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Wouldn't It Be Nice

It might have been Joe Morgan who said something about computers not playing baseball. (Apparently humans do.) Or maybe it was Tim McCarver. Could have been John Kruk. One could safely assume, in any event, that whoever said such a thing owned a David Eckstein jersey stained with blood and mud and grit and heart. And that owner has no plans to wash the jersey.

[You are encouraged to hum, or sing along, as this graf progresses. Start here.]

Wouldn't it be nice if Mike Pelfrey were a computer? If he were Mr. Clanky, from the old Backyard Baseball series? Then we wouldn't have to wait so long... for him to regress to the mean in a particularly ugly game last night. One-and-a-third innings, 74 pitches, seven hits, two walks, six runs. All of this you probably remember, if you were unable to successfully drink yourself asleep after Chris Young singled to start the game.

These 9:40, air-conditioned-desert start times bring back fuzzy memories for most Met fans, memories of a day when Omar Minaya didn't have to do any paperwork to succeed, of a day when this Manuel fellow was just a goofy bespectacled Buddhism-spouting bench coach. The Mets were 11-1 in Arizona in 2005, 2006 and 2007 back when discrimination was just a glint in the eye of Maricopa County.

[Aside: any chance they can round up this Mexican national? When he tries throwing his breaking pitch, it's probably tantamount to assault with a deadly weapon. And he's involved in an ongoing massive swindle, pocketing $12MM a year to... pull his socks up? Occasionally jump over the first base line? Be fairly surly? Not sure what it is. Must be some kind of money laundering.]

But things have gone sour in the desert since then. 3-3 in 2008 and 2009. Sure, it's a small sample size, but we can assume the fun's over in Phoenix. (Perhaps due to this awful roster. But we can try to pretend otherwise.)

Last year the Mets offered Cory Sullivan (he of the career 79 OPS+, he, cast off from the 38-55! Houston Astros this year) as their leadoff hitter and left fielder against the Diamondbacks. Oliver Perez allowed six hits and six walks in five and a third while facing Arizona last year. (He somehow only allowed one run. Call it the Pelfrey Problem. We know how it bites a team in the ass as time passes, cf. last night's debacle.)

Jeremy Reed (he of another 79 career OPS+, he, also without a major league job anymore) had his share of plate appearances, too. And you'll remember Omir Santos and Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francoeur and Anderson Hernandez and Elmer Dessens and Alex Cora, those 2009 Metastases who earned their fair share of unwarranted praise (is there any other kind?) from Jerry. Thankfully, they're all no longer on the team. Wait, what? You're kidding. Oh no.

All of this is to say, in a rather circumspect fashion, that Mike Pelfrey drives far too many of us crazy, with no good reason. Kevin Burkhardt tweets things like, "Mets have no shot of being a playoff team if Pelfrey can't find his old form. He needs to figure this out." Andy Martino, at the Daily Snooze, writes that Pelfrey's pitches aren't effective, or something.

Um, yeah. That's the problem. Sure. His pitches aren't good enough. Specific as hell. Not a catch-all. Or we're supposed to believe some garbage about a fluky-good April/May/June Pelf needing to return to "his old form." One can't help but marvel when noting how Pelfrey's "old form" alternates between good and bad depending on who's writing.

What we do know about Mike Pelfrey, aside from silly speculation, has nothing to do with phantom neck injuries suffered on planes or sports psychologists or teeth grinding. What we know is that his strikeout rate's slightly higher this year than it used to be (5.51/9 against a career 5.23/9.) His walk rate is a little higher too (3.46/9 versus a 3.41/9 career total, though that total is slightly inflated by his putrid control in 2006 and 2007). His home run rate is back down from last year's unexpected spike, to almost exactly what it was in 2008.

And so, as you might expect, his performance this year contains no mystery, no enigma, no dead-arm phase. Rather, he's the Mike Pelfrey we'll come to know and kinda like, with an ERA and FIP hovering around four, middling strikeout and walk rates, and occasional help from the double play, despite some shaky surrounding infield defense. He probably won't be as lucky as he was in 2008, or as he was during the first three months of this season, yet he won't be as unlucky as he was during 2009, when each Big Pelf start made us yearn for Livan's next turn. (That was hyperbole.)

Wouldn't it be nice, though, if he could stop finding new ways to get destroyed in the early innings? Wouldn't it be nice if he were a computer, and could throw up nine innings of four-run ball each time he pitched? I think "consistency" is the word a baseball analyst might occasionally use. Wouldn't it be nice if these games didn't start so late? Oh, wouldn't it be nice?

  • Yikes. I'm a little worried, even though we could have seen this coming. With Pelfrey and Takahashi taking half of the starts, and R.A. Dickey always ready to turn into a pumpkin... yikes. That's all one can say. Is John Maine coming back anytime soon? Can we get Trachsel to unretire?
  • I think I'll be returning to this space on a fairly frequent basis, but I don't want to say anything premature. Keep your fingers crossed.
  • Hard to believe what two weeks out of the lineup (sans rehab innings) can do to a certain shortstop's once-miraculous fielding ability. He can get a free pass for last night.
  • Ugh, Nieve.
  • Did I forget to say ugh, Barajas? I meant to say that. My word, he's terrible.
  • Ugh, Andy Turner. Is that his name? Pete Turner? Pete Phillips? Justin Johnson? I won't bother. Suffice it to say, if you can pick up a 26 year-old who posted a .750 OPS in the minors last year, you have to do it. Idiot Omar. Idiot Jerry. Now I'm beginning to remember why I stopped writing about this team in the first place.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you finally updated your blog - but I think you are underestimating R A Dickey. He is the best pitcher we have, cinderella references aside.