Coutinho: Can Mike Pelfrey Rebound For Mets?

By Rich Coutinho
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When you look at the big question marks for the 2012 Mets, Johan Santana and Jason Bay top the list.

But in order to compete, the Mets must get solid starting pitching — even if Santana returns healthy and ready to go. Over the past four years, Mike Pelfrey has shown the ability to both impress you and leave you scratching your head.

In 2008,  he finished 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA, followed by a 2009 season in which he went 10-12 with a career high 5.03 ERA. And just when you were ready to write him off, he had his best season ever, winning 15 games and possessing a 3.66 ERA. Then the bottom fell out last year with a 7-13 record and a 4.74 ERA.

So what do you make of his inconsistency? Clearly he has shown the ability to rebound. Pelfrey’s track record would indicate a good  season in 2012. But I refuse to just dismiss this with a one-year-on, one-year-off explanation.

I really believe Pelfrey fell in love with his new pitch — the cutter — last season. It gave him some success in 2010, but the problem was it forced him to move away from his real strength — a hard sinking fastball. He gave up a career high 21 homers last year and I firmly believe the cutter had a lot to do with that. He needs to get back to basics. Pelfrey was a top draft pick because he threw a hard sinker very similar to Brandon Webb.

And if he is to have success, he needs to return to his roots.

Another big thing for Pelfrey is the presence of Santana, who I firmly believe has a profound influence on the big right-hander for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a return to ace status for No. 57 will allow Pelfrey to be Pelfrey — and not force the righty to be something he is not. Secondly, Santana spent hours with Pelfrey when he was healthy talking to him about preparation, focus and confidence.

“He has great stuff,” said Santana a few years ago in spring training. “And he needs to trust his stuff. You do thinking before you throw a pitch not during the motion of pitching.”

And that is an important point for Pelfrey. He has good stuff and sometimes he suffers from over thinking. That especially came to fruition when Terry Collins made him the Opening Day starter — one of the few mistakes the manager made last year. When he does not over think things, he performs well.  Case in point: Back in 2010, Pelfrey relieving in that marathon game in St. Louis. He performed in a very tough situation because he did not have time to worry about the moment. “Paralysis by Analysis” is the term for it I think.

I have gotten to know Pelfrey in the past few years and nobody wants to win more than him. He is a great teammate, very well-liked in all corners of that clubhouse and a real role model in the way he handles himself with both and the media and the fans. More importantly, he has talent. And if I were a general manager, I’d want him on my staff.

Pitching is a strange thing. Some hurlers blossom right away while others need time to develop. R.A. Dickey re-invented himself after an injury because he had the will to make it back to the majors. The road for Pelfrey is slightly different because he is physically healthy but he needs an injection of confidence and a return to “his basics” of pitching.

In both 2008 and 2010, he showed he could be more than a serviceable pitcher.

If he returns to that form in 2012, the Mets’ starting rotation may start to look a lot better than the gloomy picture the baseball world has depicted for all of us to see.

Do you think Pelfrey will turn it around? Sound off below…

  • The Glicer

    And he has no secondary pitches – his curveball, slider and change up all suck. His fastball has lost velocity too. He’s now down to around 92-93 mph where he was up around 94-96 a couple years ago.

  • The Glider

    Rebound? Pelfrey is what he has been a middle (at best) to bottom end of the rotation starter. And that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt. If we weren’t in – yet another – bridge year, I would have let him walk. I hate watching him pitch.

  • gasparsarm

    Don’t know who is right, but Coutino comes at it with analysis, everybody else by gut.

    Time will tell – would love to see Pelf be a “good three”.

  • sarcasticallytrue

    really ? Pelfrey looks like he is being interrogated on the mound. He obviously has anxiety issues just like Maine & Perez did. As soon as someone gets on base he looses it ! Can we please please get back to signing baseball players. I mean athletes that @ least look like they play the game of baseball. How about just signing confident players ! I would take that ! CONFIDENCE & HEART is what the 1986 Team had. Sometimes I want Hernandez to come down from the booth & give this team a lesson on what it takes to win. Matter of fact go to the Wilpons & repeat this action.

  • Mike

    I think Pelfrey should not be on this team.He just keeps getting worse. He is without a doubt the causr of my ulser. Please trade him before April.

  • Rich

    You know guys it’s really too early for this. As much of a die hard I was and love the Mets I really want to wake up a year from now and talk about this. This organization has completely SUCKED THE PASSION right out of me. 2012 will be a bust so lets just enjoy the 70 wins they’ll have and look forward to 2013. Sorry for the lousy attitude but i’m a BROKEN MET FAN!!!!!!!!!!


    Pelfrey is nothing more than a number three starter at best, quite possibly a number four man on nay other decent team. Rich Coutinho, you are giving Pelfrey too much credit. This is one guy they should have traded/let go.
    Just say-in

  • Clark

    Tell the truth, in 2010 he had a spectacular first half posting a 10-1, you forgot to mention his second half was much more average posting a 5-8 record. So saying he won 15 games and making it seem like he accomplish something special by winning 15 games is pure nonsense.

    Returning to form is also stupid; he won 15 games ONLY ONCE in his career.
    What we have seen from Pelfrey is what he is, a below average .500 pitcher who in most teams would be the 4th or 5th starter.

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