With a little over a month left in the 2010 season, Mike Pelfrey is closing in on a feat last accomplished in 2003. He has a legitimate chance to be the team leader in wins on a pitching staff that includes Johan Santana.
Pelfrey turned in eight scoreless innings on Friday night to match a career high with his 13th win, giving him a three-victory cushion over Santana with 34 team games remaining. The last staffmates of Santana to claim the team lead in wins were Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse of the 2003 Minnesota Twins. That year, 27 of Santana’s 45 appearances came in relief – and he still managed 12 wins.
Friday night’s win was the third in four starts for Pelfrey, who put the finishing touches on an August in which he went 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA. The stellar August came on the heels of a disappointing month of July, in which he went 0-3 with a 10.02 ERA. That midseason swoon caused concerns to resurface about Pelfrey’s ability to become the ace the Mets envisioned when they selected him ninth overall in the 2005 draft.
Pelfrey appeared headed toward ace status when he won 13 games and sported a 3.72 ERA in his first full season in the Mets rotation in 2008. He took a step back last year, however, with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.514 WHIP. Those results left Pelfrey as the Mets’ No. 4 starter entering 2010, behind Santana, John Maine and Jonathon Niese.
Beginning with a victory against the Washington Nationals in his season debut on April 9, however, Pelfrey has claimed over 30 percent of the wins accumulated by Mets starting pitchers this season. To put that into perspective, when Santana won the American League Cy Young Award with the Twins in 2006, his 19 wins accounted for 26 percent of the total attained by his team’s starters.
Winning games on a team with an offense producing an average of only 4.04 runs per game is a challenge. Only the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Nationals have averaged fewer runs per game in the National League this season, and the top winner for those three teams combined is Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez with 10.
If Pelfrey starts every fifth game for the Mets through the end of the season, he would take the mound seven more times. If he can win four of those games, Pelfrey would become the first Met with 17 victories in a season since Al Leiter went 17-6 in 1998. Both times Santana reached 17 wins in a season he received a Cy Young Award.
Pelfrey certainly will not be in the NL Cy Young discussion this year, but unseating Santana for the team lead in wins is an impressive achievement in its own right. In fact, it never has been done since Santana became a full-time starting pitcher in