NY Sports Dog: Was Tom Verducci Right on Mike Pelfrey?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Was Tom Verducci Right on Mike Pelfrey?

On April 7, 2009, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated put Mike Pelfrey in his cross-hairs.

He singled out Pelfrey for a potential drop-off in performance based on something that has become known as, "The Verducci Effect."

Verducci wrote:

Mike Pelfrey was ready for me in the Mets spring training clubhouse, as if he knew I was coming.

"Look at me," the Mets right-hander said one day last month. "I'm a pretty big guy." Yes, sir. Pelfrey is 6-foot-7. Thankfully, he is a rather pleasant, mild-mannered guy.

I didn't feel threatened, but my theory about young pitchers getting overworked was precisely in Pelfrey's crosshairs. Pelfrey was familiar with my rule of thumb that pitchers 25 and under are at risk of injury or significant regression in the year after their clubs boost their workload by 30 or more innings.

The Mets pushed Pelfrey, then 24, 48 innings beyond his previous professional high in innings pitched last year. The club preferred not to do it. In fact, the Mets had mapped out a plan to get Pelfrey about 180 innings last year, but injuries on their staff and a tight pennant race forced the Mets to keep running him out there, rolling the odometer on his innings up to 200 2/3.
Verducci "red-flagged" 10 pitchers for 2009, and looking at the numbers, his theory can certainly be called accurate, or at least another data point for mapping out a program for young pitcher development.

Here are the pitchers he flagged and their ERA increase from 2008 to 2009:

1. Jon Lester Red Sox: +0.39
2. Cole Hamels Phillies: +1.43
3. Chad Billingsley Dodgers: +0.69
4. Tim Lincecum Giants: -0.29
5. Clayton Kershaw Dodgers: -1.30
6. Dana Eveland A's: +3.66
7. Mike Pelfrey Mets: +1.08
8. John Danks White Sox: +0.50
9. Jair Jurrjens Braves: -0.77
10. Jonathan Niese Mets: Injured

So looking at that list, he was right on 6 of the 9 pitchers (Niese's unfortunate non-pitching injury takes him out of this equation).

Lincecum, Jurrjens and Kershaw are three that have improved since last year, but what of Pelfrey, or Cole Hamels for that matter?

In 2008 Pelfrey had an ERA+ of 113, compared to an ERA+ of 88 in 2009.

He is walking 3.4 per 9 innings vice 2.9 in 2008.

His K/9 is up slightly, however his K/BB is worse.

More troubling are his ERA numbers by month:

2008 season:

4.43, 5.35, 3.52, 2.70, 2.93, 4.06

Compared to 2009:

6.32, 2.92, 6.39, 4.84, 5.10.

It's as if we've been playing, "Where in the world is Mike Pelfrey?" all year long.

Now I won't go as far as saying his jump in innings from 2007 to 2008 is the cause of all of this, but it certainly does make you stop and think.

I only hope that over Pelfrey's final 6 or so starts in 2009 that he finds something to build on going forward.

One thing is for certain, he won't match his 200+ innings total from last year, and that might just be the right approach for the rest of the year--caution. He threw 118 pitches in his last outing, and that, in my opinion, is unnecessary right now.
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James K. said...

I have to disagree Dave. The Mets defense has taken a big step back this season - this has played a major role in his supposed "regression." Take a look at his defense independent pitching statistics:

2008: 4.93 K/9, 2.87 BB/9, 0.54 HR/9, 49.6% GB%, 3.96 FIP, 4.35 tERA
2009: 5.17 K/9, 3.38 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9, 51.7% GB%, 4.10 FIP, 4.43 tERA

His K's are up, his BB's are up, but his GB% is up as well. The Mets infield defense is horrendous, meaning the ERA of a groundball pitcher like Pelf will suffer. This isn't to say he has taken a step forward from 2008, cause he hasn't. But his 2009 is essentially the same as his 2008 - Verducci isn't right. He hasn't been better but he hasn't been worse.

Also, team UZR of the Mets the last 2 seasons, to demonstrate how bad the defense has been this year -

2008: +27.1 (7th best in baseball)
2009: -46.3 (worst in baseball)

Dave Singer said...


First off, it is GREAT to see you!

I agree with you as far as the ground balls...it's been the oe thing I've loved about Pelf this year.

And yes, the infield D is bad....BUT...

I am still of the opinion that Pelf was better last year...

First off, he "looked" better...stats nerds like you and I are sometimes loathe to admit it, but we do have eyes, and mine say Pelf was better in 2008, primarily on his ability to get the big out when he needed it.

Now are his problems directly attributable to the Verducci Effect? I honestly don't think so, but he has gone backward on a few levels...not improved like Lincecum.

Anyway, great to see you amigo...this post was designed to generate thoughtful discussion, and as always, you provided the goods.

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