The Pelf on the Shelf

Writer’s Note: Mike Pelfrey ranked 139th on Zach Sanders’ rankings.

You aren’t going to draft Mike Pelfrey. You probably won’t pick him up in season. You may not even use him as a two-start option.

But Pelfrey isn’t as bad as he looked last year, and in fact may have some untapped upside that the Twins could be getting on the cheap after re-signing him to a two-year, $11 million deal.

Pelfrey missed nearly all of the 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery, and rushed back to join a Twins rotation in shambles just a year later. It was obvious he wasn’t right from the get-go, and he said as much himself — though much later on.

Take a look at his ERA by month:

Apr. – 7.66
May – 5.90
June- 4.66
July- 3.25
Aug.- 3.60
Sept.- 7.45

If one believes the narratives of early season troubles as working through the rust of a missed season due to major surgery, and the late season woes as those based on fatigue, well, one can make a pretty compelling case that the middle of Pelfrey’s season portrays at least some sort of upside not immediately seen from a 5.19 ERA and 5-13 record.

A glance at Pelf’s PITCHf/x actually portrays a more flattering picture than one might anticipate. The only pitch Pelfrey threw that got hit extraordinarily hard is his splitter — .361/.443/.459 which he threw with the lowest frequency of all his offerings. No other pitch Pelfrey threw permitted an opponent’s OPS of higher than .800. And he wasn’t exactly battered with the split, either. He allowed 19 singles, and just one each of all the extra base varieties. It’s easy to see why Pelfrey sticks with the splitter in that vein, when one considers the singles in light of a 58.2% groundball rate on that pitch. That slash line comes with a .389 BABIP too. Essentially, the splitty is doing what it is supposed to do, just not generating the proper results. At least not yet.

Pelfrey is also throwing rather hard. And while that alone isn’t noteworthy, it’s good to see that his high-end fastballs and sinkers (96.3 and 95.5 mph, respectively) are getting close to his pre-injury values.

Another good thing to see is how good Pelfrey’s slider was last year. And maybe this is part of the reason I still think Pelfrey could be a good two-pitch power reliever, sort of cut from the Luke Hochevar mold. Not only would his fastball play up — and perhaps routinely sit at or around 95 — but he also has a slider that allowed a 2013 line of .254/.262/.356 and has allowed a career mark of .256/.290/.383.

With an AAV of $5.5 million, I think the Twins can afford to give Pelfrey another spin in the rotation, and see if any of these underlying tendencies take hold in one of the better pitchers’ parks in the league. If that doesn’t work there’s still a good chance he could pan out as a good reliever. At the end of the day fantasy-wise, he’s just on a long list of guys to keep an eye on, but not roster.

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In addition to Rotographs, Warne is a former Minnesota Twins beat writer for 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, and current sportswriter for Sports Data LLC in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

14 Responses to “The Pelf on the Shelf”

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  1. FeslenR says:

    bad signing, either way.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:


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      • FeslenR says:

        he’s not a good pitcher, even for an innings eater.

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        It’s a 2 year, 11 mil deal, so Pelfrey needs to be worth about 2 WAR over the contract to pay for it. FanGraphs says he was worth 2.1 WAR last year and even an ERA closer to his xFIP, such as Steamer predicts, predicts 1.4 WAR, so something like 1.4 WAR each of the next two years produces some surplus value. And while Pelfrey isn’t great, he has some decent innings eater potential, and provides very cheap depth.

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  2. dirck says:

    Lazily , I haven’t researched this ,but from years of watching Pelfrey pitching for the Mets ,I feel that he has been susceptible to the dreaded “one bad inning “.My memory of him is so often cruising along being either fairly dominant ,or at least effective for 4 or 5 innings and then having the wheels completely fall off .

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  3. Robert Hombre says:

    Also a fantasy question: Cleveland Lefty Prospect Kyle Crockett is likely to be with the club in 2014. Much in the same way that we can keep a Pelf on a Shelf, should we likewise keep a Crockett in our Pocket?

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  4. Ed says:

    Terrible signing. Brandon is a well known TR apologist and cannot give an unbiased report on the team. Pelf will burn up innings that should go to Gibson or Meyer because the Twins still value good guy pitch to contact over strikeouts and upside.

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  5. Josh says:

    Pretty compelling case for Pelf if I gotta say so myself., which is pretty hard to do. The one counter I will enlist against him is that he still struggles mightily out of the stretch (1.27 K/BB rate, 5.00 xFIP with guys on base last year). This has always been his problem and he didn’t show any improvement last year. Until he fixes this, he’ll continue to be prone to that big inning Mets fans are talking about. After 1000+ Big League innings the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against him. His awkward 6’7 frame just makes him a different pitcher out of the stretch vs the windup.

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  6. nolan says:

    I know this isn’t fantasy relevant or even winning-and-losing-games relevant but Pelfrey is incredibly hard for me to watch. He sucks the life out of every game he pitches. I would rather do almost anything else than watch a Pelfrey start. Twins fans shouldn’t have to deal with two more years of this for the “upside” of a 4.00 ERA starter.

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