In the wake of Michael Pineda‘s most recent outing, the discussion has centered around what he foreign substance was on his pitching hand (in fairness, it is definitely ‘what is it’ not ‘was it there’) rather than acknowledging his strong start to the season.
I suppose that much is understandable, but from a fantasy baseball perspective we need to stay above getting drawn into a sticky debate over pine tar. In 12 innings so far this season, one six inning start on the road and one at home last night, Pineda has yielded a run an outing with 11 combined base runners. Along the way, he’s fanned 12 batters and generally looked the part of a pitcher very much in control.
The above linked Larry Brown Sports article suggests that he may have been pitching with pine tar in his outing against the Blue Jays as well, but nevertheless I’m paying attention to the numbers and nothing more. We warned you this type of performance was coming in the preseason and you can’t count me among those happy to see his strong return from injury after a promising rookie season.
The numbers won’t hold all season (1.50 ERA, sub 1 WHIP, 6:1 K:BB ratio) of course, but that 2011 rookie campaign suggests that Pineda has the stuff to stay fantasy relevant all year. He’s relying on his dominant slider more heavily this year, through two games, than he did in that rookie campaign – throwing it 39.8% of the time, the most in the MLB through two weeks.
His ability to make use of that pitch has helped to offset the decline in his fastball velocity. The 6’7″, 260 pounder used his two years away from the game to develop into a true pitcher, as opposed to a player relying on the power generated from his immense frame. That’s good news for him over the long term, and for his ability to contribute to your fantasy roster through the course of the season.
If you don’t own Pineda now, the buying window probably hasn’t presented itself yet, unless you’re in a league with a particularly morally conscious owner or someone you can convince that the pine tar is responsible for his strong start. However, should a rough start or two take place (ideally, his next time out stirring all kinds of foreign substance related doubts).