Pelf-Awareness

An article by posted on May 6, 2011

I am one of the regulars on a weekly Kult of Mets Personalities podcast, and if you listened to it, you would know that I am the resident Mike “Big Pelf” Pelfrey homer. I root for him probably harder than any other Met. I don’t know why either, but I feel a personal connection to Big Pelf. It’s mostly because I saw him pitch in his major league debut in 2006. I always felt he got the bum’s rush in between 2006 and 2007, and then had his break out season in 2008. It was tough to see who the “real” Mike Pelfrey was in the midst of 2009, with the team just tanking as badly as they did, but then he re-emerged in 2010. I truly felt this was the Mike Pelfrey that I believed in, the Big Pelf who was finally living up to his potential.

But being a huge Pelfrey supporter does not make me one of those apologists. I call myself jokingly a “homer” but I am a realistic optimist when it comes to him. Of course I have a soft spot in my heart for home grown talent and especially for home grown pitchers, but I am realistic in acknowledging that Mike Pelfrey’s start this season is a cause for concern.

What I don’t appreciate is when Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were let go by the Mets organization that most people were looking to find their next scapegoat. I was surprised when I heard most people wanting to go after Mike Pelfrey, a guy who just won 15 games the year prior. But it was an easy target: after all, we knew he was a head case and here was Mets manager Terry Collins putting the label “ace” on him with the absence of Johan Santana. Now, I know Mike Pelfrey isn’t the “ace” of a rotation with or without Johan Santana, and probably will never be…But outside of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (of course those two are bad examples since they are on the same team), Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez, are there truly “aces” like the way we were schooled on them (like the Tom Seavers, Nolan Ryans, Dwight Goodens, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, etc) left in baseball today?

But that’s not even the question here. What I want to know is the following about starting Mike Pelfrey or keeping him around at all…when he’s playing for an NL East team and he pitches HORRIBLY against NL East teams???

Here’s a newsflash folks: It’s not about his head, it’s not about whether he’s good or not, whether he’s a fly ball pitcher or strikeout pitcher or whatever, it’s the fact that he can’t perform well against any NL East team on the road.

Against NL East teams, here is a sampling of Mike Pelfrey’s career numbers against NL East teams. 

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TeamGames StartedWinsLossesERABAWHIPK/9
Atlanta Braves15495.65.3311.7444.6
Florida Marlins13175.63.3051.6535.5
Philadelphia Phillies15655.25.2971.55.2
Washington Nationals16464.22.2671.4394.6

Source: Baseball Reference

These are teams he’s going to face the most over a given time season. He has GOT to bring it better than what the numbers show above.

But to add insult to injury, he seems to only perform decently against these teams while at CitiField. Did you know he’s never won a game at Nationals Park in four starts? And he’s got an over NINE ERA against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park! No wonder Ryan Howard can tee off him there!

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StadiumGames StartedWinsLossesERABAWHIPK/9
Turner Field (ATL)8256.75.3471.7344.9
Landshark Stadium (FLA)6035.88.2971.6635.3
Citizens Bank Park (PHI)7139.38.3792.1474.0
Nationals Park (WAS)4034.74.2681.4593.3

Source: Baseball Reference

Needless to say, those numbers are pretty atrocious, barring any start against any other team. While Pelfrey has been consistently inconsistent at times in his career, the fact is he’s been abysmal against the very teams that he has to absolutely step up his game.

Why are we discussing this now? Clearly, I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Sandy Alderson and the crew backing him up in JP Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. After all, they didn’t make any rash decisions until they were able to see the team perform; they didn’t go wild and crazy with the free agency market and setting the team back even further; they were able to cut ties with those who needed to (Pedro Feliciano ,Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo) and round out the rest of the team and bullpen with some high-reward low-risk types (Chris Young, Chris Capuano, and Jason Isringhausen to name a few).

If I can be pleased that they didn’t jump the gun simply for jumping it, I have to say that I am dismayed at a few things. One is that I’ve been thrown under the bus for suggesting Angel Pagan should have been traded in the offseason. I still believe they could have gotten better value for him then. Two is that for a front office team that is so heavily reliant on stats, the decision should have been a no-brainer: the 20/20 hindsight of trading Mike Pelfrey at his high value.

It’s not even trading him at his high value. Mike Pelfrey, while he has shown some glimmers of hope and talent there over the years, is maddeningly inconsistent against NL East teams. If a schmoe blogger like myself can easily look up some stats on Baseball Reference, chances are they dropped the ball on this. Now, Pelfrey has shown that he’s got issues again, and unless he has a bounceback month (which I won’t totally rule out), the fact is the Mets aren’t going to get any value for Mike Pelfrey whatsoever. At least, to the extent of what they’ve invested in him already.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I love Mike Pelfrey. No one wants to see him succeed more than me (well, maybe I know a few others over at Brooklyn Met Fan who do). I am also of the frame of mind that if he can succeed elsewhere I can put my homerism aside and let him be the best he can be someplace else. His stats suggest that he’s been successful against AL East teams (of all things) and against NL Central teams. Some team wouldn’t have wanted to take a gander at him?

Most of all, I believe that when Mike Pelfrey leaves, he’ll come back to bite us in the ass, Nolan Ryan-style. I can see Big Pelf being a force on another team. To me, sad as I am to admit to it, his time may have come and gone here in New York. I just wish that it didn’t take a month into the season for everyone to realize this.

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