Should You Be Concerned About Mike Pelfrey?

Mike Pelfrey gave up 12 hits and 6 runs in 5 innings of work on Sunday, and has allowed 7 homeruns in his last two ST outings. His spring ERA is around 8. Should you be concerned with these numbers?

Not necessarily, but there is some cause for concern. Yes, some of the homers were wind-blown. But, at the same time, it’s pretty difficult to hit a homerun on a ground ball — so regardless of the wind, the fact Pelfrey is giving up so many fly balls is a bit disturbing. The balls in the air not going over the fence haven’t exactly been bloopers, either — he’s giving up frozen ropes. Again, is this cause concern?

Pelfrey will tell you “no”, with the explanation that he is “working on things”. After all, his job in the rotation is secure, so spring training is a good time to try new pitches. Maybe he’s getting ripped on pitches that he’ll shelve before the regular season starts, for example.

Taking all this into consideration, there are still some things that concern me — things I see from the man on the mound, not in the numbers.

For one, I see someone who is “telegraphing” his pitches — specifically, Pelfrey is slowing down his delivery when he throws off-speed pitches. That needs to be worked out pronto.

Second, I see Big Pelf unable to consistently repeat his mechanics — which is partially because of the previously mentioned issue. The glaring symptom is his follow-through: when he finishes with his head low, “nose to toes”, hand finishing below his front knee and past his left ankle, his command for the most part is good and the pitch is down in the zone. However, about 25-30% of the time, he’s been “cutting off” his pitches, releasing the ball from a slightly higher and more erect position, with his glove pulling a little too much toward first base — the telling sign is a follow-through that is above his front knee (or a pitch up in the zone). Though this delivery could be related to working on off-speed / breaking pitches, I’m seeing it occasionally on fastballs.

Finally, I heard several times during the SNY broadcast that Pelfrey was “using all four pitches”. Whaaaa? What “four pitches”, pray tell? As of September 2009, Pelfrey had somewhat mastered one pitch — a sinker — and was on the way toward mastering a four-seam fastball. His slider was also showing potential, and his changeup needed a lot of work. Yet this spring, in addition to the fastball and sinker, he’s “throwing” a slider, curveball, and split (no official word on the changeup). To me, this is concerning.

I will be the first one to scream that Mike Pelfrey needs to develop his “secondary stuff” — meaning, something other than the fastball / sinker. However, why is he working on 3 or 4 pitches rather than focusing on one? With his hard 95+ MPH four-seamer and bat-breaking sinker already on the way to being plus pitches, you would think the Mets would have him concentrate on MASTERING one more excellent pitch, rather than working on three mediocre pitches. The idea that “more pitches gives the batter more to think about” is overblown — particularly if you can’t command those “more pitches”. In fact, regularly missing with an array of secondary pitches means a batter can sit “dead red” on the fastball.

Since Pelfrey’s debut in 2006, he’s had a heater and a steaming sinker, but no “third” pitch to put him over the top. Four years later, he’s still tinkering with an assortment of secondary pitches, waiting for that third pitch to magically appear — not unlike a card trick.

If Pelfrey would commit to mastering just one pitch at a time, he’d likely come up aces.


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. Tandy #3 March 30, 2010 at 10:59 am
    Great stuff, Joe, but I always enjoy the mechanical skew to your material – especially with your pitcher reviews.

    At this point in ST, one would expect El Girafe to be tuning his stuff for the season already, not figuring out which new pair of socks match his brown shoes. Not sure if that’s a coaching issue, it always seems like the players don’t have much structure as far as development plans and they are largely on their own. I’ll be diplomatic and say it’s a philosophical / org. culture thing, perhaps the Mets “manage” more than they “coach”.

    In any case, IMO there is no good reason why a major leaguer with an 8-foot-tall frame can’t leverage a four-seamer to devastate with two strikes on the batter.

  2. joejanish March 30, 2010 at 11:48 am
    Tandy – I like that comparison of socks and shoes!

    As much as some pitchers did not get along with Rick Peterson, I’m beginning to believe he was exactly the right person to be coaching people like Pelfrey, Ollie Perez, and John Maine, because Peterson was a stickler for adhering to a disciplined schedule and focused, consistent routines.

    Veteran pitchers with past success tend to know what they have to do to get themselves ready, so that micromanagement (and Peterson’s kookiness) rubbed them the wrong way — which was part of the reason Dan Warthen’s laissez-faire sytle was so warmly welcomed at first.

    We’ll see what happens with the Moe, Larry and Curly … er, Maine, Pelfrey, and Ollie … but if they all have another disappointing season you have to wonder if they’d have been better off being micromanaged — in essence, told what to do and when to do it.

  3. Walnutz15 March 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm
    [NUTZ DISCLAIMER: Pelfrey’s a guy I still have hope for; and truly want him to turn the corner this season.]

    “One day I want to become an actual pitcher, you know?” Pelfrey said with a smile afterward.

    ^ Quotes like this one scare me. This is a 26 year old kid — going on his 5th season of Major League experience. He was a dominant collegiate pitcher, and a high draft pick.

    My question would be: what has Pelfrey truly learned over the past handful of seasons….that has him on the right track, so to speak — because he really doesn’t miss many bats, and hasn’t since he was rushed to The Majors to join a highly-charged lineup. They clearly figured that he could pitch to a 4 ERA, and that they’d pick him up by scoring more runs than their opponents.

    Foolish philosophy. Pelfrey never learned as much as he could’ve at the Minor League-level….and stuff like this is precisely why so many of us are against the likes of Mejia being wasted as a late-inning reliever for a team no one knows much about this year.

    Personally, I like Pelfrey a lot. I think he should rebound a bit this season; but don’t see him dominating to the point where he’d be considered a #2-type starter in this rotation.

    I hope and pray otherwise, though.