Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mike Pelfrey and pitch nomenclature

For his career,
Mike Pelfrey has
an ERA+  12 percent
below league average.
I predicted in Monday's post that Mike Pelfrey would get the fifth slot in the starting rotation. I made that prediction on this basis:

  • He's owed $5 million for this season, and the Twins will try to get something for the money.
  • He apparently has a long warmup routine in the wake of his surgeries, which works against putting him in the bullpen. And
  • The Twins have a well-established pattern of preferring veterans in the rotation to open the year, although it's possible Paul Molitor isn't wedded to that philosophy.
All that said, the tone of the reports after Pelfrey's outing Monday against the Phillies suggested that Tommy Milone and Trevor May are ahead of Pelfrey at this point. 

We'll see, I'll be surprised, still, if Pelfrey isn't in the opening rotation.


Pelfrey is well-known as a "sinker-slider guy." So is Kyle Gibson. Sinker-slider guys, by definition, don't have a good change-up; if a pitcher has that as well, he's not limited to sinkers and sliders. 

As part of Neil Allen's mission as pitching coach to emphasize the change-up, Pelfrey has been featuring something the stories about him typically call a "split-change." (In the piece linked to above, Molitor calls it a "split-finger.")

I have a theory on the difference between a "forkball" and a "split-finger fastball." The theory is that if the mindset is to throw the pitch hard (even though it won't have the velocity of a true fastball), you call it a split-finger fastball. The word fastball sets the attitude behind the pitch.

If the reporters are calling Pelfrey's new pitch a split-change, it's because that's what Pelfrey and Allen are calling it. Which suggests the obvious mindset behind this pitch. They want to see significant velocity separation from his other pitches.

The Twins had, since the mid-90s or so, downplayed or discouraged use of the splitter. I remember a spring when Carlos Silva showed up with a splitter. The first day the stories called it a splitter. The second day it was a forkball. By the end of the week it was a changeup. And in the end it was a nonfactor. Silva was a sinker-slider guy to the end of his career.

Which is what I expect will happen with Pelfrey and his new pitch. Obviously a good change would be his benefit, but he's 31 and hasn't mastered one yet. 

No comments:

Post a Comment