Monday, March 29, 2010

The Elevator

This is #3 of 5 Key Mets Players for the 2010 Season.
Once again, we have a repeat appearance in our list of Key Mets players for 2010.

Out of the 3 pitchers I've listed so far, Mike Pelfrey probably stands the best chance of bouncing back and having a successful season. On the other hand, he also stands the best chance of being sent down to the Minor Leagues to get his act together.

I was pretty well convinced, at the start of the 2009 season, that Mike Pelfrey was going to build on his success from 2008 and become the clear #2 in this rotation, with the continued potential to become a #1 or a #1A with Santana. But while Pelfrey had his moments, and there were certainly stretches where he looked good, the numbers never materialized and Pelfrey ultimately fizzled out, leaving us with no clue as to what to expect from him in 2010.

Something was always never quite right with Pelfrey last season. Even when he looked good. It all started off with him falling off the mound on Opening Night at Citi Field, then getting up and allowing a hit to the opposing pitcher which led to a 3-run rally against a team with no offense. There was the start in San Francisco where he kept balking. There was the other game where he kept muttering the pitch he was about to throw. There were more balks, and more problems, and it just kept mounting to the point where you were left shaking your head. Just another case of anything that could go wrong that ended up going wrong in 2009.

At least he stayed healthy.

Pelfrey's Spring in 2010 hasn't exactly been encouraging either. He's mixed good starts with alarmingly bad starts, and there hasn't been an in between. He's either been good or totally horrible. I realize he's been experimenting with new pitches, but he's not really instilling much confidence in a fan base that's not very confident to begin with. I've spoken with Mets fans who are actually rooting for Pelfrey to have a miserable season because they don't like him and want him gone from the team. One more bad season out of him, and these people may yet get their wish. It's pretty evident that the talent is there for Pelfrey. His performance in '08 and in certain moments last season showed us that he's not a total dud. But to that end, you can't do any better than lump him in with Maine and Perez as guys the Mets are selling high to us on based on what's tantamount to half a really good season and mixed results otherwise.

On the other side, there's the camp that thinks last season was just a "correction" for Pelfrey, and this season he's going to break out. I have a tendency to lean towards this side, with caution, and here's why: I've made mention previously about the whole "pitchers exceeding their inning total of the prior year" theory that so many people like to bring up. Pelfrey seems to me to be a prime candidate of this theory at work. So, for that matter, does Cole Hamels in Philly. Measure these two pitchers against each other and you'll see a similar pattern.

Cole Hamels: 227.1IP, 14-10, 3.09, 193H, 196K, 78BB (not including postseason) after 183IP in 2007.
Mike Pelfrey: 200.2IP, 13-11, 3.72, 209H, 110K, 64BB after 72.2IP in 2007 (plus more in the minors)

Cole Hamels: 193.2IP, 10-11, 4.32, 206H, 168K, 43BB
Mike Pelfrey: 184.1IP, 10-12, 5.03, 213H, 107K, 68BB

Both pitchers regressed after vastly exceeding their innings pitched total. There's something to this. Just look at Justin Verlander in Detroit. People wrote him off after a lousy 2008 following huge workloads in'06 and '07 and he responded with a career year in 2009. If you believe this theory, then you more than likely believe that Mike Pelfrey is going to have a very good season in 2010, probably much closer to that stretch in mid-2008 when he looked like he was going to be one of the NL's best pitchers.

I feel like he can do this, however I worry about his head (much the same way I'm sure Philly fans worry about Hamels' head, but then again, fuck him). They say that Perez is a headcase, but man, this guy looks like a psychologist's dream, between the palm-licking and the teeth gnashing and talking to himself on the mound. He needs to relax. He's not quite so down on himself as Maine tends to be, but when he gets in his head, that seems to be where his trouble starts. When he relaxed and trusted his stuff, and used his pitch progression to set everything up, that was when he had success. I just wonder whether or not he really has it in him to relax and trust his stuff.

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