Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Contemplating Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey this month has given up 16 runs (15 earned)
in 13.1 innings.

Mike Pelfrey is staggering to the finish line this season. The veteran made his 28th start of the season Tuesday and couldn't get through the fifth inning: 4.1 innings, nine hits, three runs and his 13th loss of the year.

All, of course, at his usual deadly slow pace. I cannot remember a Twins pitcher in the Gardenhire era who seemed so reluctant to throw the ball.

Pelfrey's return from Tommy John surgery has had its ups and downs. That he spent the full season (minus three weeks on the disabled list with an unrelated injury) in the major league rotation is impressive by itself. Scott Baker had his ligament replaced at about the same time Pelfrey did; the former Twin spent most of the season rehabbing and made his Cubs debut Sept. 8, about five months after Pelfrey made his first start for the Twins. Even with the DL stint, Pelfrey has made just one fewer start than Kevin Correia.

But he got through six innings in only 12 of his 28 starts. He took the ball regularly, but he didn't go deep into games all that often.

Pelfrey's base record — 5-13, 5.34 — isn't much. But 2013 always figured to be a rehab season for him anyway. And he's averaging almost 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings, a career best (excluding his three-start 2012) and pretty easily the highest K rate among the 10 men the Twins have used as starting pitchers this year.

Pelfrey is on a one-year deal, so he's a free agent again this winter. He's apparently been telling people he wants to remain with the Twins, but he also has Scott Boras for an agent, and Boras' clients generally value the money over comfort level. I don't know how much outside interest there will be in Pelfrey; I don't know how much the Twins want to bring him back.

He's says he's been told he'll get at least one more start, and may get the ball for the season finale as well. To me, this suggests that the Twins are committed to giving him all the leash he wants — which probably has something to do with his interest in remaining. And on the theory that the second year back from the major surgery should be better than the first, the Twins could probably do worse than re-signing him.

But man, he's hard to watch.

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