Smothering Pineda

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For a pitcher the Yankees are counting on to a be a top of the rotation force and cost them Jesus Montero—who GM Brian Cashman compared to Miguel Cabrera—they’re showing a remarkable level of paranoia when it comes to Michael Pineda.

First it was the repeated reference to minor leaguer Jose Campos as a “key” to the deal; then there were the Cashman statements that if Pineda doesn’t improve his changeup, he (Cashman) supposedly said that he’ll have made a mistake in trading for him; now there’s the velocity and weight stuff.

There’s a troubling scrutiny surrounding every move that Pineda makes that lend credence to the sense that the Yankees are so terrified of Pineda failing that they’re looking for excuses if he does.

Either they wanted him enough to give up a potential top-tier power bat like Montero and a good arm in Hector Noesi to get him or they didn’t.

Today there were multiple reports about Pineda’s velocity with an underlying sense of “whew” when he hit 93 mph. This is after he topped out around 88 in his first spring start.

Never mind that velocity is a tool to determine where a pitcher is now in comparison to where he was before and that it’s spring training and there’s no reason to be thinking about velocity.

None of that matters.

It comes down to this: Why are the Yankees so worried about this pitcher?

Is the velocity something to pay attention to? Absolutely. And for all of 2011, he regularly reached the upper 90s. The big concern with Pineda was his supposedly “worse” second half of the season after an All-Star first half.

In reality, his first half and second half were pretty much statistically identical apart from a worse Batting Average on balls in play. In the first half, his BAbip was .247 and in the second it was .286.

Was he tired in the second half? Probably. Prior to 2011 when he threw 173 innings, he’d thrown a max of 139 in a season in the minors. Will he be better suited to giving the Yankees 185-190 innings in 2012? Probably. This is because he won’t be under the stress of a horrific offense with the Mariners to be perfect in order to win.

They traded for him so, in a similar vein to them buying A.J. Burnett, this is what they wanted and this is what they got.

All of the harping, expectations and demands didn’t help Burnett and they’re not going to help Pineda.

In fact, they could smother him.

And they’re well on the way to doing that and ruining another young pitcher.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is now available.

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