I’m preparing myself for another horrible start from Mike Pelfrey today. In 2010, Pelfrey has been atrocious on the road to the tune of 4-3 with a 5.21 ERA. Opposing hitter are feasting on him for a .333 average versus .267 at home. Get ready for another nightmare on national TV this afternoon. As a matter of fact, July 2010 has been a nightmare for Pelfrey so far going 0-3 with a 15.30 ERA.
Pat Andriola of Fangraphs did an interesting analysis of Pelfrey after his last disaster of a start in Arizona. The conclusion was that Pelfrey is walking more batters recently, striking out fewer, and batters are hitting more foul balls. He’s not getting the swings and misses that he was early in the season.
Basically, Pelfrey is having a tough time putting away hitters, leading to more foul balls, which has driven his Strike% up. Although it’s only been four starts from Pelfrey, and that in and of itself can’t tell us much, we do have 367 pitches worth of data from which to glean something. Baseball information doesn’t have to be measured just in innings or at-bats; each pitch can tell us a whole lot (just ask Dave Allen or Jeremy Greenhouse).
With some players, like Pelfrey, there’s some unquantifiable element to their game that just doesn’t translate to statistical analysis. Although I like Andriola’s post, I think Pelfrey has a combination of two problems. He ran out of gas or had a “dead arm” period and he started getting down on himself when he wasn’t getting hitters our so easily. One of the things that stands out to me about top of the line pitchers is their ability to limit runs when they’re giving up hit and walks or what you’d call “fighting through” a lack of good stuff. In my mind, that’s Pelfrey’s problem. He isn’t bearing down and getting through five innings with limited damage when he doesn’t have his best stuff.