Mike Pelfrey has not exactly been consistent over the past one and a half seasons, but more often than not, when Pelfrey is locked in and pitching well, 60 feet, 6 inches away is a veteran backstop calling the game.
Pelfrey has always been a pitcher that has trouble stopping the bleeding once the going gets tough, and having a catcher who has been around the block a few times works well for Pelfrey. Someone who knows when to go out to the mound to settle him downis key for him. Most importantly, to have a catcher that can direct him and guide him through a game both when he is rolling and when he is struggling. That is what Pelfrey needs in order to succeed, and a veteran is most commonly the guy to do that.
We saw the first example of this early last season when Pelfrey was caught by two veterans in Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco to begin the 2010 season. Pelfrey also had something of a career month to start 2010 going 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA. Pelfrey was so dominant with a veteran catcher that Jerry Manuel basically gave him his own personal catcher in that of Blanco for the rest of the season after Barajas was traded.
Blanco was able to call the game, work with Pelfrey, go to the mound when needed and even in between innings would sit down with him and go over pitches and sequences from the prior inning. This would do wonders for Pelf’s confidence during the grind of a game. He kept him focused on the batter at the plate and not the one he just lost. This is what most veterans do for young pitchers, and what is essential to Pelfrey’s success.
Now in 2011, Ronny Paulino appears to be that guy for Big Pelf this season.When Josh Thole caught Pelfrey to start the year, he was painful to watch. Then once Paulino joined the team in early May, he quickly became basically Pelfrey’s personal catcher. Since then, with the exception of two bad starts, Pelfrey has been back to his 2010 form with Paulino behind the plate, most recently shown by last night’s complete game 5-hitter against the Angels.
I personally see catcher as a defensive position over an offensive position. Don’t get me wrong, some level of production from the catcher is important, but the defense and call-game of a backstop is so crucial to a ballgame on so many levels that the ability to work with a hurler like Pelfrey is vital. More often than not, that comes from a veteran catcher.
The presence of a veteran to work with Pelfrey through innings, out of jams, in the dugout and in the clubhouse has proven over the past two seasons to be essential to the level of his success that we saw from Pelfrey last night.