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  • What? The Twins considering Mike Pelfrey again?

    When the New York Mets drafted Mike Pelfrey out of Wichita State with the ninth overall pick in 2005, their scouting department was obviously enamored by his big body, big fastball and big projectability. He would develop a breaking ball and become the ace Flushing had not seen in a while.

    Of course, the latter never happened for Pelfrey; instead he struggled to find a semblance of a swing-and-miss pitcher, became the embodied disappointment of Mets fans, had his elbow ligament snap and wound up in Minnesota. Quite the different career path than was envisioned for him eight years ago.

    Now, a free agent coming off a middling season (5-13, 5.19 ERA),
    CBSsports.com’s Jon Heyman, who has a close relationship with agent Scott Boras, reports that the Twins have extended a multi-year offer:

    “They are also known to be a team to have offered Pelfrey a multi-year deal, though the sides are still believed to be apart on the annual salary.”
    So…

    [Slams laptop closed. Goes for a long walk.]

    This is all confusing. The Twins recognize they have a serious problem with their starting rotation - a rotation that has failed to miss bats at a historic rate in the modern era - but continue to pursue the same type of starting pitcher that has created the problem to begin with. As mentioned before, due to his lack of secondary offerings, even a fully healthy Mike Pelfrey fails to miss bats at even the league average rate. Over his career, he has a swinging strike rate of 5.9% while the rest of the game has been closer to 9%.

    I thought we had an understanding here. I thought Jack Goin, the Twins’ manager of Major League Administration and Baseball Research, had sat Terry Ryan down and explained that strikeouts were not only NOT fascist, they were good and that having a lot of them made your starting rotation better. So, why Pelfrey again? The objective should be to look at your 2013 starting rotation real closely then target all the pitchers whose skill sets are the exact opposite.

    Ok, that may be a large overcorrection but, still, why Pelfrey again?

    It is entirely possible that Pelfrey’s agent is using Heyman and the Twins to drum up additional interest in his client. After all, the Twins have not confirmed that there is a two-year offer out to Pelfrey right now. That being said, at the end of last year the Twins coaching staff and Terry Ryan lauded Pelfrey’s second-half improvements. Manager Ron Gardenhire said in September that he believed a lot of Pelfrey’s problems in the later part of the year, such has too many 3-2 counts and long delays between pitches, were easily fixable.

    The Twins said they liked seeing Pelfrey’s velocity increase, which it did from 91.9 in the first-half to 92.7 in the second-half. Gardenhire mentioned specifically that Pelfrey’s secondary pitches improved over the course of the year as his elbow healed, which was true in that opponents had a .700 OPS against his secondary pitches in the first-half while they had a .588 OPS in the second.

    The biggest thing that may be the key as to why the Twins would entertain the notion of bringing Pelfrey back is the huge swing in a statistic that hides behind paywalls called “well-hit average”. This statistic tries to add description to a pitcher’s (or hitter’s) batted balls that goes beyond just the line drive, ground ball and fly ball categories. Video scouts from various companies such as Inside Edge or BIS log whether that ground ball out was smoked to second or a harmless chopper. In theory, when used in conjunction with a regularly distributed stat like batting average on balls in play (BABIP), it should provide insight as to whether a pitcher’s inflated/deflated BABIP was truly unlucky or not.

    In Pelfrey’s case, consider the difference on balls in play between the first half of the year and the second half.

    During the first stretch, Pelfrey was banged around to the tune of .313/.359/.478 over 16 games. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info Department, he carried a well-hit average of .222 -- the highest among all starters with the exception of Joe Blanton (.235). That’s a straight-up beating by hitters. Taking the well-hit average into account, there is no risk of miscategorizing his first-half as “unlucky”.

    Several things played a factor in these results but a recovering rebuilt elbow was likely the most significant hindrance. Admittedly, Pelfrey lacks the necessary secondary offerings to be a truly effective top-of-the-rotation starter, but his strong assortment of fastballs lacked command post-surgery which should be an expected side effect in Tommy John recoveries. So, after 16 starts and a back strain that took him down for two weeks, Pelfrey actually rebounded quite well over the second half. Over his last 13 games, hitters posted a much improved .284/.356/.374 batting line that was built on a well-hit average of .134, one of the league’s best in the latter portion of the season.

    I know. That doesn’t feel right, right? I triple-checked to make sure I had the stats sorted correctly. Did hitters really not hit the ball as well off Pelfrey as they did against such pitching dignitaries as Ricky Nolasco (.137), Hasashi Iwakuma (.140) or Francisco Liriano (.143) in the second-half of the season, as the aforementioned well-hit statistic suggests?

    Several things to mention here:

    (1) Because this statistic resides mainly behind paywalls, the well-hit average has not been vetted thoroughly by sabr-minded people. This means studies have not been conducted to determine how the well-hit average fluctuates from year-to-year. Is Pelfrey’s second-half decrease a true indication that he was pitching better and that this performance will continue?

    (2) Even with the significantly improved well-hit average, the end product was an ugly 1-6 record with a rotund 4.76 ERA and a near .300 batting average in the second-half that contributed to the overall blah year.

    (3) Who knows if the Twins have examined him from this perspective. The organization clearly has access to these reports so they should put this into consideration if thinking about r-signing him. If they have broken it down to this level, I would be more accepting of an eventual Mike Pelfrey re-signing.

    In the end, going through this exercise reassured me that there is some small, faint glimmer of hope that the notion of bringing back Mike Pelfrey is not a completely bonehead move. If he signs for a two-year, $8M per deal similar to the average annual value of Jason Vargas, Pelfrey has proven in the past that he can be a mid-rotation guy (albeit one without the sexy strikeouts) and the second-half numbers could be indications that he will be that again in 2014.

    But that’s it, that’s the ceiling: a mid-rotation guy. The Twins rotation and fans need more than that.
    This article was originally published in blog: What? The Twins considering Mike Pelfrey again? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 62 Comments
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Marta Shearing View Post
      Well we'll see which one pitches better in 2014.
      Who is more likely to perform above league average as a starting pitcher?

      Does Pelfrey win if he gives mediocre performance and Baker doesn't pitch due to injury?

      With guys like Baker and Santana, they will either pitch well or be injured.
    1. Reider's Avatar
      Reider -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Funny how he's posted multiple seasons better than anything Pelfrey has done in his career, despite being so mentally weak.

      Baker is a better pitcher. Period. He strikes out more, walks less, gives up fewer runs and hits, and goes deeper into games.

      A healthy Mike Pelfrey is a #4 pitcher, maybe a #3 on a bad team. A healthy Scott Baker is a #3 in an average year, a #2 when he's really rolling.

      I will never understand why Minnesota fans didn't appreciate what they had in Baker.
      I agree. I was a big Baker fan when he was here. He's hands down better than Pelfrey (when healthy).
    1. Reider's Avatar
      Reider -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Scott Baker is a good man and a good pitcher. He would be cheaper and likely better than Mike Pelfrey. The Twins soured on him because he refused to pitch like Anderson wanted. His out pitch is a high fastball. Without it, he's a 5 ERA pitcher. With it, he's a 4 ERA pitcher. It seems his pitching coach would rather have a 5 ERA pitcher who keeps the ball down than a 4 ERA pitcher who uses his out pitch. For this reason, I highly doubt he signs with the Twins. And it's probably for the best because I'm eager to see him have a healthy season for a team who appreciates a guy who gets outs however he can.
      If this is true, it says more about Gardy and Anderson than it does about Baker. Every player has strengths and weaknesses. A good coach will play to a players strengths. Trying to force a player to move away from his strengths is a sign of a bad coach, not a bad player.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reider View Post
      If this is true, it says more about Gardy and Anderson than it does about Baker. Every player has strengths and weaknesses. A good coach will play to a players strengths. Trying to force a player to move away from his strengths is a sign of a bad coach, not a bad player.
      And Baker is not an outlier as far as their coaching goes: Liriano, Slowey, Garza, Lohse, Bonser etc need to be added to the list. The starting pitchers they did not mess with were either veterans (Pavano, Radke, Livan, Rogers, et al) or sinker/slider pitch to contract types (Blackburn, Silva, Mays et al) which are their model of successful pitchers. One exception: Johan Santana who Bobby Cuellar turned into a star.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      If we could get Mike Pelfrey on a contract simular to what the Giants did Vogelsong , then sure ,If not we still need a coupla pitchers who are capible of being #2s or 3s,Which I dont think mike is able to be
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Funny how he's posted multiple seasons better than anything Pelfrey has done in his career, despite being so mentally weak.

      Baker is a better pitcher. Period. He strikes out more, walks less, gives up fewer runs and hits, and goes deeper into games.

      A healthy Mike Pelfrey is a #4 pitcher, maybe a #3 on a bad team. A healthy Scott Baker is a #3 in an average year, a #2 when he's really rolling.

      I will never understand why Minnesota fans didn't appreciate what they had in Baker.
      1st, I had to look outside and see if 4 horsemen were riding by, I think this is 1 of the few times we agree ...Scotty was a darn fine pitcher for us , not the Nancy many made him out to be. If it came down to signing Baker or Johan , I sign Baker, I also sign Baker over Pelfrey...But the real question is, can we get him to return ? After several bus tosses and several non players questioning his toughness, he might not want to come back
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Baker and/or Pelfrey would be good additions for the Twins. I am more confident about Pelfrey's health than Baker's. Another name that has been mentioned often is Johan. Please fans, let's not waste our hopes on Santana. It would be miraculous if he could pitch well again. I'd rather remember him as the multiple Cy winner he was before he was traded to the Mets.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Wait, there are people on this planet who think Mike Pelfrey is better than Scott Baker?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      For those who think Pelfrey is better or even all that comparable to Baker, how do you compare Pelfrey to Nolasco?

      If I were guaranteed 200 innings from any of those three pitchers in 2014, I would take Baker hands down.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      For those who think Pelfrey is better or even all that comparable to Baker, how do you compare Pelfrey to Nolasco?

      If I were guaranteed 200 innings from any of those three pitchers in 2014, I would take Baker hands down.
      Eh... Baker hasn't really pitched in what, 20 months?

      He has the most ability of the three but given his rust and TJS, I'd take Nolasco over him in 2014.

      A healthy and proven Scott Baker might be a different story.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Per B-Ref, Scott Baker's career leverage splits, OPS allowed.

      Low: .732

      Med: .755

      High: .690

      Cracking under pressure indeed.
    1. Reider's Avatar
      Reider -
      I just got an alert from the score on my phone that the Twins just made Pelfrey a contract offer. I was under the impression that the Twins already had a 2year/$10m standing offer on the table. Does anybody know more about this? Is this a second contract offer? Or was the 2yr/$10m offer just a rumour?
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Officials from other clubs are scratching their heads as well at why the Twins and Pelfrey haven’t hammered out a deal.


      “Minnesota is a good place for him,” an official from a National League club said this week. “Pelfrey is soft.”


      Another official, this one from an American League club, said he was taken aback when reports first surfaced of a two-year offer for Pelfrey.


      “I thought it was extremely odd,” the official said. “If he doesn’t sign back with the Twins, I think Mike will probably scramble and sign a one-year, incentive-laden deal somewhere, but it won’t be with a contender.”


      http://blogs.twincities.com/twins/


      This gets kind of curious -- especially read the comparison between Pelfrey and Hughes. Easy to see the (alleged) Boras point but if the league reaction is as stated above, it also puts Pelfrey in a really uncomfortable spot.

      Boras has misread the market before. Is this another case?

      (Oh, and you have to LOVE the comment that Pelfrey is soft. Blech.)
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      And the further implication that MN is a good place for soft players, an indictment of the Twins' approach, frankly.
    1. Reider's Avatar
      Reider -
      That is absolutely hilarious!! I thought you were just making those quotes up to be funny. 2 years / $10million seems to be a fair deal for both sides (even though I'd rather the Twins sign Garza).
    1. amjgt's Avatar
      amjgt -
      Is that a real quote? Not only a slam on a relatively unimportant major league player, but a slam on MN.

      You almost never see quotes like that.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      And the further implication that MN is a good place for soft players, an indictment of the Twins' approach, frankly.
      Its an epidemic on this team right now, and it all starts with Gardenhire. This is the culture he wants. I think it makes him feel more in control.....more important. Players missing long stretches with minor injuries, but they do it because they can. They're actually almost encouraged to. Shutting Arcia down last year was a joke.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Boras has misread the market before. Is this another case?

      (Oh, and you have to LOVE the comment that Pelfrey is soft. Blech.)
      And you know this time of year, Pelfrey is barely on Boras' mind. Surely he's thinking that he's got bigger fish to fry at the moment.

      I'm not very interested in Pelfrey, but Pelfrey at $5 million for 2015 is probably a hell of a lot easier to move than Arroyo at $12 million. Seeing as Nolasco and Hughes are both under contract longer than 2 years, Meyer/Gibson/May are near MLB ready and the Twins have a plethora of reclamation arms that may be servicable, one would have to think anyone signed to a two year deal this offseason may be looked at as trade bait this time next year.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by amjgt View Post
      Is that a real quote? Not only a slam on a relatively unimportant major league player, but a slam on MN.

      You almost never see quotes like that.
      You do see them from "anonymous sources", I can imagine it sometimes comes in handy as a good negotiating ploy. And it's something that those of us who watch this organization on a daily basis knows (unfortunately), has the ring of truth attached to it.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      Per B-Ref, Scott Baker's career leverage splits, OPS allowed.

      Low: .732

      Med: .755

      High: .690

      Cracking under pressure indeed.
      +1. Precisely why many of us were so upset when managment questioned his manhood and threw him under the bus.
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