What Happened To Mike Pelfrey’s Strikeout Rate?

An article by posted on August 18, 2009

When Omar Minaya decided that Mike Pelfrey would slide into the number two spot in the rotation, many of us had raised eyebrows to say the least. Even though I would have rather seen Pelfrey hold down the fort at the bottom of the rotation I figured that maybe there was a slim chance that Pelf could pull it off. I based that decision on how strongly Pelfrey pitched down the stretch in 2008, His numbers were certainly worthy of consideration.

Pelfrey got off to a rough start last season and in his first nine starts he found himself with a 2-6 record to go with an unsightly 5.33 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP. He was dangerously close to being sent down to the minors when he suddenly seemed to put it all together. In his last 23 starts, Pelfrey went 11-5 with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.233 WHIP. So you could see why there was some hope that his promotion to the number two spot might work itself out.

Unfortunately, the move has proven to be a failure and Mike Pelfrey was not ready to make the jump. His season as a whole can only be considered as a step backwards. His ERA currently stands at 4.75, over a full run higher than last season’s 3.72 mark. His other peripherals are slightly worse across the board.

I took a look a closer look at his numbers going all the way back to his junior year at Wichita State. I was surprised to learn that he was a power pitcher at college and his fastball could reach 98 mph when he put some extra mustard on it. In fact, I even read a couple of quotes that likened him to a right-handed version of Randy Johnson, mostly because of the size but also because of his excellent strikeout rate.

When the Mets selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft, he was projected to be the top pitcher in his draft class.

Pelfrey’s strikeout rate actually improved after the Mets drafted him and he began playing for Port St. Lucie initially and then Class-A Binghamton. Upon arriving to AAA and then the Majors, his strikeout rate plummeted.

I graphed it out for you so you could easily see the steep decline.

Once upon a time, Pelfrey was an overpowering pitcher who could blow people away with a fastball that had plenty of life and some incredible sink. Somehow, after that pit stop in AAA, not only did he seem to have lost a few mph off his heater, but his incredible sinkerball was just barely above average. When you compare his major league GB/FB ratio of 1.02 to Derek Lowe’s 1.70 you can see the big difference. Also, his ground-out ratio is 1.47 compared to 2.68 for Lowe. I picked Lowe because he was the first sinkerballer I thought of when I picked someone to compare Pelfrey to.

Anyway, I’m wondering if there was some adjustment made to Pelfrey’s delivery that caused him to become a much more different pitcher than the one we drooled over on draft day. The Mets have always been notorious for changing a pitchers mechanics, even though they do mean well and are only trying to create a smooth delivery to prevent a future injury down the road. But I wonder if it might be in the teams best interest and Pelfrey as well, to go back in time a few years and see if they can spot something that may get Pelfrey back on track. I’m no expert, but from a fans point of view, if there was a way to get Pelfrey pitching like he did prior to 2007, he would indeed make a heck of a number two pitcher and who knows, maybe even an ace.

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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