It’s hard to believe that Mets quasi-number two starter, Mike Pelfrey (10-6, 4.16), has not won a game since June 25th when he improved his record to 10-2. Since that day he has seen his ERA swell from 2.42 to 4.16, and he has gone past the fifth inning just once in seven starts.
Pelfrey will get the start today despite the rumblings that he would be skipped this week to give the big right hander more time to work out his problems.
As has been the case in the last few starts, Dan Warthen and Jerry Manuel are hoping that another mechanical adjustment can get Pelfrey back to where he was when the season first started and he was pitching well.
“I thought we made huge progress in the bullpen this week,” Pelfrey said. “My bullpen was a lot better. I just need to take that into the game, and if I do that I’ll be alright.
He will be facing the Rockies tonight who he handled very easily back in April, throwing seven shutout innings against them.
While the Mets bats get much of the blame for their second half slide, there’s no hiding the fact that Pelfrey has been a contributing factor in his last seven starts in which he put the Mets in an early hole or failed to protect a 2-3 run lead.
For two straight offseason, the Mets decided against acquiring a number two pitcher to pair with Johan Santana, citing that they had one in Mike Pelfrey or that many of the options they could have signed or traded for were not as good as Pelfrey. That may or may not be true, but it is clear that Pelfrey has failed to show the guts and guile one would expect from a top of the rotation starter.
It might be time to consider Pelfrey for what he really is based on his performance in the last two seasons, and that is someone to fill out the bottom of the rotation and not the top.
My big concern now is that instead of going out and getting a viable number two starter this winter, the Mets may simply start championing Jon Niese for that role as they’ve done with Pelfrey, and squander another season in 2011. They’ll point to his 3.63 ERA and 1.39 WHIP and then throw their young southpaw into the furnace for a cruel baptism by fire. The Mets have to save face and justify their decision to not trade Niese for a Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and most recently Roy Oswalt when they had the chance.
One of those aces could have taken the mound behind Johan Santana on Opening Day in 2011. But, instead the Mets will either hold their noses and go with Pelfrey at number two again, or bend over clutching their chests and cling to the faint hope that Niese can handle the load. Don’t count on it.
You can’t force a pitcher to be an ace or number two starter. You can’t grab a sledge hammer and try to fit a round peg into a square hole. Top of the rotation starters on contending teams, earn those roles by virtue of their experience, performance, stamina, swagger and merit. You’re either born an ace like Doc Gooden and Tom Seaver, or you go through the trials and propel yourself to become an ace like Al Leiter and Johan Santana did. There are no shortcuts.