Friday, December 20, 2013

Mike Pelfrey vs. Kyle Gibson

Mike Pelfrey was quite effective in July and August
after a couple weeks on the disabled list, then sagged
in September.
Theoretically, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson are similar pitchers: Tall (Pelfrey is listed at 6-7, Gibson at 6-6) right-handed, first round draft picks out of midwestern colleges, Tommy John surgery survivors. They're even fairly close in age (Gibson is 26, Pelfrey turns 30 next month).

And, perhaps most significantly, they are both oriented to a high-velocity sinker and lack a swing-and-miss breaking ball. They're geared to ground balls rather than strikeouts.

Pelfrey's return, added to the signing of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and the continuing presence of Kevin Correia, appears to push Gibson into a multi-pitcher scrum for the fifth rotation spot. Among the other candidates: Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno and Andrew Albers. Since Gibson has an option left, and Diamond and Deduno do not, Gibson may be a decided underdog in that competition.

The question remains: Is Pelfrey really a better bet than Gibson?

I have my doubts.

Let's compare the two with the help of the 2014 Bill James Handbook.

Pelfrey's fastball in 2014 averaged 92.4 mph; Gibson, 92.1.

Pelfrey threw his fastball on 73 percent of his pitches. Other pitches: 10 percent sliders, 9 percent splitters, 8 percent curves.

Gibson threw his fastball on 69 percent of his pitches. Other pitches: 17 percent sliders, 13 percent change ups, 1 percent curve. (That would be about one curve ball per game, and I suspect that's more likely a pitch identification problem in the system.)

Pelfrey's 680 batters faced hit 222 grounders (32.4 percent); Gibson's 238 major league hitters generated 92 grounders (38.6 percent).

Pelfrey threw strikes on 61 percent of his pitches, Gibson just 59 percent. Neither percentage is good. It leads to too many deep counts and too many walks.

The wild card here, of course, is that 2013 was, for both, the first full season after their respective ligament replacement surgery. But it has to be said: Pelfrey's "leading indicator" stats were in line with what he did before his injury.

As far as I'm concerned, Pelfrey and Gibson are the same pitcher. It doesn't make a lot of sense to pay one $5 million more to block the other.

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