Pelfrey Ditches Slider
According to Mets.com:
Pelfrey pitched for the first time since March 4. He had missed a turn of the rotation because of a strained muscle in his lower left leg. He was delighted with the effect of his curveball — he has scrapped the slider altogether — and a changeup he threw 11 times, once to a left-handed hitter.
Interesting turn of events, eh? Especially since we’ve been discussing Pelfrey’s need for an offspeed pitch right here for the last year and a half?
If you weren’t with us, or forgot, check the following tidbits from archived articles:
From “Why Change?” (4/10/2008)
Mike Pelfrey is an ideal example of a shortcut pitcher — someone who is force-fed to the bigs by focusing on his main strength, and adding the easiest pitch to develop quickly (a slider). This strategy gets batters to swing and miss over the short term, but eventually they catch on — see: Jorge Sosa. The most successful pitchers of this and every other era were those who threw at more than one speed.
From “Pelfrey’s Curveball” (3/8/2008)
To understand why it’s so important for Pelfrey to throw a curveball (or a changeup) for strikes, you need only have watched his outing today. His first time through the lineup, he pitched well, spotting the fastball all around the zone and mixing in that inconsistent breaking pitch. The second time through the lineup, however, the batters were sitting on the fastball — waiting for it, and jumping all over it. The batters knew that Pelfrey wasn’t throwing a changeup and were usually able to recognize and lay off the hard-breaking slider. So they timed his fastball and hacked at it. In other words, the batters had little to think or guess about.
If Pelfrey could have dropped a few more of those breaking pitches — the ones with the slower, downward break — into the strike zone early in counts, then the batters would have more to think about. They wouldn’t have the luxury of sitting on the fastball.
…Maybe Mike Pelfrey can “accidentally” throw more curveballs. If he did, he would not only win the fifth starter spot but likely win 10-12 games this year.
Obviously, I’m happy to hear that Big Pelf will be working harder on changing speeds by using his curveball and a changeup. After he gets at least one of those pitches going, he can probably bring back the slider and use it the way it’s supposed to be used — as a strikeout pitch, maybe 5-6 times a game. Tom Seaver was the master of this strategy, relying heavily on the fastball-change-curve repertoire, and pulling the slider out of his pocket only when absolutely necessary — such as with two on and two out in the seventh inning of a one-run game. He’d drop the pitch just off plate and below the knees, and get the batter to reach for it and miss.
I truly believe that if Pelfrey can develop EITHER the curve or the change into a consistent, plus pitch, he can be a true ace. Will that happen in ’09? Who knows? But if he focuses on building up one of those offspeed pitches throughout the season, he could be in line for the 2010 Cy Young Award.