Foul Pelfrey

Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey is currently going through a rough stretch in his last four starts. Since throwing six innings of two-earned-run baseball against the Twins on June 25th, Pelfrey has been a disaster on the mound. He hasn’t gotten out of the fifth inning in any start, and last night gave up 6 earned runs in just 1.1 innings pitched. Pelfrey, however, is in the midst of his best season in the majors after a hot start. His FIP stands at 3.87 and he has a groundball rate of 48.6%. For all of 2010, Pelfrey has been a solid starting pitcher. But he has been a nightmare of late.

Most people are looking for everything they can to figure out what’s wrong with Pelfrey, from pitch selection to mental weakness to arm fatigue. But what may be eating at Pelfrey is his inability to have batters hit the ball fair. For Pelf, batters hitting the ball in play is generally a good thing with a groundball rate as low as his (as well as a career HR/FB% of just 7.6% in 593.1 career innings). But it seems as though he just isn’t able to put batters away lately. Here are Pelfrey’s stats through the first 15 games of the season:

Strike%: 64.8%
K/9: 6.28
BB/9: 3.05

Through Pelfrey’s first 15 starts of the season, he was throwing strikes (just the basic strike totals accumulated at the end of the game that includes balls hit) 64.8% of the time and had a decent K:BB ratio for a heavy groundball pitcher. Now his last four starts:

Strike%: 62.1
K/9: 4.667
BB/9: 6.667

Yeah, Pelfrey has been terrible. But the most fascinating part is that his total number of strikes per pitches is barely lower, and no kinds of a drop so as to be statistically significant. He is, however, walking over twice as many batters as well as striking out a significantly smaller portion, as well. So what gives?

Basically, Pelfrey is having a tough time putting away hitters, leading to more foul balls, which has driven his Strike% up. Although it’s only been four starts from Pelfrey, and that in and of itself can’t tell us much, we do have 367 pitches worth of data from which to glean something. Baseball information doesn’t have to be measured just in innings or at-bats; each pitch can tell us a whole lot (just ask Dave Allen or Jeremy Greenhouse).

We do know that, over the course of more innings, an inability to generate swings and misses can be quite costly for a pitcher. The more interesting question is how much of that is due to luck? What is the difference between a player hitting a ball three feet foul of first base and three feet fair into the first baseman’s glove? It seems, conceptually, to not be a lot, although it may take a whole bunch more of physics and math to figure it out. For Pelfrey, a player hitting a ball backward rather than forward can be quite costly if it happens too much and at inopportune times. Over the past four starts, Pelfrey’s foul ball issues have been tragic, and when you combine that with an unlucky BABIP and too many walks you get a recipe for immediate disaster. The question is whether or not the difference between a foul ball and fair ball is a matter of Pelf’s bad luck or an underlying issue (i.e. pitching poorly). The Mets sure would like to know.



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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


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Rich
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Rich
5 years 11 months ago

“Yeah, Pelfrey has been terrible. However, the most fascinating part is that his total number of strikes per pitches is barely lower, and nothing of a drop to be statistically significant. ”

There are strikes, and then there are Strikes. This is not the latter.

The fact that a ball is in the strike zone doesn’t mean its a good pitch.

bvillebaron
Guest
bvillebaron
5 years 11 months ago

Very simple, the league has seen and caught up with Pelfrey’s “new pitch” and are not swinging at it when it is not in the strike zone.

jimmyBdAle
Guest
jimmyBdAle
5 years 11 months ago

thats just not true at all. this is a perfect example of needing to WATCH a pitcher throw. he goes 1-2 and then gives up 3 foul balls and throws 2 more balls.he needs to throw a strike. he does. its a ground ball with eyes and it sneaks though. i had to drop him in my fantasy league (i didnt want to..but i had to) because in the books hes giving up 5 runs on12 hits.

but theyre not hard hit balls. its gotta be frustrating yanno?

nmigliore
Member
nmigliore
5 years 11 months ago

It definitely looks like Pelf’s splitter (which pitch f/x keeps calling a change-up) has lost its effectiveness lately:

Pelf’s change-up from April 5th to June 15th: 12.9 Whiff%, 13.3 Foul%
Pelf’s change-up from June 16th to July 19th: 6.9 Whiff%, 19.8 Foul%

dutchbrowncoat
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dutchbrowncoat
5 years 11 months ago

i was watching and i felt really bad for pelfrey. the d-backs seemed to foul off anything close and all the hits seemed to fall.

total pitches to the batter / foul balls in pelfrey’s first inning yesterday
young – 3 – 0
johnson – 7 – 3
upton – 8 – 3
montero – 4 – 1
laroche – 6 – 2
reynolds – 9 – 3
drew – 4 -0
parra – 8 – 1
kennedy – 5 – 1

totals – 54 – 14

that is a very hard inning for anyone. that is a ton of pitches in one inning and it had to be hard for a borderline headcase like pelfrey.

JerrysKids
Guest
JerrysKids
5 years 11 months ago

Headcase? Do you write for the MSM, too?

dutchbrowncoat
Guest
dutchbrowncoat
5 years 11 months ago

@jerryskids

nope. i am a mets fan who has watched pelfrey pitch for a while. i like the guy, and when he is confident he throws well enough but once that is gone he seems to skid. his balks, his laps around coors field, and some of his quotes over the years don’t help either.

neuter_your_dogma
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neuter_your_dogma
5 years 11 months ago

“What is the difference between a player hitting a ball three feet foul of first base and three feet fair into the first baseman’s glove?”…or three feet to the left of the first baseman’s glove for a single?

Dylan
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Dylan
5 years 11 months ago

Pelfrey was already getting a bit lucky, and now he’s lost something. It has nothing to do with people learning his splitter, because his splitter didn’t contribute enough to cost this much of a dropoff. Pelfrey seems to have a dead arm, accentuated by the fact that he’s definitely a bit of a headcase and when things go bad, they go awful. It hasn’t been by accident that those hits have been falling now, his stuff as a whole has been worse, and talented major leaguers are able to control where the ball goes to some extent when a guy simply doesn’t have good stuff.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 11 months ago

Jimenez is also in a bad 5 start stretch, and Johnson is due for one too (only 4 HRA in the first half.

Not too many guys flat out dominate week in and week out.

Crazy Observer
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Crazy Observer
5 years 11 months ago

Have to agree. Amen!

zoned
Guest
zoned
5 years 11 months ago

If you want to talk about a Met pitcher who can’t put people away or get out of the 5th inning because of foul ball issues, you should look up John Maine’s entire career

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