Looking over the Yankees 2012 roster there are two pitchers that might jump right out at you. Upon a quick sizing up, they seem to be cut from the same cloth. One is a young, up and coming 23-year-old named Michael Pineda. The other is battle-tested 31-year-old veteran CC Sabathia. It could be claimed to be wishful thinking that the young Pineda is headed down the same trail the elder Sabathia has blazed. However, it might not be that far-fetched.
It’s worth arguing that no Yankee player is getting more attention this spring than the new big man of the Bronx, Michael Pineda. Pineda joins the Bombers from the Seattle Mariners where he was picked for the 2011 AL All-Star pitching staff and finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting (behind fellow Yankee Ivan Nova). In his one-year stint at Safeco Field, Pineda had shown flashes of potential to be an ace. If he sticks around the Bronx, he and Sabathia could form an imposing, intimidating 1-2 punch. CC Sabathia started his career with the Cleveland Indians 10 years prior to the debut of Pineda. CC finished 2nd in RoY voting in 2001 yet did not make the All-Star team as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Both big men had impressive starts to their career, but given CC’s longevity and accomplishments (World Series champion, Cy Young winner, five-time All-Star selection) it might be a little unfair, if not reaching, to compare the two at this point in their careers. Still, there are some interesting stats to look at during the duo’s first full seasons.
First, there is the difference in the W-L category. Sabathia managed 17-5 record in 33 starts, while Pineda ended up with a losing season at 9-10 after 28 starts. The average IP for each start favors Pineda by about half an inning (6.10 verses 5.45). And while the W-L totals bend heavily in Sabathia’s favor, ERA is a different story. Pineda finished with a 3.74 compared to Sabathia’s 4.39. Not a major difference, but it is clear that CC was the beneficiary of an Indians roster that had much more offensive pop than the 2011 Mariners.
Speaking of run support, take a look at the output when contrasting the two. Michael Pineda went 1-7 with an ERA of 3.31 when Seattle scored between zero and two runs. It’s a night and day difference when they put up three to five runs: a 7-2 record and a 3.11 ERA. Sabathia seemed better equipped to pitch in tight games. This is demonstrated by his 1.92 ERA with zero to two runs to work with and posting a record of 2-2. He seemed to ease up when given three to five runs as his ERA balloons to 4.78. More telling is how relaxed he got when given six or more runs. CCs ERA inflates further to a 5.76 while managing to go 10-0 in 15 starts. Pineda was only given run support that high in six games going 1-1 with an even higher 5.94 ERA.
Despite pitching about nine innings less than Sabathia did, Pineda (in 171 innings) managed 173 Ks to CCs 171 (thought 180.1 IP). WHIP again favored Pineda as he commanded a strong 1.09 versus the 1.35 of Sabathia. While CC led the league in hits per nine innings (7.4), again Pineda slightly bettered him with a 7.0 H/9. The two were identical with home runs per nine innings at 0.9 but Pineda showed more control walking only 2.9 per nine innings to CC’s 4.7. The strikeout ratios are comparable with 9.1 for Pineda and 8.5 for Sabathia. As for giving up the long ball, Pineda again bested CC by the slimmest of margins- 18 home runs allowed verses 19. And once again, given the ever-popular WAR stat, the difference is negligible with CC coming out on top this time with a 2.7 to Pineda’s 2.8. So far, it appears the two are more alike than first assumed.
As for the tandem’s pitching repertoire, both rely heavily on a fastball. CC threw his 70.1 percent of the time while Pineda fired his at 62.2 percent. Both had a three-pitch arsenal that included a sparingly used changeup that was just under seven percent of the time. While Pineda mixed in a nasty slider 31.5 percent of the time, CC utilized his curve for just 23.2 percent of his pitches. For the much-touted velocity, looking back at CC’s rookie year he averaged a tad over 92 MPH. Pineda’s fastball in 2011 averaged a notch under 95 MPH.
Reports were everywhere this spring in regards to the lack of speed on Pineda’s fastball. In his last outing against the Tigers, he was clocked as high as 94 MPH. There probably isn’t a need for the Yankees to be worried.
There is no doubt that CC Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s accomplished quite a bit in his 10 MLB seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down. In addition, CC has faced limited injury concerns and could probably pitch at a high level for another few years. Its still early to pass judgment on what type of pitcher Michael Pineda will become, but comparing him to one of the modern greats show he could be on pace for a long and productive career.