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Can Pelfrey Be The Mets' Answer?

Mike SteffanosWednesday, July 19, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

With the news that any team that is willing to part with a starting pitcher will demand your firstborn and your cojones in return, it's almost frightening to contemplate what the Mets might need to give up to bring in a pitcher with an ERA of 5 or 6. Enter Mike Pelfrey, who a year ago was slinging fastballs for Wichita State, and is now plying his trade in the National League. No Mets first rounder has ever been asked to do so much so soon. Is it too much, or can Mike Pelfrey save the New York Mets from having to deal young talent for half washed-up mediocrity?

We certainly didn't get an answer his first time out. The Mets scored a zillion runs for him, and it was still all he could do to overcome his jitters and last 5 innings for the win. Yet, in the end he did exactly that. He kept his composure enough to last out 5, when many young pitchers might have faltered. After the game he was able to joke about his nervousness a little, and impressed with how natural and composed he seemed under the onslaught of the hungry fourth estate. It made me hopeful that we might be able to see Mr. Pelfrey have a second chance at major-league hitters.

Last night he faced the Cincinnati Reds -- an aggressive fastball-hitting offensive team in a ballpark that plays smaller than many Pony League fields. He depended primarily on a sinking fastball, mixing in some riding fastballs, sliders and changeups to varying degrees of effectiveness. Still, it's safe to say that the Reds lineup was sitting on his fastball all night, and it was still good enough to do the job. On a pitching staff that lives on guile, deception and precise location, this was eye-opening. Pelfrey was somewhat fortunate on a few hard hit balls last night, but none of them even came close to exiting the park, despite the fact that he was facing the top home run hitting team in the league in the ballpark most vulnerable to the long ball.

I felt goosebumps a couple of times last night watching him, particularly when he struck out Adam Dunn with the tying runs on base with high heat after failing behind him 3-1. It reminded me a little of watching a young Dwight Gooden, although Pelfrey lacks the absolutely electrifying stuff that young Doc brought to the mound. I felt like I was watching something special on a team that just hasn't had a really special young pitcher in quite a while.

Is he polished enough to win games through October? Frankly, I don't pretend to have the answer to that one. You have to see him a couple of more times to even begin to have a clue. Does the nervousness settle down more? Can he consistently get ahead of batters? Can he throw his slider and changeup for strikes more consistently? How will he react when he has a bad game and everything he throws gets hit hard? Will he mimic Alay Soler and develop a phobia of putting pitches in the strike zone? You can debate these things all you want, but you won't really have an answer until it plays out.

It's exciting to be watching the very beginning of a career that has a chance of being something special. The kid has the stuff, and he also seems to have the intangibles -- presence, baseball smarts, and most importantly the inner belief that he really belongs here. If he could continue to make small improvements, he may already be a better choice than all of that dreary flotsam and jetsam that dominates the trade market.

The other side of things
In my 2-part "manifesto" on what I don't like about a possible Abreu trade, I've already made my feelings known. If you missed it, or are feeling masochistic and want to read it again, part 1 is here and part 2 here.

Ryan McConnell from Always Amazin' didn't buy my razor-sharp logic (I know, I know, I'm as shocked as you are) and left some thoughtful comments outlining his disagreement. Today Ryan details why he feels the Mets should pursue the Phillies outfielder. In part, he says:

With David Wright and Carlos Beltran leading the charge, the Mets have scored 494 runs through 92 games this season, tops in the NL. They also have a well-documented weak spot in the starting rotation after Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, and their once-vaunted bullpen has shown some signs of wear lately. So, obviously, it's time to go out and trade for a starter like Freddy Garcia or Jake Westbrook or maybe a reliever such as Roberto Hernandez or Tom Gordon, right?

Well, maybe. But, if this report is to be believed, one of the very best outfielders in the game is available, and it won't preclude them obtaining the pitching help they so desperately covet for the postseason. And if it's just money that's preventing teams from obtaining Abreu, it's my opinion that the Mets would be fools to ignore this rare opportunity.

No matter where you stand on this, you should look at everything from both sides. Ryan does a good job of outlining his opinion, take a moment to read the rest.

Fox Sports: Livan
Ken Rosenthal offers some cautionary information on Livan Hernandez:

Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez, under contract for $7 million next season, frightens several prospective trade partners.

"There's something wrong there," says the general manager of one club that is looking for pitching. "For me, it's buyer beware."

Another rival executive says: "The National League has got the guy figured out. His fastball has lost so much; his off-speed stuff is not as effective."

Hernandez, 31, is 6-8 with a 5.87 ERA, but a scout from a third club predicts that he would revive in a pennant race, contending that Hernandez is simply disinterested with the Nats.

Yet, even that scout concedes: "He's one of the hardest guys I've ever had to read."

Hernandez has to be viewed as a complete roll of the dice at this point, and I'm thinking snake eyes here. Yet the Nats are still demanding a top prospect in return for the bloated Livan and his bloated salary.

MetsMerized: Damn, we could have had Jose Cruz, Jr.!
Our friends in the MetsMerized forum found this little tidbit about a trade Steve Phillips tried to make in 2002 for a prospect in A-ball named David Wright. There probably wouldn't have been too big of a stink over this, as almost nobody had heard of Wright at the time. If this doesn't prove to you that Steve Phillips was a horribly inept General Manager, nothing will. Thanks to Hot Foot for the link.

Mack's Mets Notes: Mack is Back
John Mackin Ade has returned from a hospital stay and is back to blogging. Good luck, Mack. Take it easy, now.

Getting Paid to Watch: Vern
Bob Sikes updates us on former Mets bullpen coach Vern Hoscheit.

Take the "7" Train: Beltran
Carlos Beltran's return to form this season may have come as a surprise to the empty-headed boo-birds who jumped on him on opening day, but not to 7 Train's Kevin Collazo.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets
Pro Sports Daily Mets

Comments (9)

As a Mets fan who currently resides in the Philadelphia suburbs (and who also has more than enough Phillies fans as friends) I've heard all the negative stuff you could want to hear about Abreu. And, while it bothers me to an extent that any ball hit within 30 feet of a wall has absolutely no chance of being caught...a lineup that features a 1 through 6 of Reyes-Abreu-Beltran-Delgado-Wright-Floyd is downright sexy.

I realize that Abreu is owed plenty of money and it sounds like he will need to have his option picked up before he's even dealt and his power numbers are down considerably. However, with a market in which Omar will have to give up some kind of frankestein-like monster (made up of Reyes' legs and throwing arm, Wright's head and batting prowess, and Jose Valentin's facial hair) as well as Heilman, Pelfry, and Milledge in return for a mediocre starter w/ an above-5.00 ERA...why not go after a guy who would fit into the #2 slot so well if you can get him w/ some lower-level prospects and cash?

I'm not going to pretend that I'm 100% sold on this move, but after reading a lot of opinions I've been moved to change my stance to more of a 60/40 split in favor of aquiring Abreu.

Then again...we almost gave up David Wright for Jose Cruz, Jr. and Reyes for Barry Larkin a few years ago.

Man, I wish foresight was 20/20.

Hey Mike, thanks for the nod...I've enjoyed the debate. Keep up the great work.

Yes that was me.

It was most impressive that Pelfrey hit a good Cincy team that kills FB pitchers. And he was getting GB outs and SO guys in big spots. Plus Beltran is all world right now. He has becomne the MVP favorite.

what a wonderful surprise to see your kind comments... it's been a tough week, but I'm hanging in there...


I can imagine the possibility that Pelfrey gets revealed, a bit, to the major leaguers, and that October baseball might catch him in mid-adjustment. I don't think it's going to happen, but I accept the possibility.

But as for the chance that he might suddenly grow shy of throwing a strike, as Soler seemed to -- I'll lay money that will NOT happen. This guy is no stranger to pressure situations.

Every pitcher, every player acquired for that matter, is a risk to one degree or another. One need look no farther than Carlos Beltran's 2005 season; and a more solid citizen would be hard to find in baseball. I think Mike Pelfrey is about as good a bet to fortify the Mets' playoff run as anyone out there. Plus, he's one of ours, which makes it a particularly easy call to keep him around.

And, no to Abreu. Too much money for a player over-ready for the American League game. You gotta play in the field over here.

Sorry, I had to step out for a few hours. Now to your comments:

Bini -- I know what you mean. I'm against signing Abreu, but I can see the benefits of it.
Ryan -- thanks, I enjoyed it, too.
Ed -- thanks for the update on Humber, and yeah, I just heard about the Keppinger deal.
No problem, Mack. I hope things pick up for you.
DD -- you're preaching to the choir on both counts.

1. I think Gotay is either a filler on another (zito) deal or he is a cheap switch hitting 2nd baseman with power and insurance if Jose walks.

2. Abreu makes no sense.

3. I think if we see Soler again he will show more attitude and polish. Plus to strikeout Adam Dunn he put a 95mph heater straight thru the plate.....against Big Pappi or Chip Jones in the playoffs that wont fly.

Ed, I have no clue on Gotay -- I'm just glad Keppinger will finally get a chance with a team that believes in him. Abreu would be a huge upgrade in the order, but I just don't think enough to justify the huge contract.

I have nothing against Soler, but he did lose the desire to throw strikes. Maybe it was as simple as the calf injury he claimed to have. As for done, that was a good moving fastball up in the zone. Ortiz is a low ball hitter, that might have got him. Anyway, I'd rather see a kid make mistakes being aggressive.

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