Mike Pelfrey was at it again Wednesday, tantalizing Met teammates, management, fans and writers with his Grapefruit League performance against the Red Sox.
‘Big Pelf’ has seemingly been on the precipice of greatness since being drafted by the Mets in the 1st round, 9th overall, in 2005. But nearly five years later questions remain about the talented young hurler…
Yesterday, I treated myself to multiple articles from Anthony McCarron from the Daily News and Steve Popper from the Bergen Record regaling the Met fan base with Pelfrey’s exploits against the Red Sox. Both articles were excellent and gave positive reviews of Pelfrey’s performance Wednesday, and of his improvement with his secondary pitches. Improvement of his secondary pitches is only one aspect of Pelfrey’s need for growth though.
I, personally, am a huge fan of ‘Big Pelf’. I believe he has the physical abilities to be an outstanding MLB pitcher. Pelfrey is being counted on to step up, along with both Ollie Perez and John Maine, to have bounce back seasons and to provide the Mets with 200 innings and 12-15 victories.
My problem with Mike Pelfrey is his inability to harness the mental aspect of the game. Similar to Perez, he goes to pieces when errors occur behind him. Mike’s body language (bordering on anxiety in my opinion) and inability to keep his emotions in check are things he needs to focus on as much as his secondary pitches.
Is this inability to keep his emotions in check a detriment to his continuing development? Is Pelfrey uncomfortable pitching out of the stretch as opposed to a full wind-up? Does Pelfrey get so nervous when runners get on that he chokes or changes the grip on the baseball? Does Mike get nervous or anxious pitching in front of big crowds in high pressure situations? Pelfrey seems to exhibit a mental inability to simply “turn the page” after a bad pitch or good at bat by an opponent.
When I look around baseball, there just aren’t that many major league pitchers with Mike Pelfrey’s physical attributes or talent. Mental toughness and baseball savvy and knowledge are what separate the bad and mediocre pitchers from the good and elite pitchers. Mental toughness is every bit as important as physical tools. For Mike Pelfrey to conquer the NL and learn the art of pitching he will need to harness the mental part of the game to enhance his excellent physical attributes.
Can you imagine if a gifted physical talent like Pelfrey had the mental toughness and bulldog mentality of say, Nellie Figueroa? (Could you imagine Figgy with Pelfrey’s physical talent?)
All of this begs the biggest question: Can Mike Pelfrey find success in New York?
I hope and believe the answer is yes. If it is not, Pelfrey may find himself eventually pitching in Cincy, KC or Pittsburgh.