The Pelfrey Problem

Meet The Mess

The honeymoon period for Mike Pelfrey should officially be declared over.

‘Big Pelf’ has been a mainstay in the Mets rotation for half of a decade now, and besides two serviceable seasons in 2008 and 2010, he has not reached the plateau Mets brass envisioned him on when he was drafted.

The fact of the matter is Pelfrey never developed into the front-of-the-line starter he was drafted to become, and has essentially cemented himself as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater.

Particularly his 2010 campaign, where he boasted a 15-9 record with a 3.66 ERA, gave fans a sliver of hope that the former first-round draft pick would deliver on the dreams and desires the team had, however last season’s dismal let-down of a season has shown that 2010 might have been an aberration.

It seems like each year the same questions pop up during Spring Training: “Can Pelfrey bounce back?” “Will this year be the year he finds his potential?”

It’s time to ask a different question. The real dilemma is the fact we keep counting on something that seems unattainable.

This offseason Pelfrey was awarded approximately $5 million in an arbitration case, making him the potential poster child that would showcase the thing the new Mets front office undervalues most: overpriced underachievers.

The hallmark of General Manager Sandy Alderson’s time in Queens has been an emphasis on talent evaluations and judging players on their skills while also paying them accordingly. If Jose Reyes wasn’t even offered a contract because Alderson and his front office valued his play less than what the market would, how can we justify making Pelfrey one of our top paid pitchers?

The facts are right in front of us. Pelfrey owns a 50-54 career record with a 4.40 ERA over the same six-year span. During his time as a continuing member of the rotation, Pelf is astoundingly average. From 2008 to 2011, Pelfrey has a mirroring .500 record of 45-45 with an average ERA of 4.27. The only thing Pelfrey has truly been able to do has been eat up innings over the course of a season, averaging just under 200 in each of his years.

Buried beneath his hand licking and nervous pacing on the mound is a world of talent. If 2010 taught the Mets anything, it’s that if Pelfrey is able to harness his arsenal of pitches, he has the potential to be an above-average starter.

A healthy Johan Santana might be the key the Mets need to use to unlock Pelfrey’s confidence and ability. During his 2010 campaign Pelfrey was the team’s No. 2 starter and not expected to carry the load and act as a leader of the Mets pitching staff — that job was Johan’s. If the former Cy Young award winner is able to return to the Mets staff and once again act as the anchor holding them down, Pelfrey might be more comfortable in a support role that he once occupied.

Now one of the longest tenured Mets currently on the roster, Pelfrey has gone through a roller coaster career in Queens. Being a prized prospect, considered a bust and even being counted on as an ace have all been hats the right hander has had to wear.

The Mets are in a state of transition and unless Pelfrey can have a truly convincing turnaround this year, it appears he won’t see the end of that transition while wearing orange and blue.