Game Eleven Recap

Dave · April 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’ve talked at length about the things that I think Michael Pineda needs to improve upon. Tonight, we talk about the reason why he’s so highly thought of to begin with – a ridiculously great fastball.

We saw it in the first inning, as Pineda came out throwing 95-98, but fell behind Jose Bautista 3-0 after getting a couple of quick outs. Bautista is one of the game’s best fastball hitters, and he was in a count where he could just sit on three straight fastballs. 3-0, fastball, called strike one. 3-1, fastball, called strike two. 3-2, fastball, swinging strike three. Inning over.

Pineda just kept pounding the Jays with fastballs, and they kept swinging through them. In the fourth inning, he went after Adam Lind – a left-handed batter – with nothing but heat, most of it down the middle. Lind couldn’t touch it. For variety, he’d work in a few sliders and change-ups, but they’d inevitably get hit, and he’d go back to throwing the fastball right by the next hitter.

On the night, he threw 73 fastballs, and got 14 swinging strikes, a ridiculous 19.2% rate – and most of that came early, as through four innings, he had 11 swinging strikes on 45 fastballs. A good pitcher will post a swinging strike rate of 10%, with most whiffs coming on breaking balls when ahead in the count. That many swinging strikes from fastballs, including some when behind in the count to a good fastball hitting team, is just special.

Tonight, we saw Pineda feature one pitch and dominate with it. The secondary stuff still isn’t there, but tonight, he didn’t need it. He showed off a fastball that was good enough on its own. If he had a good slider and change-up tonight, he might have thrown a perfect game. His fastball was THAT good.

In the fifth and especially the sixth inning, he started leaning on his slider a bit more. Given how dominant the fastball was early, I figured they’d just keep throwing it until Toronto’s batters proved they could hit it, but the shift worked as well, and he got a few key strikes to left-handed hitters with the breaking ball. I’d imagine this is what coaches mean when they talk about setting hitters up by establishing your fastball – the slider itself wasn’t great, but most guys went up there looking fastball and didn’t react well to something slower and with downward tilt.

Also interesting, and somewhat unexpected, is just how much Pineda has lived in the upper part of the strike zone. That 10% GB% tonight was no fluke – that was the direct result of him pitching almost exclusively from the belt up. He threw one perfectly located fastball to J.P. Arencibia on the outside corner at the knees, but besides that, it was up, up, and up some more.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pitching up in the zone if you have the stuff to do it. Pedro Martinez pitched this way. So did Johan Santana. If you’ve got a nasty fastball and can locate it, you can get a lot of whiffs up in the zone. Pineda has the velocity and the command to live up there and make it work. It will result in a lot of fly balls, but the strikeouts will make it a worthwhile trade-off. Don’t expect many double plays when Pineda’s on the mound, though – if he keeps pitching like this, he’s going to be one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball.

He’s also going to be one of the most fun to watch. Despite running into some problems in the 8th inning, Pineda was about as good tonight as you could have hoped.

Welcome to Seattle, kid. Pitch like that and you can stay as long as you’d like.


34 Responses to “Game Eleven Recap”

  1. dingla on April 12th, 2011 9:32 pm

    Dang that was a quick game recap 🙂

    2 in a row, Wooooooo!!!!

  2. Diehard on April 12th, 2011 9:33 pm

    Pineda was dealing tonight! He is going to be scary good when he refines his slider and changeup.

  3. Bilbo on April 12th, 2011 9:36 pm

    so, is he “ready” now?

    Seriously, that was just dominant and great to watch. Welcome to Seattle kid.

  4. CarpCarter on April 12th, 2011 9:37 pm

    Exactly HOW long do we have Pineda until we have to pay him?

  5. griffin on April 12th, 2011 9:37 pm

    Even scarier if/when the M’s add some offense to back him up and give him more confidence!

    Pineda was rolling, love it.

    Who pitches tomorrow? Vargas? Bedard?

  6. cmonseattle on April 12th, 2011 9:42 pm

    Who pitches tomorrow? Vargas? Bedard?


  7. Dave on April 12th, 2011 9:43 pm

    so, is he “ready” now?

    Ready to get out right-handed big league hitters? Absolutely.

    Left-handed big league hitters? Nope.

  8. EricL on April 12th, 2011 9:43 pm

    The stat of the night for me (and what makes the average slider that much better): From the 2nd batter of the 4th inning through the 2nd batter of the 8th inning, Pineda through a first-pitch strike EVERY time. Sixteen straight. (And, I think, 24 of 29 overall.)

    Fun to watch. Really fun to watch.

  9. Chipanese on April 12th, 2011 9:44 pm

    The day he faces a lefty heavy line-up will be a scary sight.

  10. MrZDevotee on April 12th, 2011 9:52 pm

    Nice job, M’s.

    Lost two series to Division leaders, and won two series against more modest teams. Tomorrow we go for the sweep.

    Hell, we’re tied for the longest winning streak in the AL currently! (positive spin on boring stat *laugh*)

    That’s about par with expectations. (And for all the fire alarms going off a few days back, we were amazingly close to winning a couple in Arlington.)

    And I definitely liked the lineup full of guys who actually can put the ball in play.

  11. Andrew34 on April 12th, 2011 9:57 pm

    They continued to leave guys on base though. With no outs they had 2nd and 3rd in the 8th and with 1 out they had the bases loaded. They come away with no-runs scored after a great throw by Bautista for a DP. By the way it was cool to see your post during the game yesterday Dave 🙂

  12. griffin on April 12th, 2011 10:04 pm

    Might not be “READY” but it’s definitely a strong start to build on moving forward.

    That tag up by Langerhans in the 8th was really really stupid. Ball wasn’t hit deep, and Toronto doesn’t exactly have a crappy right fielder. Just a wasted opportunity when we don’t seem to get a lot of chances at them in general.

    Glad we made it out with the win though, for Pineda. First of many to come for the kid.

    Go Mariners!

  13. Breadbaker on April 12th, 2011 10:43 pm

    Thanks for mentioning that one pitch to Arencibia. It was filthy.

  14. just a fan on April 12th, 2011 10:53 pm

    He’s ready enough to not need to get left-hander hitters out to be a good major league starter.

  15. KaminaAyato on April 12th, 2011 11:17 pm

    I didn’t have a good seat to see where he was locating pitches, but the first time through the lineup, it was 93+ almost all the time. And it worked.

    The offspeed pitches he threw early weren’t getting called for strikes, so he just kept on throwing the heater as I would see 95, 96 and one time 98 that turned into 99.

    Later on the stadium gun showed more 80’s and those were in for strikes. Like I said, I couldn’t tell how good they were, just that they were strikes.

    I remember a lot of fly balls and most of those being of the “they got under that one” variety.

    There wasn’t a lot of solid contact until he started to tire in the 8th, but I kinda liked how they let him stay out there perhaps a little too long. You can’t find your limit until you try.

    Good game overall, with the exception of the atmosphere. Yes, attendance was low, but man, it was dead even for the people there. Can we please petition the M’s to let fans come in the 300 RF section with horns, etc. and make it more lively Japanese-style? Please?

  16. Dave on April 12th, 2011 11:18 pm

    That would be true if, you know, the league wasn’t full of left-handed batters.

  17. KaminaAyato on April 12th, 2011 11:20 pm

    Oh, and with the exception of Olivo it seemed like the batters had meaningful at-bats, even though the end result wasn’t that good.

    Bases loaded, Olivo came up, I muttered, “Please do something productive, and for heavens’ sake don’t swing at the first pitch…”

    As he swung and lined out to right. The LOB stat sure seems to find him nowadays.

  18. Kazinski on April 12th, 2011 11:22 pm

    I was one of the 15 people at the game tonight, and it was a fantastic game to watch, Pineda looks just huge on the mound. He’s not just a big kid that can throw, he is an imposing presence on the mound.

    Saunders had an 0-3 with 2 strikeouts, but he hit a sharp line drive to LF on an inside pitch. They are pitching Saunders inside now, because he has shown he can hit the outside pitch with his new swing, I guess they are checking to see if he can still handle the inside pitch. I like Saunders patience but I think he is being too patient, he is taking a lot of first pitch strikes right over the heart of the plate. Sometimes patience is not a virtue, its just 0-1.

    Why not send Langerhans on that line drive out, your up 3 runs at the time, it will take a perfect throw to get him, and there are two outs so it will take a hit to plate him if you don’t send him there.

  19. gwangung on April 12th, 2011 11:23 pm

    Yeah….didn’t Patterson (of all people) get two solid hits off him?

    Not there yet if the opponents have a few good lefties.

  20. FelixFanChris420 on April 13th, 2011 12:33 am

    Overall I was very impressed, the fastball is as advertised, and the change/slider looked like they could use work, but from what I had read around the net, were better than I expected. 16 1st Pitch stirkes in a row and the swinging strike %…wow! On the other hand, I’d like to see the flyball ratio drop a bit…I mean I know some guys are flyball pitchers but yikes…can you imagine him on a bad day in say Chicago…Yikes.

    I know its just one start, but I’m drooling at the thought of a rotation fronted by the King and Pineda for the next 4-5 (or more) years…now lets work on developing and aquiring some bats!

    Saunders also looks much improved, I can only hope that when Guti comes back they DH Milty and give Saunders a fulltime look in LF no matter who the pitcher is (of course with normal off days and such) and really see what we have going into next year.

    Sometimes watching these kids gives me just the tiniest glimmer of hope for the future.

    There is a little bit of light friends…hopefully THIS time it won’t be a train!

    Go Mariners!

  21. joser on April 13th, 2011 12:46 am

    I wonder how Toronto would do if they had to face him again? Can he adjust when they adjust? Because that’s what good batters do. More to the point, he’s going to face the other AL West teams more than once this season: it’s pretty clear he’ll baffle a lot of those players the first time, and that’ll be fun to watch, but they’ll get more cracks at him. He can work up in the zone like Santana, but they’ll eventually punish him for it if he doesn’t develop a change-up like Santana.

    I also was a little surprised Wedge left him in to face Patterson a third time — with men on — after Patterson had already singled off him once (and grounded, not struck, out in his other AB).

  22. FelixFanChris420 on April 13th, 2011 1:01 am

    I think leaving him in to face Patterson is more of an under the radar way for Wedge to show the kid that he trusts him and isn’t going to yank him everytime he gets in a jam. Developing the trust of his player while the standings don’t really matter. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it…

  23. gwangung on April 13th, 2011 8:37 am

    Well, I wouldn’t go that far; if the margin was two runs or less, I think Wedge would have pulled him. No harm in trying to see if he could pitch himself out of it (given his pitch count). The worst result still ended up with him still leading.

  24. Bilbo on April 13th, 2011 8:54 am

    96 on the black is more than enough against LH and doesn’t require a plus-change. It will be devastating when he has it though, but for now he can still dominate with a located FB.

  25. mkd on April 13th, 2011 9:01 am

    From the 2nd batter of the 4th inning through the 2nd batter of the 8th inning, Pineda through a first-pitch strike EVERY time. Sixteen straight.

    I think this was probably my favorite part of the whole game. Not only is it great pitching from a strategic point of view, but its really fun to watch!

    The thing that worries me is what Dave talked about in the “Pinedas Not Ready” article. In AAA they can mandate he work on those offspeed pitches and damn the results, but with him pitching meaningful games, I’m afraid there’s going to be a tendency for them to rely on the fastball anytime the going gets a little tight (because it’s so flippin’ awesome). At the time they’ll rationalize it- “Oh, two on, one out in a tie game, we need a strikeout bad”-
    but then we’ll look back over the course of the season and realize it all added up to him not working on his other pitches enough.

    75% fastball rates are not conducive to Pineda growing as a pitcher. Fun to watch though. For now.

  26. joser on April 13th, 2011 10:31 am

    Yeah, and as much as he might work on those secondary pitches on off-days, there’s no substitute for throwing them in game situations. That’s another reason to limit his innings this season, so they can send him to winter ball to work on that stuff without burning him out.

    but for now he can still dominate with a located FB.

    True, but he’s not always going to have his best control when he takes the mound — every pitcher has those nights when he has trouble keeping his fastball in the strike zone (or the ump just isn’t giving him those strikes on the edges). Or if he starts overthrowing (as so many young power pitchers tend to do when they get into trouble) and his fastball flattens out with no movement. That’s when having something else to fall back on will help.

    This was pretty much the ideal setup for him, and I’d love to see it repeated as many times as possible. But against different lineups in other parks, it’s going to be a tougher slog.

  27. Westside guy on April 13th, 2011 10:38 am

    Enough of this “he is ready”, “he isn’t ready” stuff. What’s really important is coming up with his new nickname.

    I’ve got a suggestion – El Jefe. It means “The Boss”. They used to use it for Castro, but I think it’d be good to borrow for a more constructive purpose. 😀 Nice and understated.

  28. groundzero55 on April 13th, 2011 10:44 am

    96 on the black is more than enough against LH and doesn’t require a plus-change. It will be devastating when he has it though, but for now he can still dominate with a located FB.

    Yeah. For last night it worked awesome. But there will be nights when his fastball just isn’t as locked in location-wise and then he will need to turn to his other stuff. It has happened with Felix and he can adjust. Pineda won’t be able to adjust if he relies solely on fastball location.

  29. mkd on April 13th, 2011 10:54 am

    Enough of this “he is ready”, “he isn’t ready” stuff. What’s really important is coming up with his new nickname.

    I agree, but would go with something that more specifically captures the essence of the man: El Grande.

  30. lokiforever on April 13th, 2011 11:46 am

    Might I propose “Super Gigante”

  31. FelixFanChris420 on April 13th, 2011 1:26 pm

    How about M-Pin? ROFL j/k

    I like westsides suggestion of El Jefe

    Then we’d have a rotation fronted by The King and The Boss, Or El Rey and El Jefe if you’re feeling the spanish flare!

  32. mkd on April 13th, 2011 1:36 pm

    OK I thought of this at the gym and then I’ll let it go:

    Unidad Grande.

    Big Unit in Spanish

  33. jjdouglas1 on April 13th, 2011 2:35 pm

    Well we already have King Felix. How about Prince Michael?

  34. LanceWWU on April 13th, 2011 9:28 pm

    How about “muy picante” anybody get that simpsons reference???

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