The biggest surprise for me this season has been Mike Pelfrey’s astounding success through his first three starts. His ERA is down to 0.86 after his start against the Cubs last night. It’s a huge turnaround from the regression he experienced in 2009 with a 10-13 record and 5.03 ERA.
The only physical difference is that he lost about 25 pounds in the offseason. But that can’t account for his tremendous early success after such a disappointing 2009. He wasn’t exactly overweight before this year.
It looks like the biggest difference is the development of the split finger fastball this year. He seems to have quickly developed a feel for it to get a nice, late sink on it. His motion with it is so deceptive because he doesn’t appear to deviate from his motion when throwing a fastball, which always had some sink on it anyway. I’m curious to know if Dan Warthen had any role in his development of the split finger.
If you look through his profile on Fangraphs, the biggest difference that I can see if that he’s leaving a much higher percentage of runners on base. Although all of his stats are improved this season, the LOB% is the biggest improvement. Of course, his starts for 2010 are such a small sample compared to prior years.
The big challenge we all talked about during the offseason was whether Pelfrey really could be the #2 starter behind Johan Santana that the organization was expecting him to be. It looks like he’s accepted that challenge and responded. A 3-0 start to the season is exactly what he needs to recover from his poor season in 2009.