Monday, June 26, 2017


Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America
"Michael Pineda has Cy Young-caliber stuff.

"His fastball. His slider. His changeup. All potentially dominant pitches.

"CC Sabathia knows it. Pineda knows it, too.

“I always come in and say this is the year he’s going to win the Cy Young,” Sabathia said Tuesday. “He’s got so much talent, and he just needs to put it all together but he’s right there.”

"Told of Sabathia’s praise a day later, Pineda laughed and smiled. “Yeah, I know I have that ability,” he said."

Those were the days, huh? That was the Daily News, folks.

(June 6, 2017 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)     
Those days were only four months ago, to be exact, and if you were buying it then congratulations. Your official pinstripe rose-colored glasses should be in the mail to you right about now.

That was pretty bold talk from both CC and Big Mike after three seasons that saw the latter go 23-27 with a 4.10 ERA and coming off a year he went 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA while coughing up 27 dingers.

Source: New York Daily News
Of course, there were those 207 strikeouts over 175 innings to dream on. Like AJ Burnett before him, the stuff to make bats miss has always been part of Mike's resume. And also like Burnett, there's always been a scary instability  to blow up like a vial of fulminated mercury at a moment's notice in his makeup as well.

In this, his walk year, though, he's proving to be who he always was: Burnett.

Burnett's Yankee years: 34-35  4.79 ERA  99 starts
Pineda's Yankee years: 30-30 4.01 ERA 86 starts

(May 21, 2017 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)     
Following Sunday's four-inning, seven-run stink bomb that once again saw the Yankees' bullpen burned up in a losing effort, per the Post's Joel Sherman: "Girardi said he “didn’t want to make a bigger deal than it is” about Pineda’s poor pitching because the manager described it as “the first time” that the righty did not do well in minimizing damage this year. But after the first two months, when he was 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA, Pineda went 1-2 in June with a 5.85 ERA and .316 average against."

"This dichotomy played to who Pineda has been as a Yankee — the stuff is there to tease that consistent excellence is possible. But the track record is pretty well established that Pineda will not sustain that level. His constant is inconsistency.

"And these Yankees really do need the best version of Pineda for 2017 to be more than just seeing silver linings.

"Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery actually have been the Yankees’ best starters. But it should be remembered that they have never pitched a full major league season in a rotation, and that both probably have innings caps to which the Yankees will adhere.

"That duo won the Nos. 4 and 5 jobs in spring with the Yanks hoping Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Pineda could form a sturdy top 3. Sabathia is on the DL, though getting closer to a return. Tanaka had a terrific start Friday, and the Yankees want to believe again that is a trigger — with him working up in the zone a little more with his fastball — that top-of-the-rotation results will regularly follow.

"And then there is Pineda, who Sunday became the first Yankees starter in 2017 not named Tanaka to allow three homers in a game. The skill is in there, but his June of bad start, good start, bad start, good start, bad start felt like a familiar one-step-forward, one-back pattern for him while in pinstripes.

"The Yankees could conceivably try to upgrade the rotation by promoting Chance Adams or finding a trade. But that would mean counting on another youngster and/or unearthing an available quality rotation arm and being able to complete a trade for it when other contenders, notably the Astros, will be hunting the same species.

"For now, the rotation you see is the rotation you get. Which means the Yankees remain in that most uncomfortable of positions — needing to depend on the undependable Michael Pineda."

In other words, this team needs more than a trade and a Chance to fix what ails its rotation if it hopes to lock up the division and make a deep, meaningful run at a ring.

It needs to be rebuilt from the top down.

That'll be costly and not likely compatible with the season's primary objective of constructing a self-sustaining  winning franchise for the future.

Quality pitching is never more expensive than it is at the trade deadline. And as much as I've been a believer in going all in this year when there was still a chance to bury the competition, some poor luck combined with some poor arms management in the dugout have combined to allow too many wounded rivals to recover from early knockout blows and get back into the postseason race.

Now with injuries piling up for the Yankees, their flawed rotation exposed and burning up their bullpen and blunting their momentum, and innings limits looming for their only two remaining "dependable" starters (an ironic and bittersweet label for the back end of the Opening Day rotation), I'm just hoping  Brian and Hal aren't persuaded by public pressure to deviate from their original blueprint and will only make deadline moves that make sense for the future.

If that means Brian dusting off his for-sale sign again and collecting more trade chips by dealing short-timers like Pineda and others instead of renting some for a playoff run, so be it.

I'll still enjoy the stretch run just as much as I did last year's after everyone wrote this team off. That's because the more invested in the future this team gets, the more they refuse to give up, entertain and surprise. That's why this team has been so much fun to watch this season.

They're already winners. We want a winner that lasts though, not another one-and-done batch of band-aids.

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

American Eagle

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