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Michael Pineda, Cliff Lee, And Command Vs. Control

Last night, I posted a little table of statistics that rather favorably compared Michael Pineda to Cliff Lee when Lee was a Mariner. I expressed after the table that Lee is still the better pitcher of the two because he has superior command, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to expand real quick on what that meant.

We've talked about this before a bunch of times, and I think it's a pretty simple concept to get. It's just good to have the occasional refresher for those who may not understand the difference between command and control. "Control" is used to refer to a pitcher's ability to throw strikes in the zone. "Command" is used to refer to a pitcher's ability to aim for, and hit, a particular spot.

Here are screengrabs from two pitches, the first obviously thrown by Pineda, and the second obviously thrown by Lee:



The red dot designates the spot where the catcher wanted the pitch. The yellow dot designates where the pitch wound up. In the first image, we see Pineda's pitch to Mitch Moreland in the top of the fifth that Moreland hit out. Olivo wanted a fastball down, but Pineda missed up and a little in. His pitch was still a strike, but it was not a well-located strike.

In the second image, we see a Lee pitch to some butt-sticker-outer on the Nationals. The catcher set up thigh-high and a little inside. Lee's pitch wound up thigh-high and a little inside. His pitch hit the target with precision.

It's clear based on Michael Pineda's zone rate and strike rate that he has strong control - not just for a rookie, but for anyone. Pineda does an outstanding job of throwing strikes. But his command isn't terrific, which is one of the reasons he ever allows a hit. He'll miss his spots, and even though he'll often miss in the strike zone, some strikes are more hittable than others.

It isn't a major red flag. Pineda's command is still pretty good, and while opposing batters will make him pay for the occasional missed spot, as Moreland and Chris Davis did yesterday, his results to date clearly show that his stuff is sufficiently overpowering that he can get away with inconsistent location. Pineda doesn't have to be perfect with every pitch. But as for the difference between Pineda and Lee outside of that data table - refer to those images above. Pineda throws hard-to-hit stuff in and around the zone. Lee throws his stuff almost exactly where he wants to.