Michael Pineda makes a strong impression in Yankees debut

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Michael Pineda made his Yankees debut on Saturday against the Blue Jays, more than two years after he joined the club in the trade that sent then-prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners. During spring training, Pineda injured the labrum in his right shoulder and eventually underwent surgery in May. Pineda missed all of the 2012 season and most of the 2013 season recovering.

In June last season, Pineda was finally cleared to begin pitching against live competition. He joined the Single-A Tampa Yankees for two starts, then the Double-A Trenton Thunder for two starts, and finally the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders for six starts. In total, the right-hander posted a 3.32 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 14 unintentional walks in 40 2/3 innings. The final step was spring training. In 15 innings this past spring, Pineda posted a 1.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts and one walk. At the end of March, manager Joe Girardi announced that Pineda would, at long last, be a part of the Yankees’ rotation.

In his Yankees debut tonight, the 25-year-old right-hander held the Jays to one run on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts over six innings. The Yankees, unfortunately, couldn’t support him with any offense and Pineda took a tough-luck loss. According to Pitch F/X, Pineda was in the 92-94 MPH range, hitting 95 at times.

The real test, of course, will be Pineda’s ability to turn in solid outings on a consistent basis. But step one, at least, was a huge success. The Yankees, who lost first baseman Mark Teixeira to injury on Friday, could use some uplifting news right about now.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.