Meet the Mets: Mike Pelfrey

Meet the Mets: A series of haphazard, preview-type posts focusing on particular Mets, leading up to the 2012 season. Here’s the first one. It’s about Mike Pelfrey.

Mike Pelfrey: Is This It

We can see with over check on Baseball-Reference that David Wright is longest-tenured-Met at present, having taken that crown from the exiting Jose Reyes this winter. Wright became a New York Metropolitan on July 21, Year Two of Art Howe – when Mike Piazza, Al Leiter and John Franco were still Mets — and has remained one ever since. Probably common knowledge for the diehards.

It may come as a surprise to even the diehards though that Mike Pelfrey is second on the tenure list, making his Mets debut under two years after Wright. The big guy made career start #1 against the Marlins on July 8, Year of the NLCS Defeat, and has more or less been here since. Wright and Pelfrey, therefore, are the only Mets left standing from Year of the NLCS Defeat, and the only two players left from the Year of the Collapse. Those two are the players, the only on-field component, who have lived through it with us.

If you’re interested: Johan Santana, March 31, Year of Nick Evans Batting Fifth in All-Important Game 162, ranks third in tenure. Daniel Murphy — check-in date August 2, Year of Nick Evans Batting Fifth in All-Important Game 162 — is fourth.

Mike Pelfrey has been here longer than it sometimes seems. This season, 2012, will be his seventh with the Mets, and he’s about to make his goofy presence known on the franchise pitching leaderboards. Pelfrey should crack the franchise’s top-10 for starts (he needs 23), wins (short 16), and – somehow — strikeouts (needs 178) in the next two seasons. He’s also going to hit losses (13), walks (40), and hits (92), all probably this season. He’s going to etch his name into a couple of Mets lists before moving on down the road.

And yet Big Pelfrey remains sort of unloved. He makes all his starts and hasn’t been half-bad or half-good, a big artless constant in the Mets’ equation, but that hasn’t been enough. Greg Prince of FAFiF recently and correctly deemed Pelfrey “The Human Pelfing Bag,” calling him “. . . our pitching scapegoat, our figurative punching bag, our default reason (besides ownership) why things aren’t better around here.” Not good enough to be part of the solution, not quite bad or expensive enough to be excised, Mike Pelfrey’s Mets career has settled into a no-man’s land comfortably outside the realm of reasonable expectations. He’s neither an ace nor quite a deuce. He’s failed his first-round pedigree – but then again really hasn’t, as he’s better than most pitchers drafted after him.* He’s maddeningly inconsistent – or then again, again, maybe he’s really as regular as they come.**

*Pitchers taken in the first round of the 2005 draft:

6. Ricky Romero
8. Wade Townsend
9. Mike Pelfrey
15. Lance Broadway
16. Chris Volstad
18. Cesar Carrillo
20. Mark Pawelek
22. Aaron Thompson
24. Brian Bogusevic
25. Matt Garza
26. Craig Hansen
27. Joey Devine
29. Jacob Marceaux
31. Matt Torra
32. Chaz Roe
34. Ryan Tucker
35. Cesar Ramos
37. Trevor Bell
40. Luke Hochevar
41. Beau Jones
42. Clay Buchholz
43. Mark McCormick
44. Sean West
46. Tyler Herron
47. Michael Bowden
48. Garrett Olson

That’s 26 pitchers. You can make up your own mind, but for me there’s only three – Romero, Garza, and Buchholz –  I’d take over Pelfrey.

**Mike Pelfrey strikeout totals, 2008-2011, i.e., his full seasons:

His walk totals, same:

His hits allowed, same:

Mike Pelfrey is never quite what anyone thinks, never as good, never as bad, never as consistent, never as inconsistent, never as in control, never as crazy. As our, the fans, pendulum of expectation swings back and forth overhead, Mike Pelfrey gracelessly throws sinker after sinker, gripping the five ounce cork-yarn-and-hide ball so, when pitched, air pressure and rotation of the raised seams causes it to drop more than expected, such that with luck the batter only hits the top half of the pitch on his swing and, catching only the top half, chops the ball into the dirt and grass of the infield and rolls it where a fielder can cut it off and then throw the ball to his first baseman before the batter can reach the base. And then Mike Pelfrey does it again and again, pitch after pitch, game after game, across summers and years, hoping enough batters hit enough top-halves and enough balls find gloves and enough first basemen receive throws before runners reach bases. Meanwhile we keep riding that pendulum from loser to ace and back again as the one-pitch pitcher keeps doing the same thing over and over. Whether we’re disappointed or surprised or whatever by Mike Pelfrey, it probably had about nothing to do with Mike Pelfrey. Our tide goes in and out in Flushing Bay, covering and uncovering a rock. We all point at the rock and claim it must be moving.

Then we blame the rock for licking itself neurotically.

Here is my plea to Mets fans for this season: Love Mike Pelfrey. Yes, he’s a mediocre pitcher on a mediocre team. He’s a fountain of two-run innings and exasperated blank stares into the stands. His starts are taxing for all parties — watching Mike Pelfrey aim fastball after fastball is often as fun playing with a medieval thumbscrew. He’s a terrible hitter, even for a pitcher. Don’t think Pelfrey will be anything other than himself. He won’t.

But love Mike Pelfrey for what he is: a great Met – not a great Mets player, but a great Met. He’s the mouth-breathing personification of why people fall in with this blundering franchise. The New York Mets were born fifty years ago, built a home in the middle of the world’s largest carnival, stumbled out of the gate as the worst team ever and still found fans at the ready. In just their third year, the Mets outdrew their American League Champion neighbors, the greatest dynasty ever seen in sports, with a 53-win team. Which is to say that there’s a niche for this sort of thing. Winning doesn’t suit everyone. Some of us need the circus. We need the broke flying about in helicopters and pitchers with new noses. We need a stadium that sabotages the team’s best hitter and power hitters who stop hitting for power. We need inexplicable and possibly-invented injuries. We need a guy with a giant baseball for a head. We need the bumbling losers, the hand-lickers, the pitcher who balks three times in a game, lets the ball fall out of his glove and sometimes falls down on the mound. We need the oversized and generally doofy, the everyman who plugs away year after year without much say in his fate.

LOLMets and all that, I know. But wear it with pride.

Maybe we’ll look back at the last five years as the David Wright Mets, or the Reyes-Beltran-Wright Mets, or the disappoint-Mets or the Minaya Mets or the Madoff Mets. Or maybe we’ll look back at it as the Mike Pelfrey Mets, the goofy, up-and-down ride that was never ever what we thought it’d be. And whether that makes you smile or frown, try to remember that the rock isn’t moving.


Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

10 responses to “Meet the Mets: Mike Pelfrey

  1. Poor Pelf – that’s the worst mug shot I’ve ever seen.

  2. AV

    Among Pelfrey’s “accomplishments”, you forgot to mention he throws 95mph yet doesn’t blow anyone away and he’s a 6’7″ man-mountain that’s somehow too timid to intimidate anyone.

    All things considered, this is great analysis. I also went back through the 2005 1st and sandwich round draft picks to see what all the players have done (or not done) since then. Also, two of them (Lance Broadway and Garrett Olson) also ended up with the Mets at some point.

  3. Those consistent numbers from Pelfrey are weird to see given the common perception of him. His runs allowed vary quite a bit more and along with it his record and ERA… but how much of that can be his fault if he’s just doing the same thing from good year to bad year. Guess all we can do is hope his ground balls get hit in the general direction of Tejada and Davis, and not Wright and Murphy. That’s all that seems to make the difference between Good Pelfrey and Bad Pelfrey.

  4. This is a good analysis of Big Pelf. My frustration with him is that he has this 95 MPH sinker and I keep thinking he should be a front of the rotation guy. He has proven to be a solid if unspectacular pitcher. His big weakness is he doesn’t have particularly good or consistent breaking stuff.

    I often think Omar did him no favors rushing him to the big leagues since the minors are where most pitchers work on their off speed pitches.

  5. Amen Patrick. Pelfrey is who he is, and it’s our (natural and understandable) failings as fans that create the frustration with him.

    I used to get frustrated with Pelf when I used to think he was supposed to be an ace, but there was a point when I realized that’s like getting mad at the sun for setting when you want more daylight. I now feel bad for Pelf, he’s done nothing to inspire the derision he gets from some fans.

    • You make some good points for redjusting the perspective on Pelfrey. But I think there are some other lenses to look thru as well.
      1. For someone here as long as he has been, he has not been much of a leader.
      2. While he may be better than those in the same draft, he has not actually been more than a below-avg starter.
      3. He is not worth the 5 million he is making this year, which, considering the Mets payroll, could have been better spent elsewhere.
      4. He has not been worth the money the Mets have paid him in general. They have paid for potential and gotten a 4th or 5th stater in return.
      5. His lack of consistency has consistently underlined the rest of the staff and bullpen.

      In short, yes, Pelf has been a “success” in that he has had a serviceable career and that can’t be taken for granted. But at the same time, especially in 2012, his below-average results do not translate into a 5 million dollar man who is simply exaperating to watch.

      • I disagree with basically all 5 points you make:

        1) Pelf is not much of a leader. By most accounts, he’s well-liked and respected in the clubhouse. He’s not very outspoken, but he rarely shies away from tough questions and in general, takes responsibility for his actions.

        2) Just depends what you consider “below-average”. He’s hasn’t been great, but he’s had moments of pitching well, and moments of pitching poor, he is who his stats say he is: A mediocre, perhaps underwhelming, durable pitcher. In an age where pitchers blow out shoulders/elbows/arms like it’s going out of style, I don’t think he gets enough credit for this.

        3) He’s not worth $5? I disagree. Sure you can argue that it’d have been worth the extra $3M to sign Edwin Jackson for a $8M for a year, but then the Mets would be *bidding* on him, and then the asking price is likely higher. Pelf, in cost, much like in performance, provided certainty. There was no free agency, they just had to offer him $5, and that’s it, he’s signed. Cost certainty has value, and it’s another thing that’s not being valued correctly, imo. I’d say that there really was no better way to get a MLB proven starter for Pelf-level money.

        4) He’s not been worth the money paid him by the Mets. By fWAR, Pelf’s been worth 8.6 WAR, and by bWAR, he’s been worth 5.7 WAR. Taking the conservative 5.7 WAR, and applying a conservative $4M/WAR paid on the free agent market, he’s been worth $22.8M over his Mets career (and that doesn’t include any value he’ll provide in 2012). According to Cot’s, Pelf has been paid $20.2625M, inclusive of his signing bonus and 2012 salary. So despite rounding conservatively at every corner, Pelf *has* provided the value for the money he’s been paid.

        5) Lack of consistancy? Pelf may not be very good, but one thing he has always been has been consistant. You know almost exactly what you’ll get out of him, ~200IP, ~5 K/9, ~3BB/9, and about 50% groundballs.

  6. While I agree with this analysis, I have to say that Pelf lacks the charm of the historic “lovable losers” style Mets. There is a reason we all love bumbling Daniel Murphy and cringe whenever Pelf pitches–Pelf is just not that fun to watch. What are the Mets if they’re not winning AND they’re not fun? That is a lethal combo, methinks…

  7. Then again, this photo of Pelf is fun to watch. It’s freakin hilarious, actually.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s