Dear Mike Pelfrey,
Awhile ago, I wrote a piece stating that you were, by virtue of having a strong 2010, the ace of the rotation while Johan Santana recovers from surgery. If I may be so vain as to quote myself, I specifically said, “So is Pelfrey an ace? In the traditional sense, no, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a stabilizing force at the top of the rotation…” So Mike, please hear me out when I say this: you need to pitch better.
Notice that I did not say like an ace, because right now, Met fans just want to see you pitch through the fifth inning. But even then, fans aren’t expecting you to take the mound and strike out ten batters per game (given your career K/9 of 5.10, I don’t think anyone should expect that at all), but to be in control and pitch like the Pelf of last season: confident, decisive and able to get hitters out. Now at age 27, you should be entering the prime of your pitching career, and improving as time goes on, and reverting back to 2009 form is unacceptable.
Take the first game of the season against the Florida Marlins. Facing Chris Coghlan in the game’s first at bat, you threw ten pitches, including five foul balls, before surrendering a walk. That at bat set the pace for the entire game: the Marlins were able to work the count, foul off pitches, and then make Pelfrey pay, most notably when John Buck fell behind 0-2 before battling back to a full count and crushing a grand slam. No matter what, you couldn’t put hitters away-I’m not even talking about striking them out, but just getting them out period.
And then there was last night’s game against the Phillies, which started out terribly when Shane Victorino tripled to lead off the bottom of the first. It was clear from the start that you didn’t have your best stuff, and the Phils jumped all over you. There were no particularly long at bats (the longest was seven pitches, a walk to Ben Francisco in the third) because Philadelphia just hit you hard and took advantage of every mistake. Take your curveball, for example, which was thrown six times, but never for a strike. Instead, it was either always a ball, or, when it was over the plate, a hit (specifically, a triple from Victorino and a bomb from Ryan Howard). In this game, it didn’t matter if you were ahead or behind, because no matter what, the Phillies seemed to find a way to get on base.
So Mike, please listen. The team isn’t asking you to be Roy Halladay…or one of the other aces on that staff. You need to get back to what you were doing last year, which involves pounding the strikezone, making in-game adjustments and pitching with confidence. By default, you might be the ace of the staff, but really what the team needs from you is consistency and to be able to pitch deeper into ballgames. It’s only been two starts, and it would be unfair to judge you entirely based on this short body of work, but if things don’t improve Met fans will buy Dillon Gee a plane ticket from Buffalo to JFK. Your next start is at home, against the Colorado Rockies, and while Met fans won’t expect a Tom Seaver-like outing, they will expect improvement. The pressure is on Mike, but not the pressure to be an ace, just the pressure to pitch better.
Sincerely, on behalf of all Met fans