Monday, November 26, 2012

In Which I Make Mike Pelfrey Relevant

Mike Pelfrey last threw a pitch on April 21.  That day he threw 102 pitches in eight innings and only gave up one run.  Shortly after he had Tommy John surgery and spent the rest of the season healing and preparing to pitch in 2013.  Right now he is a Met.  By the end of the month he will be a free agent.  The combination of his inconsistency on the mound, major surgery, and having Scott Boras as his agent work against the Mets giving him another chance.  But offering him a minor league contract might not be the end of the world.

Pelfrey will turn 29 in January, already younger than some of the low-risk signings they've made for previous seasons.  He only knows this organization, and he has only had a real issue with Rick Peterson who has been gone for quite a while.  And perhaps the biggest point, he actually looked pretty good before the surgery.  His two other starts this season saw him throw 6 innings and give up 1 run and 5.2 innings while giving up 3 runs.  In his shortest outing he had 8 strikeouts.

Statistics of three starts aren't nearly enough to look at though.  The 2008 season proved that he isn't always able to carry success.  But this season showed me the first signs of a desire to improve, even if it meant rebuilding his approach.  Rick Peterson forced Pelfrey to change his entire approach to pitching and now, more than a few years later, that can be connected to his downfall.  He used to be able to blow batters away with his sinking fastball and fool batters with his curveball.  He turned into a pitcher with a decent, but not overwhelming, fastball, inconsistent change-up, and sinker.

It would be an understatement to say he experienced growing pains.  People expected him to be a ground ball pitcher.  They saw his 6'7" frame and wanted him to fire his fastball past every batter.  His mechanics were largely inconsistent.  That is, they were inconsistent until this year.

It's hard to judge such a small sample size but I'm going to judge it anyway.  As opposed to last year and the year before that and the year before that, all seasons that his sinker didn't quite sink enough and his pitches flattened by the fifth inning, this season he finally made productive adjustments to his windup.  He worked on staying on top of his sinker, and in his limited innings he was able to make the adjustment.  He made a conscious effort to stand more upright on the mound.  Perhaps the most noticeable consistency in his windup was his addition of a reach over his head before throwing the pitch.

One thing that may be important to note with Pelfrey is that his success doesn't necessarily rely on strikeouts.  In 2008 and 2010, his two better seasons, he had 110 and 113 strikeouts, respectively.  But in 2009 and 2011, two of his much more trying seasons, he had 107 and 105 strikeouts, respectively.

Comfort has been essential to any possibility of success throughout Pelfrey's career.  He will probably get offers from other teams, and he has every right to consider each offer as deeply as he wants.  But I can't imagine him getting many offers of Major League contracts.  The Mets have nothing to lose by offering him a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training.  There is no such thing as too much pitching depth.  Heck, maybe he'll shock the world and become a valuable relief pitcher.  They'll never know if they don't try.

Let's Go Mets!

1 comment:

Ceetar said...

Pelfrey's actually an easy case. Either he accepts a reasonable minor league offer, or he goes somewhere else. If there's no spot for him when he's ready, you trade him. league average starters have lots of value, particularly to whichever handful of teams are dealing with pitcher injuries in late May.

He's like not going to be any different than the pitcher he's always been. league average, innings eater, low-K guy that relies a lot on the defense behind him to dictate his success. He's the perfect depth guy in this situation.