Mike Pelfrey starts Wednesday night against the Brewers. If your life depended upon it and you had to make a correct wager on the outcome of the game to avoid death – which way would you bet? Do you expect Pelfrey to come through and pitch a Quality Start? Or do you expect him to get knocked around and dig a big hole for himself and the Mets?

To help you make your wager, let’s run some numbers on Pelfrey’s last four starts. He was dreadful in April, throwing just one good game out of six. But how would you describe what he’s done recently?

5/16 – 7 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
5/22 – 6 IP, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks
5/28 – 7.2 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks
6/2 – 5.0 IP, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks

I guess the one thing we can say for sure is that he’s had pretty good control.

Part of me feels bad for Pelfrey. At the beginning of the year, the Mets were asking him to be something that he’s clearly not. With Johan Santana sidelined, the team anointed Pelfrey to be their de facto ace. There was some logic behind that, as Pelfrey won 15 games last year and he finished the year with nine Quality Starts in his last 11 games and a 2.78 ERA in that stretch.

But he’s also the guy who had a 5.04 ERA in the 18 games before that hot streak. In 2009 he had a 5.03 ERA for the year and in 19 games over the 2006-07 seasons as he was breaking into the majors, Pelfrey had a 5.55 ERA.

Is anyone shocked that after 12 games this year, Pelfrey has a 5.56 ERA?

Last year Mets announcer Keith Hernandez summed up Pelfrey nicely when he said he had still yet to cross the Rubicon in his professional career. At this point, I can honestly say that I don’t care what Pelfrey develops into as a pitcher – I just wish he would go ahead and do it already. I’d love it if he was an ace, I’d be quite happy if he was a #3 SP and I’d even be content if he was a true 5.00 ERA guy – at least that way we could non-tender him in the off-season and get off the roller coaster ride.

But in true Pelfrey fashion, his current 5.56 ERA is misleading. At the end of April, Pelfrey had a 7.39 ERA. But in six games since then, he has a 4.28 ERA. And even that doesn’t tell the full story. As we saw in the four games broken down above, Pelfrey has had two disastrous starts recently, in which he allowed 12 ER in 11 IP.

In his other four starts, he has allowed 7 ER in 28 IP for a 2.25 ERA.

Believe me, I am completely aware of how much cherry picking needed to go on to present Pelfrey’s performance in a positive light this season. But perhaps there’s a glimmer of a hint of a whiff of hope here.

In these last six starts, the four good games came at night while the two brutal outings came during the day. And in his good starts, Pelfrey has gone up against the Giants, Rockies, Marlins and Phillies, four teams with a combined 129-108 record (.544), so it’s not like he’s only doing well when he faces the lousy squads.

So, if you want to be an optimist, you can look at the fact that Pelfrey’s next start comes at night and perhaps make that life or death wager on him turning in a good performance.

Or you can be a pessimist and look at his xFIP numbers throughout his career:

2011 – 4.60
2010 – 4.31
2009 – 4.47
2008 – 4.45

Pelfrey’s been unlucky with his HR rate this year. Given his HR/FB history, we should expect him to improve on this going forward. But essentially, Pelfrey is in 2011 who he’s always been – a 4.40 true talent-type guy.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t turn in a 7 IP, 2 ER performance Wednesday night.

One comment on “Mike Pelfrey and the life or death wager

  • john

    The overall problem with Pelfrey is that his velocity is not what it was a few years ago. He used to get above 95 a lot. Now, almost never and often in the low 90s. We’ve actually seen readings in the high 80s at times. No matter what type of pitcher you are, a drop in velocity will likely affect your effectiveness. Add to this that he really isn’t a prototypical sinkerballer, and you get a middle of the road pitcher at best.

    Now, he hasn’t had a Perez, K-Rod or Maine drop in velocity. But he’s lost some. To me, that’s the main reason (there may be others) that he hasn’t become what many had hoped.

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