Look at the photo to the left. That was the linescore from last night’s game, a complete game victory by Mike Pelfrey in which Big Pelf was voted co-player of the game with Carlos Beltran (who hit a monster two-run homer that was estimated at 460 feet).
It was the first complete game of the season for a Mets pitcher and the first by Pelfrey since 2008, when he pitched all nine innings in back-to-back starts on August 20 and August 25. What do those games in 2008 and last night’s game have in common? All three efforts came at home. In fact, over his career, Big Pelf has stood quite tall at home, while wilting on the road.
Since coming up to the Mets in 2006, Mike Pelfrey has made 128 starts, going 47-46 with a 4.35 ERA, numbers that suggest a mediocre pitcher. However, his home/road splits suggest that Pelfrey is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type pitcher, as he performs surgery in his home uniform, but hides his talent in his road grays.
In 71 career home starts, Big Pelf is 29-21 (.580 winning percentage) with a 3.53 ERA. At Shea Stadium and Citi Field, he has given up fewer hits than innings pitched (446 hits in 450.2 innings) and has allowed only 24 home runs. The road is an entirely different story.
Mike Pelfrey has made 57 starts on the road. In those games, Pelfrey is 18-25 with a whopping 5.50 ERA. He has given up 392 hits in 322.1 innings and has allowed 38 home runs. Opposing batters hit .307 against him on the road, as opposed to .260 at home.
The home/road disparity has been more pronounced this year, as Pelfrey is undefeated at home (3-0) with a 2.96 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Opponents hit .220 against him at Citi Field and he has allowed four home runs in 48.2 innings. On the road, Pelfrey becomes Little Pelf, going 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, allowing a .308 batting average and nine home runs in 41.1 innings.
Pelfrey’s home/road splits are reminiscent of John Maine, the former Met right-hander who finished his career in New York with a 39-32 record and a 4.17 ERA. However, Maine was 22-14 with a 3.61 ERA at Shea Stadium/Citi Field and 17-18 on the road with an ERA a shade under 5.00.
Mike Pelfrey was regarded as a top prospect when he was first called up to the Mets in 2006. But while he has shown flashes of brilliance (13-11, 3.72 ERA in 2008, 15-9, 3.66 ERA in 2010), he has never been able to sustain that brilliance for an entire season’s worth of games.
Pelfrey is the dictionary definition of a streaky pitcher. When he’s hot, he’s unhittable (see April 2010). When he’s not, he makes fans wonder why he’s still on the team (see April 2011).
If Mike Pelfrey is ever going to become a true ace (not the de facto ace because the team’s true ace is out until who knows when), he must be able to translate his brilliance at home into road success. He can’t forget to pack his talent in his suitcase when he’s about to board a plane to another city. To be fully successful, a pitcher has to be consistently good all of the time. If a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey is going to be a success half of the time, then he’s going to be the first syllable of the word “success” the other half.
Mike Pelfrey is better than that. He just has to stand tall on the road to fully realize his potential.
Photos courtesy of the Studious Metsimus staff. Oh, wait. That’s me. Never mind.