Pelfrey Looking Sharp

Mike Pelfrey turned in an outstanding performance against the Astros in the most recently televised spring training game, showing exactly why many people are looking at him as the Mets’ #2 starter.

The two things that most impressed me about Pelfrey in this particular outing were his ability to change speeds and his supreme confidence. This time last year, Pelfrey was pitching scared, thinking too much, and picking around the plate. In this game, his manner and body language oozed with confidence, and he looked like he had a plan. The curveball was dropping nicely at an 11-to-5 angle and staying around the strike zone, at a 75-MPH speed — which maybe is a little too slow, but hey, he’s still shaking the dust off it. Pelf also started to hammer his sinker in on the hands of lefthanded hitters — a new concept, since he has always in the past tended to stay on the third-base side of the plate with that pitch. A number of pundits are already getting silly about the “new” pitch (the NY Times coined it a “front-door sinker”), but really it’s the same sinker he’s always thrown, but he’s now spotting it on the other side of the plate. I’m liking it.

In addition to Pelfrey’s performance, Nick Evans continues to make roster decisions difficult for manager Jerry Manuel. Evans is driving the ball with power, spraying to all fields, and showing patience at the plate. His fielding is still a bit suspect, but you can’t knock him for his effort — he’s a hustler. Taken out of the optimism of Port St. Lucie, Evans looks like he could evolve into a “mistake hitter” — the kind of guy who can jack a pitcher’s mistake over the fence. At the same time, he has some holes in his swing and will get overmatched by hard fastballs inside. I love the kid, and am rooting for him, but it’s going to be tough to carry him on a roster that includes 11-12 pitchers and at least one backup catcher. Those 3-4 bench players have to be versatile, and bring more than one tool to the table. Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis have two of those spots sewn up, and you have to figure at least one other spot goes to either one of the defensive-minded outfielders in camp, or Marlon Anderson (another guy who can play multiple positions). Evans’ glove just isn’t strong enough at either 1B or in the OF, and he doesn’t have the speed of a pinch-runner, so he either has to win a platoon job (not happening) or hope for an injury, to go north in April.

Speaking of Tatis, a strange comment by Keith Hernandez during the SNY broadcast of Thursday’s game, in regard to how Tatis’ versatility can be used to keep people fresh:

“One thing we know about Jerry Manuel, Jerry Manuel likes to REST HIS REGULARS”.

For the record, Keith, here are some of the “regulars”, and their games played in 2008:

Jose Reyes: 159
David Wright: 160
Carlos Delgado: 159
Carlos Beltran: 161
Brian Schneider: 110

Of course, the other positions — LF, RF, 2B — were originally supposed to be manned by players who ended up on the DL for extensive periods (Moises Alou, Ryan Church, and Luis Castillo). So other than Schneider, who missed games due to minor injuries eight different times during the season, the “regulars” certainly didn’t get rest. Manuel TALKED about resting the regulars when he took over the club last June, but never actually FOLLOWED THROUGH with that plan. Funny though, how some people’s words speak louder than actions.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. sylvan March 20, 2009 at 8:03 pm
    What’s your basis for impugning Evans’s glove at first base? The TotalZone info at minorleaguesplits pegs him as well above average over his career. Of course, I don’t know how meaningful that is, or what the scouts say.
  2. Mets4ever March 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm
    Mike has been very impressive since his decision to throw the curve again. I’ve never felt his curve was all that bad to totally abandon it (along with Peterson’s request). If he continues to believe in the pitches he feels comfortable with throwing, as wellas his confidence, I see no reason why he should not win atleast 15 games.
  3. joe March 21, 2009 at 12:15 am
    Sylvan, maybe I came across too harsh. I guess my point is, Evans’ glove is only average at first base, from what I’ve seen. I don’t buy into many (if any) of the stats for fielding, I trust my eyes. My eyes see a first baseman with only OK range, below-average to average ability in scooping low throws, and average ability in handling ground balls. He’s not a detriment, but I’m not sure he’s an upgrade over Carlos Delgado, who though has zero range, is very adept at picking balls in the dirt. Though, I will also admit that Evans’ less than underwhelming performance in that department could be due to being unfamiliar with the infielders who are throwing to him — it’s not unlike a catcher who has never caught a pitcher before, in that you need to get accustomed to the speed and tail of each individual’s throws.

    But the main point re: Evans’ glove is that you wouldn’t necessarily put him in for defense — certainly not in the outfield. And since the Mets already have Fernando Tatis to play 1B (and LF for that matter), Evans becomes redundant. It doesn’t help that Marlon Anderson — who happens to have a guaranteed MLB contract — is yet another person who can play both LF and 1B adequately, AND can play some 2B.

    You know what? If I were a coach in the Mets’ system, I’d suggest to Nick that he try his hand at catching. If he could be an emergency third catcher, he’d be a cinch to make the team. But, it takes a special personality to don the tools of ignorance.

    I’m confident that Evans will find his way to MLB at some point this season, likely due to someone’s injury. I hope so, as he’s a fun guy to root for.

    Mets4Ever – have to agree with you. In fact, if that curveball continues to develop, he might win closer to 20. It continues to baffle me that a) Peterson took away his offspeed pitches and b) that Pelf was able to be as successful as he was in the second half throwing, effectively, at only one speed. If he can be that effective w/o changing speeds, and now he’s mixing in curves and changes, watch out — this is Brandon Webb territory.

  4. sincekindergarten March 21, 2009 at 5:00 am
    I saw a Joel Sherman (?) column in the New York Post yesterday where one scout was quoted as saying that if Pelfrey refines (he already throws it pretty good) the sinker that Livan Hernandez taught him, he’ll win 18 this year. Also, in the column was this tidbit–Albert Pujols confided to Omar Minaya that Pelfrey’s sinker, before he picked up Livan’s new one, makes Big Pelf Pujols’ toughest at-bat against. (Follow me there?)

    In MLB ’09: The Show, I can’t seem to get Big Pelf out of the fourth inning. No sinker. 🙁

  5. isuzudude March 21, 2009 at 9:49 am
    Two points:

    1. Regarding Nick Evans. Love the kid, but not seeing him make the cut. Why? So far this spring, no one has had more ABs than Evans for the Mets. Evans was also a full-time starter in the minors, whether playing the OF, 3B, 1B, or DHing. And looking at Evans’ stats while on the Mets last year, you can see that Evans was a .276 hitter when starting games, but a meek .182 hitter as a PH/sub. Though speculation, I derive that, at this stage of his career, Evans is not suited to be a productive bench player, which is what his role would be if he made the Mets. He’s not going to get 5+ starts per week with the Mets, and there is no position, barring injury, he would be a platoon player at. My suggestion, then, would be to start him off at AAA, and give the 5 bench spots (or 6, depending on how many pitchers are carried out of ST) to Castro, Tatis, Cora, Reed, and Anderson. If an extra spot is open, I’m inclined to give it to Cancel, only because of Schneider’s knee problems. I would start Evans for the majority of the time at AAA, moving him all around the diamond to give him reps at whatever position he could eventually be helpful at for the Mets later in the year, but also make sure that on his off days to get him pinch hitting ABs so he gets used to coming into a game cold and making the most of his 1 plate appearance in the game. When he improves his skills at that art, then I think the Mets can start making plans to make him a permanent addition to the fold.

    2. Regarding Jerry and the media’s love affair. I watched a Mets Classic on SNY last night from May of 2005, the second month during Willie’s tenure. Granted, the game was on Fox, but Joe Buck and Timmy Mc”C” were as in love with Willie then as the media is with Jerry today. And for many of the same reasons we’re hearing why Jerry is such a genious. Willie had installed a new attitude that focused on a team-first mentality. Willie was resting his regulars. Willie was hitting and running. Willie was being creative with the bullpen. Willie was doing no wrong. And though the Mets finished only 4 games over .500 that year and spent most of the season in the cellar of the NL East, Willie was being applauded as a success. I think the reason is that every manager invokes a newlywed effect amongst the media and fanbase, whereas life was so rotten under the previous regime (in Willie’s case, the do-nothing Art Howe) that no matter how intelligent or hapless the new manager really is, ANYTHING is better than what it was before. Just look at our own presidency. I’m convinced Fidel Castro could have run for the democratic party and won in a landslide because the country was sick of republicans. The same, to a certain extent, could be said for Jerry in his replacement of Willie. And mark my words, when Jerry fails to meet expectations and the newlywed effect wears off, he’ll be thrown under the bus faster than he can say gangster. It’ll be entertaining to hear how a guy who can do nothing wrong right now can become an absolute ignoramous once the team starts under achieving.

  6. joe March 23, 2009 at 11:06 am
    ‘dude, interesting point on Evans and full-time vs. part-time duty. They may want to put him in AAA as a make-or-break — to see if he can be the heir apparent at 1B after Delgado leaves.

    There is one HUGE difference between the honeymoons for Willie and Jerry: when Willie took over, the team was not so great. Beltran was a bust, Piazza a shell of himself, Braden Looper was the closer, and Miguel Cairo, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Victor Diaz were all regulars. Victor Zambrano pitched in 31 games! Not to mention that the front office wouldn’t let Willie bat D-Wright, his best hitter, in the #3 spot, because the team had spent so much on Beltran and they were afraid that Wright wouldn’t be ready to handle the pressure (did you really think Willie had control of that?).

    In contrast, Jerry Manuel took over a team that had come within one game of the postseason the year before, and was built for “meaningful games in October”.

    Finally, you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why the love affair for Jerry Manuel drive me nuts — everything that Manuel is supposedly “changing” about the Mets are the EXACT things that Willie initiated after the unfocused disaster known as the Art Howe Era. Manuel == Randolph, so anyone who criticizes one and not the other, or praises one and not the other, is blinded by a personal bias.

    Oh and I agree with your Fidel Castro suggestion. Ironic, also, that this Presidency — for all the “change” it was supposed to bring — is turning out to be exactly like the last one. Funny how baseball can imitate life, eh?