Continuing to explore opportunities in the free agent market that may present themselves to the Baltimore Orioles as potential bargains let’s turn our attention to Mike Pelfrey. The New York Mets (reportedly) plan to non-tender Pelfrey, who had Tommy John Surgery in early May to repair a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, because he made $5+ million dollars this past season and is arbitration eligible again this off-season. It makes perfect sense to non-tender a guy who will be making that kind of money, possibly a little more, and won’t be pitching for you for anywhere between 12 and 15 months.
What Pelfrey’s potential free agent status does do though is present an opportunity to Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette, who could swoop in and sign him to an incentive laden contract with an option for a second year, hoping that Pelfrey bounces back the same way that Chris Carpenter did for the St. Louis Cardinals after he had Tommy John Surgery back in 2002-2003.
A comparison could even be made between the two, in regards to the seasons they had at the same age. As you can see from the ERA comparison chart, Pelfrey has fared much better than Carpenter did during his age 24 through 27 seasons – with the age 28 season being the year that Carpenter had his Tommy John Surgery and Pelfrey had to do the same.
ERA/FIP for age 24 through 27 Seasons
Pelfrey: 3.72/3.96, 5.03/4.39, 3.66/3.82, 4.74/4.47
Carpenter: 4.38/4.13, 6.26/5.58, 4.09/4.61, 5.28/4.95
Now, I realize that ERA shouldn’t be used as the end-all-be-all when it comes to comparing two different pitchers and that is why I included the FIP alongside it. But let’s not stop there and move on to comparing their WHIP numbers during that same age range. Once again, you can see that their numbers compare fairly well to one another with Pelfrey having the slight edge in overall numbers. Pelfrey doesn’t strike nearly as many batters out as Carpenter does though – Pelfrey owns a K/9 rate of 5.08 over his career while Carpenter’s is 6.88.
WHIP for age 24 through 27 Seasons
Pelfrey: 1.36, 1.51, 1.38, 1.47
Carpenter: 1.50, 1.64, 1.41, 1.58
The one area where Pelfrey really excels at though, far better than Carpenter has throughout his career, is that he gives up fewer homeruns. There’s something to be said for a pitcher being able to keep the ball on the ground and out of the stands. Looking at the graph below you can see that Pelfrey has routinely outperformed the average pitcher in this category and well outperformed Carpenter. The one trait that a starting pitcher must have to survive in the American League East is the ability to keep the ball from leaving the yard and Pelfrey has shown an ability to do that.
HR/9 for age 24 through 27 Seasons
Pelfrey: 0.54, 0.88, 0.53, 0.98
Carpenter: 0.96, 1.54, 1.21, 1.35
Pelfrey and Carpenter are very similar pitchers, with the biggest difference between the two being that Pelfrey gives up less homeruns per game, while Carpenter strikes out more batters per game. They both throw fastballs that come in around 92 to 93 mph and each has decent command of four pitches. Carpenter throws a fastball, slider, curveball, changeup combination of pitches while Pelfrey throws a fastball, slider, curveball, sinker combination of pitches. Pelfrey actually used to throw the changeup but has ditched that (in 2010) in favor of his sinker and it has worked out well for him up to this point.
I’m not stating that Pelfrey will win a Cy Young, or lead the Orioles to the World Series, but what I am saying is that Pelfrey compares relatively well to Carpenter at this stage of his career and would be worth taking a shot on while he recovers from Tommy John Surgery – with the hope/expectation that he should be ready by the All-Star break.