WHO’S THAT STEALING MY THUNDER?????
Pelfrey Giving Santana a Run for His Money
Evan Pritchard for Amazine
When $18,876,139 dollar superstar pitcher Johann Santana takes the mound tomorrow, Tuesday April 27th, for the first game of a storm-delayed double header, he needs to be on his best behavior. Someone is in the process of stealing his thunder as the Mets’ pitching ace. It’s the youthful Mike Pelfrey, a $500,000 a year farm lad who at one time had balkinosis, a tendendy to balk on every pitch, most notably on May 17th of 2009. Now he’s burning up the league and leading the National League in almost every category. He is strides ahead of Santana and probably on his way to this year’s All Star Game.
Rather than give a fair comparison of the two based on career averages, I’d like to tease Mr. Santana a bit, and show him the writing on the scoreboard concerning this season so far.
Mr. Pelfry is leading the National League in victories (4, Santana has 2) leads the league in won-loss (4-0, Santana is 2-1) leads the majors in ERA (0.69, Santana’s is 2.59) starts (4, same as Santana) and adjusted ERA+ (614, Santana’s adjusted ERA is 164). Pelfrey leads the league in least homers (0, Santana has given up 1)
Pelfrey leads the league for starters with saves (1, Santana has no saves) and leading the league with a 1.000 fielding percentage (tied with Santana). Pelfrey is leading the league in almost everything but strikeouts, and that often leads to a slot in the All Star line up.
Pelfrey already has more victories in three weeks (4) than he did all of 2007 in 72 2/3 innings. He is currently batting at .250, which is over 100 ahead of Santana’s .143 batting average. Santana has 22 strikeouts, which is better than Pelfrey’s but while Santana has only pitched 24 innings this year, Pelfrey has pitched 26 innings, with the last 24 being consecutive scoreless ones, and counting.
This kind of success did not come easy for Pelfrey. Let’s look at his career and the weird stats that have haunted him all along.
Mike Alan Pelfrey was born on January 14th, 1984 at Wright Patterson Airbase in Ohio. He grew to be 6′ 7″, the exact height of Ohio born Frank Howard of the Washington Senators. On January 10th, of 2006, he got a $3.5 million bonus from the Mets and $5.3 million in a four year deal. His major league debut was on July 8th, 2006, when the Mets beat the Marlins 17-3 including a grand slam, as did his second game. (For details, read The Boys of Shea, The Story of the Unforgettable 2006 Mets, available from PO Box 114, Salt Pt NY 12578, contact email@example.com )
On August 1st, Pelfrey was sent back to the minors, to the Norfolk Tides, the same team David Wright had left a year earlier.
In 2007, Pelfrey went 0-5 and was sent to the New Orleans Zephyrs, where former Mets World Series star Ron Swoboda is the announcer. Pelfry came back and won on September 1st against the Braves.
In 2008, Pelfrey went 243 consecutive innings without a giving up a homer, and from July 6th to 17th he pitched 15 consecutive shutout innings, a foreshadowing of this year. On August 25th, he had his second consecutive complete game win. Mid 2008, he was struggling so he stopped using his TMJ mouthpiece, and it helped; Pelf rallied towards the end of 2008 to have a decent season.
Scott Boras had conjured him up a good contract in 2006, and Pelfry turned his investments over to Richard Allen Stanford, a Houston billionaire who had been knighted by the royalty in London and who lived in Antigua much of the time. Note that both Pelf and Stanford have the same middle name, just spelled differently. Also note that Stanford had a meeting with friend President Bush on January 25th, 2006, only five days after Pelfrey recieved his signing bonus.
Then came the stock market failure of October 2008, and big investors like Pelfrey started to worry. Most of his money was invested in the stock market by Stanford.
On February 17th, 2009, the SEC charged Stanford with fraud and raided his offices. He tried to flee the country and go to Antigua, but the airline would not accept his credit card. Two days later they found him in Frederickton Virginia at his girlfriend’s place. On February 27th, the SEC declared Stanford a Ponzi scheme. The court case proceeded and all assets, including the assets he was managing, were frozen. Pelfrey pitched opening day on April 13th, and he gave up five earned runs and a lead off homer. On May 17th, Pelfrey, overwhelmed with worry as to what would happen to his money, (they say 99% frozen even to this day) started to have mental malfunctions, balking three times in a row. On June 18th, Stanford was finally arrested. On June 25th, Stanford pleaded not guilty in a courthouse in Houston. On August 27th, Stanford was admitted to a hospital, on September 26th, Stanford was reported hospitalized for injuries from a fight with a fellow inmate at Joe Corley Detention Facility. It was about that time that the Brits stripped him of his knighthood. Meanwhile, Pelfrey’s entire fortune is caught up in court and frozen solid. His final record for 2009 was a disappointing 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA.
Pelfrey’s last three innings of 2009 were scoreless, and this year has only had one inning that wasn’t scoreless, the second inning of his opening day performance on April 9th. So only one of his last 29 innings have been imperfect in terms of runs.
Pelfrey is in his “contract year,” the season before a player negotiates for a contract, which is when most players do most of their work. So is his sudden spurt of shutout pitching due to getting things resolved with Stanford? The contract year? the need for more money? or is it just that the new pitching coach is allowing him his old curve ball again? I think Santana would agree that Pelfrey needs to have a good year and get a decent increase in salary for 2011 so that he can put the horrors of his ordeal behind him. As long as he doesn’t invest that next batch of money in Enron stock, Goldman Sachs, or Bernie Madoff investments, he’ll be out of a jam, which is more than we can usually say about his pitching.