Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mike Pelfrey might provide roller coaster ride

At the beginning of the offseason, the Twins had one man, Scott Diamond, penciled in for a starting job next season. Through a variety of acquisitions this offseason, the Twins are close to filling up their rotation for the beginning of next year. Vance Worley was brought in as part of the Ben Revere trade, Kevin Correia signed a free agent deal, and now Mike Pelfrey becomes the latest man to join the club.

Pelfrey has spent his entire career in the New York Mets organization after being the number nine pick in the first round of 2005. In his four full seasons at the big league level, he has averaged 196 innings pitched with a 4.27 ERA and 1.65 SO/BB rate. These aren't great numbers especially since he is coming from the National League. Correia, who the Twins just added last week, had spent his entire career in the NL so this doesn't seem to hinder the club from signing this type of player.

In an interesting twist, Pelfrey is coming off of Tommy John surgery at the beginning of last May. He only made it into three games for the Mets this past season. Instead of giving him a raise through the arbitration process, New York cut ties with their rehabbing right-handed pitcher. The Twins were willing to take on this risk as they signed Pelfrey to a one-year contract worth $4 million and there is a chance for him to earn $1.5 million in incentives.

Earlier in the offseason, it sounded an awful lot like the Twins would be bringing back their own rehabbing Tommy John pitcher. Much like Pelfrey, Scott Baker had surgery on his throwing arm in the middle of April. Since Baker had only known the Twins organization and the club had a good relationship with the pitcher, it was assumed that he would return in 2013. The Twins wanted an option year on his free agent deal and Baker only wanted a one-year contract. In the end, the Chicago Cubs signed Baker for $5.5 million and he will try to rebuild his career in that club's rotation.

The Twins saved a little money by signing Pelfrey after passing on Baker but it is hard to imagine this was the ideal situation. Baker has already proven that he can pitch successfully in the American League when he is healthy. Pelfrey has put together some up-and-down seasons in the National League and that can be a little discouraging for Twins fans. It would have been much nicer to see Baker back with the Twins but they know his health better than anyone. Maybe it was time for them to part ways with the 2003 second round pick.

For fans that were use to Baker giving up home runs in bunches, Pelfrey should fit right into that mold. He has been known as a control pitcher in the past for his low walk totals but this also means that he hasn't struck out a ton of batters in his career. From 2008-11, he struck out more than 100 batters in each season but he never accumulated more than 113 SO. The only Twins' pitcher to strike out more than 100 batters in 2012 was Francisco Liriano and he was traded before July's trade deadline.

During the course of Pelfrey's career, it seems like he can encounter stretches of great success and other stretches of poor performances. Take a look back at Pelfrey's season back in 2010. He started the year on a hot streak by going 4-0 in the first month of the year with a 0.69 ERA. The next couple of months would be solid as he racked up a 6-1 record with an ERA of 3.82 or lower in each month. July would be terrible as his ERA ballooned to over 10 and he barely average four innings per start. The next month would be great again as his ERA dropped to under 2.00 and he had a great 1.096 WHIP.

This roller coaster ride provided by Pelfrey might be tough for Twins' fans to watch. If he is fully healthy and back in action, there will be some good times and some bad times. Hopefully, the transition to the AL won't come with it's own share of bumps and bruises. For better or for worse, Pelfrey is part of the team's plans in 2013 and fans could be in for quite the ride.

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