yo proudlycanadian ^^ the mariners offence is so horrible they needed a bat and they got Montero.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        proudly canadian, what surprises me is on one hand fans downplay ERA’s and Wins as a good way to evaluate pitchers but on the other hand when it tends to make their point they tend to use them.

        Let’s not forget Pineda is a very young man with an enormous talent which neither he or the Yankees have scratched the surface of yet.

    • forsch31 - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      That’s true, hence the note that at the same point last year (March 7), he was throwing in his normal velocity.

      What Aaron (and the worried scouts) didn’t realize that, as this FanGraphs blog entry notes, he decided late during the second half of season start games with lower velocity and build up as the innings passed:

    • drewsylvania - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      These blogs are NEVER a lot of fuss about nothing.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:48 PM

        NEVER is such a long time. Besides I didn’t say “these” I said “this” blog. This is singular, these plural. A fine distinction, but a distinction nonetheless.

    • mikebailey4052 - Mar 6, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      I’m devastated that the guy who went to the all-star game and barely showed up for the second half of the season ended up a Yankee! Can anyone say Ken Phelps?

  5. whatthehellisansky - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    word is that yanks 3rd base coach Rob Thomson has lost 2 or 3 miles an hour on his batting practice fastball..with any luck it’ll make the back page of the NY Post..

    must be a slow news day..

  6. thinman61 - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    It’s March 6. Way too early to be starting with the “Yankees are screwed” narrative.

  7. yankeesgameday - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Just keep what AJ Burnett and Russell Martin said of AJ’s time in NY: That they messed with his delivery and mechanics so much that he became a less effective pitcher. And Girardi already started messing with Pineda’s head by saying he isn’t guaranteed a rotation spot, so who knows what else they’re doing with the kid.

    Yes, one little start in march means nothing, but it also means enough that scouts mentioned it publicly. You just have to recognize that the Yanks are seeming to have trouble turning top flight talent into top flight every day major league pitchers.

    Hughes seems lost, Burnett took steps backwards, and they had no one in their system capable enough to start in the big leagues last year that they were forced to take huge risks on colon and Garcia.

    Yes, let’s chill on this one outing from pineda, but let’s also make note that there is a disturbing trend toward underachieving and reduced velocity from young Yankee arms for a few years now.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      Robertson might be the best reliever in baseball, Sabathia has improved during his time with the Yankees, Chamberlain (apart from the TJ) is developing into a damned fin pitcher, Colon was an all star…there are as many good examples as bad

      • yankeesgameday - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        Two relievers and a guy who was as established elite free agent the Yanks did not develop. Cc is the guy you don’t touch. Who was the last elite starter the Yanks brought up from their own system? Andy Pettite? We’re talking 20 years ago almost now.

        My argument is that there us a trend of failed potential with Yankee starters

        and they even.messed with joba as well. Is he a reliever, is he a starter? They changed their mind ten times with the guy. And that only adds to my point that there is a trend of young pitchers with extreme talent levels not living up to that potential when they come up through the Yankee system and I’m starting to wonder what that’s about because it looks like more of a trend/pattern now than a bunch if aberrations.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:56 PM

        These trends are not Yankees specific. Most pitching prospects do not pan out. Most pitchers do not have long and successful careers. It is the nature of the beast.

        Perhaps the Yankees prospects are overvalued, or at least over-hyped, so they seem to fall farther when they follow the rather common and predictable path to non-superstardom. They may lack some experience in developing top-flight prospects, since they went so long without any. My point is only that they have succeeded in some cases and failed in others, just like most organizations.

        (P.S., if Colon does not count, neither does AJ. Sure the Yankees tinkered with his delivery, but they did that because he wasn’t pitching well to begin with. The problem for AJ is that he has never had any idea where his curve is going and now his fastball is losing zip. What’s left?)

    • drewsylvania - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      Pineda has already succeeded at the MLB level. We don’t know if his reduced velocity is an arm issue, a mechanical issue, or intentional. But he’s not a “prospect” anymore, so TINSTAAP doesn’t really apply–I guess I’d go with “young pitcher”.

      And the Yankees sure do have a history of messing up young arms (Hughes, Chamberlain, Proctor)

    • djammer - Mar 6, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Yankeesgameday–you have proven you have very little knowledge of the Yankees or their ability to develop pitchers. 2010 Phil Hughes won 18 games and was in the AllStar game. 2011 Ivan Nova goes 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and instead of getting pissed off when he gets sent to AAA due to a glut of starters, he develops a 4th solid pitch. Noesi showed a lot of value last year too and brought the Yankees back Campos, who has a live arm. Betances and Banuelos are top notch and will be in the rotation as cheap excellent options next year. Yankees starters had an incredible team ERA last year, much better than expected. As a team wide development that isn’t luck, that’s Rothchild’s influence. AJ didn’t pan out. His peripherals would have told you he wasn’t going to. It’s a signing mistake, not a lack of development. Hughes has an injury history, not a lack of development. Pineda isn’t at full speed. Maybe the guy is taking it easy early consciously to avoid getting worn out before the season is over given last year’s second half. In the end, even if he has lost a few mph, that isn’t a lack of development at this point. It might be an injury–it isn’t lack of development.

      • yankeesgameday - Mar 7, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        Dammit, I wrote a long reply to this that got deleted because “cancel reply” is right next to “post comment” so here is the much shorter version. My whole point is derived from burnett and Martin both saying the Yanks messed with burnett too much. Martin saying it carries more weight than AJ saying it.

        And the fact Hughes fell apart since his great start only underlines my point. One of his very first, if not the first start of his career, he was no hitting Texas and pulled a hammy in the 6th so he was taken out. I was watching that game live, you probably read about it later that week in the Post.That same year several pitchers had the same injury and the team fired their trainer.

        They messed with joba too. Is he a starter? No, he’s a reliever. Wait, maybe he’s a starter.

        And now Girardi is messing with pinedas head by telling him he may not make the rotation.

        Their history for the last ten years gas been dismal when it comes to developing STARTERS so you can’t talk about the killer B’s in the minors yet. I overlooked nova, sure, but I’ve proven that you are the one who doesn’t know much about recent Yankee history with their starters – again not relievers.

        My entire original post was very measured. I said that yes, its only a few innings in march from pinedas, but it concerned scouts enough to bring it up publicly and combined with the recent history I have highlighted — specifically Martin and burnett saying there is a problem – I simply pointed out this trend as something to watch.

        You should be thanking me for enhancing your Yankee viewing knowledge by bringing up a subject you obviously never applied enough critical thought to try and understand instead of claiming I don’t know anything about the Yankee staff.

  8. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Should the Yankees be worried about Michael Pineda’s missing velocity?

    No, and letting a smarter man than I tell you why:
    Essentially, this development just isn’t new. Pineda spent a good part of the second half of 2011 experimenting with pitching at reduced velocities early in games, and then he cranked up the volume when he needed to as the game wore on. Now, I think an argument could be made that it’s a little disconcerting that Pineda feels it’s necessary to start games with diminished velocity, suggesting that perhaps he doesn’t feel he can throw in the mid-90s for 100 pitches per start over a full season. However, his performances from 2011 suggest that he’s choosing to throw at lower velocities early in starts, and you’d certainly rather have velocity loss be due to something that the pitcher can change when he wants to, rather than simply being unable to throw as hard as he used to.

  9. pisano - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    If he was on any other team we wouldn’t hear a thing about this, but because so many haters want to see the Yankees fail and it’s probably a slow news day we hear this horseshit. It’s early March remember, why would any pitcher be throwing hard before they build themselves up.

    • drewsylvania - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      Because he was last year?

  10. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Maybe his fastball is even faster than last year, and the scouts were clocking perfectly deceptive changeups.

    • drewsylvania - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      I hope this is a funny. Scouts know the difference between a fastball and a changeup.

  11. Reflex - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    This does not suprise me. I will not be shocked when his shoulder goes, he’s already had serious elbow problems and uses the Inverted W that destroys so many other pitchers. Love the guy, but his motion is bad for his longevity. Either he corrects his motion or he ends up a power reliever.

    • uyf1950 - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      Reflex, how are the Mariners doing building a competitive/future winner around King Felix before his current contract expires, 3 years and counting. I believe that’s another one of your theories, isn’t it?

      • Reflex - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:18 PM

        I’m not a M’s fan, but living in Seattle I do follow the team. I’d say they are doing pretty good, I liked the Montero addition even as a DH given his bat should play well at that park. The real question for them is if last year was simply injuries and family issues for Nick Franklin, or if 2011 was the real deal. 2010 Nick Franklin gives them a serious power shortstop, 2011 Nick Franklin gives them a utility infielder given that his defense isn’t above average.

        Trayvon Robinson was another great pickup I’m following, he was the Dodgers best hitting prospect and they got him for virtually nothing. Seems its easy to scam the McCourts…

      • uyf1950 - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:59 PM

        Reflex, I would say we have a very difference of opinion of as you say “doing good”.
        In 2009 they had 77 losses.
        In 2010 they had 101 losses.
        In 2011 they had 95 losses.

        BTW, here is their attendance records for those same years:
        In 2009 attendance was: 2,196,461
        In 2010 attendance was: 2,085,488
        In 2011 attendance was: 1,896,321

        Now you may consider that “doing good”, I on the other hand do NOT.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 6, 2012 at 4:55 PM

        You asked him how the Mariners were doing building a competitive/future winner around Felix. He responded that they were doing pretty good (and prospect mavens agree). Whether they will succeed or not in the future, we will see, but wins over the last three years have literally nothing to do with with the question.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 6, 2012 at 5:27 PM

        Ari, actually you left out the MOST IMPORTANT part of the question I asked him. The part about “…before his current contract expires, 3 years and counting…”

        I asked: “how are the Mariners doing building a competitive/future winner around King Felix before his current contract expires, 3 years and counting…”

        I don’t know about you but wins would seem to be an important piece of building a “competitive/future winner around King Felix before his current contract expires, 3 years and counting…”.

        If you will allow me and please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. But I’ve read where you’ve posted on more than 1 occasion that wins and ERA’s aren’t a good judge of a pitchers performance, and I’ll admit many agree with you. Now your saying or advocating that wins aren’t an important factor for a team in building a competitive/winning team in a given period of time to impress their star player. I’m really having a hard time discerning what someone should consider important as a way of judging a teams performance or likely success in the NEAR future.

      • Reflex - Mar 6, 2012 at 6:00 PM

        Yes, I do believe that within three years the M’s will be markedly better than they are today and than they have been the past three seasons. You really do not seem to understand just how bereft the farm system was under Bavasi. And quite frankly, Pat Gillick also did not build through the draft. When Jack took over the M’s were like the Astros are today, a non-competitive team and an empty farm system. He has taken what assets they had and parlayed them into pieces for the future. Much like the A’s do every other year, except the M’s have the financial resources to actually sustain a competitive team when it is finally built(assuming the moves work out).

        I don’t give a shit if they lost 100 games a year for the past three, or even this year. But I do see it getting better. Or at least as good as it possibly could get given the deals he’s made and the team he inherited. In two consecutive years Jack has traded for the top hitting prospect in the game. He has also acquired and drafted a lot of elite pitching talent, so much so that he can deal young possible ace’s like Pineda for extra hitting without damaging his franchise in the slightest. Thats impressive considering what he inherited.

        If the team is not on the upswing by the time Felix is in his contract year, I will be suprised. I do not know if it will be enough to win thier division, but given the fact that the Rangers and Angels will be three years older by then, that the A’s just started over and the Astros are years away from being competitive, I could see a second place finish by then, possibly higher depending on how harsh age is on the competition.

        I know this: The M’s could have bought the top free agent on the market the past three years and they *still* would not have been a competitive team by now. If they had acquired Fielder this season it would have been a waste. The team was that crappy, and aside from a blip of competitiveness in 2009, they needed to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.

        Its a good thing. I am enjoying seeing it, even if the local fans don’t understand. I like to see a master at his work and I look forward to the outcome, just like I enjoyed seeing the Rays rise from garbage to quality in just a couple seasons as the pieces came together a few years ago. This is a similiar situation, Jack is combining saavy trades with great draft picks and systemic improvements(focus on health and conditioning in the minors, raising the food budget, etc) that are not commonly focused on by other clubs.

        Sure it could all fail to produce a winner. But that does not mean it was not worth trying or that it did not have merit. Or that any of these deals are ‘bad’.

  12. El Bravo - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    He’s believed to be in worse shape than he was last year. Perhaps with some conditioning this Spring, he’ll be right where he was. I don’t think they have a problem here unless he keeps eating Cap’n Crunch with CC.

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Worst case scenario: he needs TJ surgery, comes back next season and the Yankees have 4 more years of control over an elite young pitcher. It is still worth trading a DH prospect for that.

    The Yankees already have 5 other starters so it would not be the end of the world, but let’s hope for the best.

  14. rcali - Mar 6, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Lost 3-4 mph on the fastball but did gain 20 pounds of fat.

  15. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 6, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    guy threw 30 pitches for the first time this year and was working on his change up. ill worry if he is throwing that fast after his 4th ST start. in otherwords a non story to say the least

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