Monday, May 5, 2008

Untangling the Webb

The monkeys were very intrigued by an article today in the New York Times. The article mentions that on Saturday, Mike Pelfrey was intently observing his mound opponent, Brandon Webb. "In Webb, Pelfrey sees a more — much more — advanced version of himself. More precisely, he sees what he aspires to become."

Well to date, Pelfrey has more closely resembled Peter Parker than a webslinger, but there is reason to believe Pelfrey can get there. Pelfrey does throw a hard sinker that tops out at 97 MPH. Mets fans have seen a few rare glimpses where this could be a dominant pitch. As Pelfrey observes from Webb, he needs to pound the strike zone which he just hasn't done consistently. The New York Times article states that Pelfrey is performing balance drills intended to get his hand on top of the ball when throwing the pitch. When Pelfrey does not do that, his sinker flattens out, running laterally across the plate instead of diving down in the zone, where hitters often cannot help but pound the ball into the ground — à la Webb.

Mets fans need to acknowledge that the Mets have rushed Pelfrey along. A lot of that has been more on need rather than merit. Pelfrey made a grand total of 33 starts in the minors (only 16 at AAA)and pitched a total of 176 innings. On the advice of Rick Petersen, Pelfrey also bagged his power curve and has still not perfected the slider Petersen recommended instead. Ask Petersen why Pelfrey abandoned the curve he wes comfortable with and you'll likely get a dissertation on why peanut butter goes together with jelly.

In 2006, Fausto Carmona another pitcher with a power sinker was mishandled and wound up going 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA. He has since blossomed into one of the AL's best pitchers. You can't teach "stuff." Sometimes it takes time to harness talent. Pelfrey is watching the guy he should be watching. Hopefully, he's taking copious notes. There may still be a radioactive spider in his future.

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