By Mike Steffanos
Pedro Feliciano began his career as an 18-year-old with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who took him in the thirty-first round of the 1995 draft. He remained in the Dodgers organization for six years, making it as far as Triple-A in his final year there. At that point he began to bounce around, including a couple of stays with the Mets and a year in Japan with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in 2005.
Feliciano went to spring training with the Mets in 2006 with some sort of agreement that if he didn't make the big club he would return to Japan. While in training camp Rick Peterson got him to drop his arm angle to a very low 3/4 delivery, making him more effective against left-handed batters. He won a position in the bullpen coming out of camp, but was replaced at the last minute (literally pulled off a charter flight to New York) by Darren Oliver when Victor Zambrano experienced some hamstring issues. Somehow the Japanese safety net fell through, and a disgruntled Feliciano reported to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the year.
He didn't stay there long. On April 17, Victor Diaz (remember him?) was optioned down to Norfolk and Feliciano took his place. Feliciano was very good out of the gate with the Mets, allowing runs in only 3 of his first 19 appearances. He solidified his spot in the bullpen and steadily earned more important innings. Here are Pedro Feliciano's stats from 2006:
|Pedro Feliciano 2006 Stats|
Feliciano put up some interesting splits last year that are worth taking a look at:
|Pedro Feliciano 2006 Splits|
While lacking an explosive fastball, Feliciano throws a very good slider, and uses it with some effectiveness against right-handers, too. Although, as is typical with a lefty specialist, right-handers do hit him better, the .266 batting average against and .349 slugging percentage that righties had against Feliciano really aren't that bad. This enabled Willie Randolph to be comfortable leaving him in against some right-handers when another leftie was due up next. His biggest problem in this regard was the huge disparity of walks issued to righties as opposed to lefties, which most likely was a symptom of pitching very carefully to them.
The other item of interest was the dramatic home/road split. Despite all of the games the Mets play in launching pads like Philadelphia and Atlanta, Feliciano's batting average against was almost a hundred points higher at home. It's hard to know whether this was just a statistical anomaly or reflective of possibly trying too hard in front of the home crowd. You would think that with such a large difference in the numbers that there is something there.
Other noteworthy numbers: Feliciano allowed 12 of 39 inherited runners to score -- not very impressive given his other more solid numbers. He also had a tendency to give up hits with nobody on base and no outs, with a .314 AVG against in those situations -- including a .300 AVG and .375 OBP for batters leading off an inning. So many relievers seem to need men on base to bear down. Conversely, the .224/.269/.239 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with runners in scoring position was outstanding.
Pedro Feliciano's repertoire includes an average fastball which he throws 47% of the time, and a good slider (31%), along with a handful of curves (14%) and changeups (8%). The slider is his one real out pitch. The league hit .336 against Feliciano's fastball, which points to a need to set it up effectively with that slider (.133 AVG against) and get ahead of hitters.
It's a crowded bullpen heading into the spring. Scott Schoeneweis' 3-year contract will virtually guarantee him a job in the 'pen, and Feliciano will need to earn that second lefty spot. At 30 years old and with only 133 major league innings under his belt, the career minor leaguer must prove right out of the gate that last year was no fluke. Pedro Feliciano's excellent 2006 campaign has bought him nothing more than a little respect heading into the spring. On the other hand, if he proves last year was no illusion, as a lefty specialist he will continue to be able to find major league jobs until his left arm falls off.
2007 Bullpen Previews:
Pedro Feliciano (This Article)
Chan Ho Park
Four Other Names for You
2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up