Believe it or not, Michael Pineda has come back down to earth a bit after his dominant seven-inning, 16-strikeout performance on Mother's Day against the Orioles, but fans shouldn't just call him a flash in the pan just yet. While he has struggled over his last two outings, there is still one glaring weakness that he should be able to change overnight.
As I wrote earlier, Michael Pineda has replaced his traditional four-seam fastball with a cutter after his two-year long forced hiatus. Apparently, the only person who doesn't know about this change is Michael Pineda. His cutter's movement is similar to that of Angels ace Garrett Richards. Richards gets a bit more horizontal run and obviously throws harder, but the pitches aren't exactly polar opposites. Here's where Richards has thrown cutters to lefties, vs. Pineda:
Lefties are hitting just .130 off Richards cutter this year (called a four-seam fastball by Brooks Baseball) with no extra base hits. Meanwhile, they have a .400 batting average with a .629 SLG% against Pineda's cutter, possibly because he keeps it on the outer half of the plate.
For a normal four-seam fastball, that wouldn't be a problem, in fact it might be advisable. But for cutters, aiming for the outside corner can lead to pitches tailing back toward the middle of the plate, having that hanging slider effect. For good measure, here's where Richards threw his cutter to lefties in 2013, back when he was pretty bad:
Because Pineda's velocity still isn't back up to the upper 90's, he might have to get a bit more creative when pitching to righties. In an ideal world, he would have a two-seam fastball ready to keep righties on their toes. Even so, his nasty slider should be enough. If he can bring his cutter inside on lefties, he should be able to limit the damage they do. The occasional outside cutter that catches a bit of the plate at the last second would not hurt, but Pineda should probably be focusing on pounding his cutter inside for now. In the mean time, let's take a look at the heat map against lefties for the best cutter of all time:
If that isn't Hall of Fame command, I don't know what is.
Data is from Brooks Baseball, Heatmaps are courtesy of Baseball Savant