Mike Pelfrey Named Mets Opening Day Starter

As reported by ESPN-NY’s Adam Rubin, manager Terry Collins announced that Mike Pelfrey would be the Mets’ Opening Day starting pitcher.

I wouldn’t term the decision shocking, but it is certainly unusual. I can’t think of another team that publicly announced their Opening Day starter more than three weeks before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

I suppose the announcement was made to boost Big Pelf’s sometimes fragile confidence. By being named the #1 so early, he is “the man” and can prepare himself as such. What does that mean? It means he won’t worry so much about his performance and stats during spring training. Instead, he’ll focus on getting himself into great shape and on working on his secondary pitches — which could still use a bit of polish.

Looking back to last spring, Pelfrey’s numbers in exhibition games were awful; he had an ERA in the 8s and we discussed here whether we should be concerned. My take was that he was “working on things”, and in the end, thank goodness he did, because the result was Pelfrey finally mixing in off-speed pitches on a consistent basis. If he spends another spring training further “experimenting” and getting used to throwing his change-up, it can only help.

But, the pessimistic side of me has two concerns about this decision to make him the #1 starter. First, I hope it doesn’t jinx him; can’t you just imagine something freakish happening in spring training to prevent Pelfrey from beginning the season? Sorry, as a Mets fan I always assume I’m walking on thin ice. Second, I’m a little concerned about Pelfrey regularly going up against the #1 starters of every other team. Surely, he won’t embarrass himself against the Roy Halladays, Josh Johnsons, Tim Hudsons, Zack Greinkes, and Chris Carpenters of the world — but can he beat them? I’m not so sure, but I guess someone has to try.

What are your thoughts on this announcement? Do you like it? Do you agree with the timing? Do you think it will be a negative or a positive?


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. Walnutz15 January 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm
    Mike Pelfrey has always been one of the most intriguing player-cases for me, as a long-time Met fan.

    I still don’t believe that he’s maxed-out, in terms of his potential…..and hope he continues to grow as a pitcher.

    This early-announcement, while not-at-all shocking – is still a tremendous nod of confidence in Pelf’s direction.

    That’s what this is about for me.

    A show of confidence in him, and one party [Collins] looking to see if this show of trust will ultimately work out in the best interests of the results; not only for Pelfrey – but for his team, coming out of the starting gates.

    If Pelfrey “goes Ollie” on us in St. Lucie, then you really look like a dope in possibly having to retract the announcement. If not, then there’s really no problem whatsoever.

    Hopefully, Pelfrey’s met and talked with Brent Kemnitz a good deal this winter….and is ready to focus on the task at hand as soon as he reports to camp.

    I’ still want to see him make strides.

  2. Matt T. January 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm
    I don’t recall when or where I read it, but I’m pretty sure someone studied how often, other than in the first game of the season, a “#1 starter” pitches against another team’s “#1 starter” and it was no more often than against any other # starter. After the season gets going, the starters just don’t line up from team to team.
    • Joe Janish January 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm
      That’s a good point you bring up; chances are, he’ll only face the other team’s ace a half-dozen times.

      But there is definitely a mental/emotional aspect of being “the #1 starter”, in the same way a batter is “the cleanup hitter”. The great ones relish or are unaffected by such labels; but some people get eaten up by them.

  3. Absentminded January 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm
    Was this an “announcement” or did someone ask Terry, and he gave a response rather than deflect the question with artful nonsense?

    Who else fits the bill? Dickey is the only other reasonable candidate, to be honest. And I don’t think he’s reached tim wakefield revered status to get the opening day start. So if you know it’s going to Pelf, and you had no intentions of playing head games by being coy, why not just say it?

    That being said, good for Pelf. I’ve never thought he was “soft” or a “headcase,” but just a guy who maybe thought a little too much about things. Some people are like that. He’s a sinkerballl pitcher who pitches to contact. Sometimes a ball is going to find a hole, and sometimes that’ll happen more than once in an inning. Nothing you can do about that.

  4. micalpalyn January 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm
    New GM, New manager and its JANUARY …..wth is he even naming an opening day starter!!!

    Frankly given history, present reports and the peripherakls above, I think CY is the front of the rotation starter. In my opinion Niese was far and wawy a better starter last yr prior to hiiting the 90-100 innings mark (around 2nd week august?)…

    my read/prediction is that niese, CY and Capuano if he makes the rotation be on 75-90 pitch counts and promptly pulled at 5-6IP. Even if pitching a no-hitter.

    • Joe Janish January 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm
      Niese was far and away better than who? Pelfrey? If so I disagree strongly. Until Pelf hit his slump, he looked like one of the top 3 or 4 pitchers in the NL.
  5. micalpalyn January 20, 2011 at 4:37 pm
    Given Gammons interview with Ted berg I am not sure my previous stance was correct.

    Capuano, young Hairston and Harris are just the type of energy guys that can push the ‘CORE’ along.

    Per Gammons there is no outs in this line up. No Tejada, no castillo, etc. ADD to this RA Dickey, Niese and Young might not WIN a ton of ball games but they will keep you in most.

  6. CatchDog January 21, 2011 at 9:07 am
    The only issue I have, as Joe has mentioned, is Pelf going up against the other team’s aces. Perhaps RADickey slotting ahead of Mike, followed by Niese, Young and Capuano would work better.

    One thing that I believe Jerry got right is RAD does disrupt the hitter’s timing. Therefore, a combination of Pelf following RAD and pitching against the other team’s #2, could benefit him more than Niese following RAD and going against the other team’s #3.

  7. Timo January 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm
    The starting pitching staff was not our problem last year. We won more games then we should have because the starter pitched well. However, RA Dickey was our BEST pitcher last year and should have gotten the opening day start (even if Johan was healthy). Pelf is a #2 at best. I don’t think he has the mindset to be a #1. Too much pressure, and then we talk about his fragile confidence? I think they BABY these pitchers too much with pitch counts and confidence boosters. In the real world, you don’t do your job you get fired. However, we are not going anywhere this year. This year is ALL about trying to get our high paid losers healthy enough so we can trade them and build for the future. Also, we should see if Pelf has the “marbles” to be a number 1. With a new GM, everyone’s job is up for grabs as it should be.
    • Andy January 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm
      I wouldn’t have worded it so aggressively but I agree with most of what you say. R.A. earned the opening day start and he should have the honors, particularly as he’s older and Mike will have (hopefully) many more seasons left to earn it.
    • Joe Janish January 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm
      I’m beginning to wonder if this early proclamation actually could work in reverse.

      If indeed Pelfrey was named the #1 guy for the purpose of boosting his confidence, might Pelfrey wonder why the heck the team felt the need to boost his confidence?

      Does that make sense? It might be like, “hey, why do I need a confidence boost? Is there a reason I shouldn’t be confident?”.

  8. gary s. January 22, 2011 at 11:20 am
    Until he got a case of the yips in the middle of the season he was pitching as good as any starter in the NL.Hopefully, he will take his yips meds this year and win 20.
  9. argonbunnies January 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm
    Pelf’s had his ups and downs, but hasn’t demonstrated many sustainable skills. His groundball rate is good, but not spectacular. His K and BB numbers are what you’d want out of your #4, not a #2.

    His velocity and lack of arm trouble leave him plenty of room to improve, so we can always hope. But until he improves his Ks and BBs, I’m just as inclined to see his 2010 as lucky as to see his 2009 as unlucky.

    Very few starters throw splitters these days. I’d like to see him work on that pitch above all others; if he really nails it, hitters should have trouble recognizing it.

  10. micalpalyn January 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm
    Until Acosta blew a gem start from Niese, Niese was to that pint a rotation savior. If I remember right NIESE’S accent coupled with Johan’s oft stellar starts, RA Dickeys phenomenal run and Pelf ….made for a REALLY good rotation that had us above the Phils.

    Sorry but Pelf IS good….but I see him as a facimile of Brett Myers …as argo &Timo say he is a #2 at best…maybe really a #3-4. He is too inconsistent.

    I like Niese’s poise, control and repetoire better. He is a perfect complement to Santana. As for Dickey….as JM said, if he starts a series it messes them up pretty good.

  11. micalpalyn January 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm
    So I publicly have to take back much of what i said about the new regime.

    Having gotten CY, I think they did well. Tankersley, Byrdak, Boyer and capuano are also nice additions. I look forward also to a first look at Matt Harvey.

    health permitting this IS a nice team.

    NOW, will he CUT Ollie and Castillo?