Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies was one of the strangest ball games I have ever seen. But forgetting about the fact that the Mets overcame a seven run deficit and then lost by three runs, I want to take this time to go over pitching staff ace Mike Pelfrey's start and explain why for once I am not optimistic about his success in 2011. In just two-plus innings of work on Wednesday night, Pelfrey looked awful. I mean, absolutely beyond terrible. His velocity was down, his pitches had no movement, and every ball was hit extremely hard. Early on in the season, it is already starting to seem like Mike Pelfrey simply can't handle the pressure the front office and the media has put on him by giving him the responsibility of carrying this pitching staff for the first half of the year.
I am usually not one to overreact so early in the season, but Pelfrey's two outings have me worried. His start on Wednesday finished by allowing seven runs on eight hits, and in my opinion was symbolized by a truly embarrassing defensive play when he purposely let Joe Blanton's popped-up bunt drop, only to end up throwing the ball away, and it was not even to the correct base. His ERA is now 15.63 in 2011, and, to be honest, I don't see much hope for him in his next start. For his career, Pelfrey is 3-12 against NL East teams when on the road, where both of his starts have come this season. Hopefully when he returns to Citi Field next week, he will feel more comfortable in his home ballpark and throw some quality innings, but until then, I'm forced to sit here and scratch my head and wonder what has happened to Pelfrey since the conclusion of last season.
Throughout his entire career, Pelfrey has been a very mentally driven pitcher. When too much is going on in his head and something starts to rattle him, even just a couple of runs, he loses all control of the game and cannot seem to rebound from it. In an article in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday morning, Brian Costa detailed the nights after an outing for Mike Pelfrey in 2010, when he would call sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, who unfortunately passed away at the age of 75 last month, to help him prepare for his next start. I think this article is very telling of the way Pelfrey works and the impact someone like Dorfman had on Pelfrey's breakthrough year in 2010. Clearly, Pelfrey needs guidance and support following a poor start, and now he doesn't have it.
Do I expect Pelfrey to "replace" Johan Santana for the first half of 2011? No, of course not. And it is understood that the Mets are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to pitching, but I'm very surprised and disappointed the way in which our ace has begun his 2011 season. He is grooving too many of his pitches and is just making it too easy for the opposition to hit against him. That was the reason the Mets lost Friday night. Yes, the Phillies caught a couple of lucky breaks particularly off of Blaine Boyer with a couple infield hits, but it was the lack of confidence and quality of pitching from Mike Pelfrey that will make the Mets have to fight for a series win on Thursday afternoon. And with Cy Young winner Roy Halladay as the probable starter against Jon Niese, that task suddenly became a lot more difficult.