2010 Analysis: Mike Pelfrey

2010 was supposed to be Mike Pelfrey’s “breakout year” – and it appeared he’d fulfill that promise in the first three months, as he went 10-2 and pitched as well as any NL pitcher. In fact, he was among the top three pitchers in the league from April-June.

Then something happened in July.

Out of seemingly nowhere, Pelfrey’s performance and confidence sunk significantly – to the point where he looked like one of the worst three pitchers in baseball (Oliver Perez included). Luckily, he came out of his mid-season slump in August, then finished the year with mixed results. Over his final dozen or so starts, he was good – better than most – but nowhere near the dominant, ace-like starter he was in his first dozen.

Here at MetsToday we pointed out a minor mechanical issue that may or may not have contributed to his slump – one that he never completely worked out. Still, he finished the year with 15 wins, a 3.66 ERA, 204 IP, and allowed only 12 HRs – all good numbers for a mid-rotation starter. The main stats that worry me are his walk rate (3.0 per 9 IP), and to a lesser degree his groundball/flyball rate (1.05), and strikeout rate (4.99 per 9 IP). As a sinkerball pitcher who pitches to contact, he can’t afford to walk that many batters, and though he was 11th in the NL in GB rate, to be better than a top-of-the-rotation guy he will have to either strike out more batters or get more ground balls (and walk less batters).

A big part of his first-half success was Big Pelf’s ability to change speeds – something he hadn’t done with any consistency at any time in his career previously. His new-found forkball / changeup kept batters off-balance and put an extra pitch into their heads. Pelfrey also made steps toward commanding his overhand curve – yet another weapon that will keep hitters guessing.

2011 Projection

I think it’s fair to say 2010 was a step forward in Pelfrey’s progress. The question for 2011 is, will he continue to improve, or has he established a baseline for the rest of his career?

Considering his raw skillset, I’d like to believe that Pelfrey will continue to improve. Whether he progresses, however, will have much to do with his confidence – which, of course, is directly tied to his success. I sincerely believe that if Pelfrey can work out his mechanical inconsistencies, and stick to a strict program that enables him to repeat his delivery, the sky is the limit. A consistent delivery will allow him to command his sinker and change-up / forkball low in the zone, and continue development of his curve. With total command of those three pitches, Mike Pelfrey could be an ace.

Click here to read the 2009 Analysis of Mike Pelfrey


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. Ceetar November 8, 2010 at 11:56 am
    I agree, I think Pelfrey gets better. I think Warthen’s major flaw was in helping pitches make adjustments. I think a better pitching coach would’ve kept Pelfrey’s mid-summer slide shorter, and less damaging.

    Another year under his belt with the new pitch should help. I don’t believe pitcher’s necessarily ever ‘peak’ if they’re hard working and can adjust. Pelfrey’s adding a new pitch last year suggests to me that he’ll continue working, continue to try to out think guys.

  2. Walnutz15 November 8, 2010 at 12:35 pm
    Another winter of working with/listening to Brent Kemnitz will get Pelfrey to where he needs to be in 2011.

    No one will ever convince me that Dan Warthen’s done anything with Pelfrey to make him a better pitcher. When he’s struggling, it takes far too long to discover the root of the problem.

    I’ve long been waiting for an interview with Kemnitz, to ask him what he’s worked on with Pelfrey over the course of his professional career. It’s clear that Big Pelf goes back to Wichita State over the off-season to get himself prepared for the upcoming seasons….AND, that Kemnitz himself wasn’t in love with what the Mets were doing with him as a pitcher, dating back to a couple of years ago.

    (I recall him saying certain things, whether it be on-camera during a Kevin Burhkardt type vignette at one of his starts….or in an interview somewhere. Would have to find it, but the point being: he didn’t like the kind of pitcher Pelfrey was becoming under Met-watch.)

    Why we haven’t seen anyone in the media remotely broaching this subject in the past…..is beyond any of my comprehension.

    Much was made of Pelfrey’s “improved mental state” this year; and certain development in his repertoire during his nice run……hmmmmm………..

    The following is precisely why I balked at giving Warthen any credit for Pelfrey’s change in demeanor out on the mound in the first couple of months….and moreover, his development of the split-finger.

    “•Mike Pelfrey-Pitcher, NY Mets-

    “This is a direct product of everything I learned from the best pitching coach in the country, Brent Kemnitz; Now I feel like I can mentally go out and beat anyone.”


    I firmly believe that Brent Kemnitz was, and always will be, the key to Pelf’s success.

    When Kemnitz cites you, specifically, as the best pitching prospect to ever come out of a perennial-Division I power — typically, there’s just a bit of merit to it.

    And being that Kemnitz focuses completely on the mental aspect of pitching…..I have a feeling that Pelfrey spent a very good amount of time with him over the winter.

    We all know how “successful” Warthen was with the other headcases on this staff (Perez, Maine, et al)…..at points, I was rooting for a made-up “D.L. stint” for Pelfrey to send him back to Wichita for 2 weeks.

    Hopefully, whoever he works with going forward – whether it be Warthen or someone else – stays on top of him……it’s clear that he gets away from what works for him, for long periods of time.

    It’s only until he resets himself, that he sees good results.

  3. mike November 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm
    I think Pelf’s success next year will be directly tied to who ever is on the coaching staff. The manager and pitching coach will have a big influence over how he approaches next season. At some point he will have to become his own pitching coach, but currently I don’t think he is at that point.

    If Warthen is still the pitching coach I don’t think that will work out well for him. I don’t think Warthen is capable of breaking down a pitcher’s mechanics and finding a flaw. I think a mechanically focused and driven pitching coach will be needed to help he and the other young pitchers on the staff take the next step.

    • CatchDog November 9, 2010 at 9:14 am
      …and that being said by Mike, cue our own Joe Janish for 2011 NY Mets Pitching Coach.

      Seriously; I’m going on year 3 of reading this blog and I have yet to disagree with one of Joe’s analysis and subsequent fix of the Met’s pitching staff. And Lord knows we’ve had more than our fair share of guys with mechanical, mental and physical issues.

      Since it generally takes 2 to 3 weeks from Joe’s diagnosis of the problem, to Ronnie commenting on it, to either Warthen or said player actually correcting said issue, perhaps we can speed up the process.

      In the meantime, keep up the fantastic work, Joe.

      • Joe Janish November 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm
        Thanks for the props, CD!

        In fairness, Dan Warthen doesn’t have the benefit of slo-motion video analysis on a big-screen TV like we do at home. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees …