Mike in the Mix: Pelfrey’s Phenomenal Season So Far

The National League has always been seen as more of the “cerebral” league in baseball, the one where managers have to think and not just throw out eight hitters plus an additional one each day but have strategy, one of which pitching is more valuable than hitting.  Pitching has created several headlines this season, with one no-hitter and two, count ’em, TWO perfect games (one in each league).  And it’s only May!  I’m sure like most of you, I prefer seeing a pitcher’s duel any day over a home-run derby type of blowout.

My current fan-crush is on San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum, last year’s Cy Young Award Winner (and the year before).  I feel like I am weird because though I am a Mets fan, first and foremost, I never turn down a chance to go to a game at another park where I can appreciate the art of the game.  I’m sure if I lived closer to the San Francisco area, I would be going to see Lincecum start any time I could.  (On a side note, I am going to his bobblehead giveaway in July this year – yes, the Mets will be in town).  It’s a crying shame Lincecum has no run support on his team, boasting only seven decisions in 11 starts.  He is a strikeout MACHINE though with 83, count ’em, 83 Ks so far in 70.2 IP.  Aye carumba!

I don’t like the team he is on, but one has to give props to the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, who pitched a perfect game just this weekend.  Currently, Halladay has some sick numbers, with a 7-3 record (not recording a decision in just one start), with 1.99 ERA, 0.988 WHIP and 70 Ks in 86 IP.

(On a side note, both Lincecum’s and Halladay’s middle names are Leroy.  In fact, that is how Halladay got his nickname of “Roy.”  Just thought that was funny.  Moving right along…)

The Colorado Rockies do not have such a rich pitching history (Jason Jennings, anyone?), but Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez has been en fuego this season, leading the league in wins with 10 (boasting a 10-1 record in 11 starts), 0.78 ERA, 0.925 WHIP and 70 Ks in 80.1 IP.  Not to mention TWO complete games.  Jimenez also pitched the NL’s first no-hitter of the season in April against the Braves

To the naked eye (or casual fan), if you were to ask “Who is the Mets staff ace?”, certainly one would blurt “Johan Santana” without blinking an eye.  The funny thing is, I probably would have said the same thing, since he himself said that in the offseason, when asked who the best pitcher in the NL East was, “Santana” was his answer.

The bright star in the Mets season has been none other than Michael Alan Pelfrey, or as we like to call him Mets’ world, “Big Pelf.”  It used to be that when Santana would take the mound, Mets fans felt as though this was the best shot at winning.  I am really happy to say that I feel that way when Big Pelf takes the mound these days.

It wasn’t always so easy for Pelf.  I always kind of felt like he was rushed and it took him a good year, year and a half to get into the “groove” of things.  We finally got a glimpse of how good Pelfrey could be in 2008, when he started in 32 games, going 13-11 with 110 Ks in 202.2 IP.  Mets fans always said that we needed a guy who could go 200+ IP per year, and it looked like Pelfrey was finally over that hump.

Enter his lackluster campaign in 2009.  While the injury bug seemingly did not hit Pelfrey, his bottom line took a hit, with a 10-12 record on the season, with a slightly atrocious WHIP of 1.514.

Most Mets fans did not know what to expect of Pelfrey in 2010, whether his sophomore jinx was more a result of the infamous Verducci Effect, or if he was somewhere in the middle of what he’s shown us so far.

Pelfrey has given us a little bit of everything in 2010 and all of the good stuff.  He’s currently tied for second in league wins with 7 (well, he’s tied with five other pitchers, but that’s besides the point), and we’re starting to feel as though he is more of an exclamation point in the rotation as opposed to a question mark.  Heck, he even earned a SAVE in the epic marathon 20-inning game against the Cardinals in April!  He currently has a 2.54 ERA and an average WHIP of 1.304 (still lower than his career so-far average of 1.467, only “borderline” atrocious).

It’s unfortunate that he was the Susan Lucci of the month of April, overshadowed by the dominant performance of Jimenez who won the National League Pitcher of the Month in April.  Perhaps, it’s the lack of pressure that is allowing Pelfrey to perform at this level.  I would also like to point out that he recently shut down the division rival Phillies against, well, I guess their version of Pelfrey in Cole Hamels (since we cannot call him an “ace” there anymore, that truly belongs to Halladay at this point) the other night.

Mike Pelfrey has been one of the unsung heroes thus far in 2010, not to mention the unsung pitching secondary “ace” on the team who will always be overshadowed by Johan Santana.  Not that it’s bad thing.  Maybe being out of the spotlight will help Pelfrey flourish and be the pitcher he is supposed to be.

Chances are, we can look back at Pelfrey’s career and say he is the best homegrown righty this team has had since Doc Gooden.  Of course, his career right now after two full seasons and two abbreviated seasons is more reminiscent of Bobby J. Jones, another homegrown righty from Fresno.

I doubt Pelfrey will be tied for second in wins this whole season, or that he won’t have some hiccup starts along the way.  However, I am a card-carrying member of the Mike Pelfrey Appreciation Society…are you???