Mike Pelfrey: 2006 NL Eastern Champion Mets Pitcher (2006-2012)
Michael Alan Pelfrey was born on January 14, 1984 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The six foot seven right hander known as Big Pelf was a star pitcher at Wichita State University, hiring Scott Boras as his agent entering the 2005 draft. He was selected by the New York Mets in the 9th round & negotiated for six months before settling on a deal.
He began 2006 at A ball in St. Lucie, going 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA, moving up to AA with Binghamton where he went 4-2 with a 2.71 ERA. He was called up to the Mets staff that July making his debut at Shea Stadium against the Florida Marlins on July 8th. He pitched five innings allowing three runs but got the win with the help of Jose Valentin’s grand slam HR. In his second start Carlos Beltran’s grand slam helped him earn his second win & he became the first rookie to have grand slams hit for him in his first two games.
He allowed five runs in his next start, then four runs over seven innings in the start after that when the Mets chose to send him down to AAA Norfolk. He did not pitch in the 2006 Mets post season.
In 2007 he had a strong Spring Training making the staff to start the season. Big Pelf struggled, going 0-5 with a 6.73 ERA by mid May when he was sent back down to the Norfolk Tides. He came back in July & lost two more games at 0-7 he was back in Norfolk but only went 3-6 there.
One problem he was having was trying to learn how to throw a slider under the direction of Rick Peterson. He returned to the big league staff in September and beat the Braves in Atlanta on September 1st allowing just one run in six innings. He had a strong September going 3-1 helping the Mets stay in the pennant race until they blew it on the last day of the season.
He started out 2008 beating the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium in the seventh game of the season & then beat the Washington Nationals with seven shutout innings later that week. After that Pelfrey struggled again, losing his next six decisions, allowing four earned runs or more four times. On May 15th he had a no hitter going into the 7th inning, in a home game against the Washington Nationals.
But he then gave up a run on a sac fly & took a 1-0 loss to Jason Bergmann. In June he began to pitch much better, on a June 11th outing against Arizona, he pitched shutout ball into the 8th inning turning the ball over to Billy Wagner. After Wagner relieved him, he blew the save allowing three runs in the 9th. The Mets did win the game in the 13th inning on a Carlos Beltran walk off HR.
After that Pelfrey went on a roll, winning seven straight decisions. On the road he beat the Anaheim Angels, the Colorado Rockies & the A.L. New York team across town in the subway series. He won the Pitcher of the Week Award in early July, when he allowed only one run over three starts. The streak bested him at 9-6 with a 3.67 ERA. At the end of August he pitched consecutive complete game victories during a three game win streak. On August 29th he beat the Atlanta Braves on a three hitter while allowing three runs in a 6-3 win.
In September he struggled along with the rest of the team, as he went 0-3, taking a 6-1 loss to the Florida Marlins in the final home stand. He finished the year at 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA, striking out 102 batters pitching in 200 innings. That season he also set a club record not allowing a HR in 243 batters faced. With new pitching coach Dan Warthan it seemed Pelfrey felt more comfortable at the start.
Warthan allowed him to go back to throwing his curveball which Rick Peterson had stopped him from throwing as well as adding a splitter to his repertoire in the next two seasons.
In 2009 Pelfrey pitched the Mets Opener at their new Citi Field ballpark. After all the pre game fanfare which had Tom Seaver throwing out the first pitch to Mike Piazza, Pelfrey took the mound. He let down the fans including centerfieldmaz who was in attendance, literally right off the bat. Big Pelf allowed a leadoff HR to Jody Gerut, gave up five quick runs to the San Diego Padres & took the first loss at the new ballpark.
It was a long year for Met fans, as the team struggled through injuries & fell below .500. Pelfrey lead the league in balks (6) & became the first pitched since Al Lieter (as a member of the Blue Jays at the time) in 1995 to balk three times in the same game.
On May 17th in San Francisco, Pelfrey balked three times, against the Giants allowing two runs over six innings in the Mets 2-0 shutout loss. "I knew I wanted to make a pitch at home and I was fighting myself," said Pelfrey, who described it as a mental hurdle he's experienced on occasion in his career.
This included a game last season at Florida and a handful of times while pitching at Wichita State.
He began the year at 4-1 but it all went downhill from there. With the exception of July, in which he won three games while losing four, he would win just one game in three of the four final months of the season.
For the year he led the team in losses going 10-12 (10th most losses in the league) as well as runs (112) earned runs (103) (which were 4th most in the NL) & walks (66) posting a 5.03 ERA in 31 games.
In 2010 Pelfrey took over as ace of the staff when Johan Santana went down with injury. He began the year at 4-0 in April, & also earned a save against the St. Louis Cards in a twenty inning game on April 17th.
Pelfrey continued to pitch well, and in mid May had an eight game stretch where he went into the 7th inning or beyond each time. He was 6-1 in that period & by the end of June was 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA. His second loss came in the subway series against the cross town rivals where he allowed five runs in seven innings of work.
He was among the top pitchers in the NL up to that point but did not make the All Star team, despite his efforts. The big guy down played it, very professionally well done. He cooled off losing four straight games getting into August. From August 10th through the end of the month he pitched into the 7th inning or beyond in all four starts. Through the end of the year he would pitch into the seventh or beyond nine times, including each of his last five starts. Over that stretch (11 starts) he allowed only three earned runs or more three times going 5-3 with three no decisions.
Pelfrey led the team in wins with 15 (9th in the NL) innings (204) & starts (33) as well as walks (68) earned runs (83) & hits (213). It was his the second time he would pitch 200+ innings.
In 2011 he got another Opening Day nod, this time losing to the Marlins in Florida 6-2 as he gave up five earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work. In his next start he was removed in the second inning after allowing six earned runs to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He was 1-3 at the end of April posting a 7.39 ERA, but then won his next two starts at the start of May. There was no consistency from Pelfrey all season, he would win a game lose tow & so on.
In June he had a fine outing against the Anhaheim Angles pitching a complte game five hitter, allowing just one run in a 6-1 Mets win at Citi Field. By the All Star break he was 5-8 but upon his return he pitched a complete game victory at Cincinnati. Hr allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out just three & walking no one. In August he followed with four straight no decisions, then lost two of three games to close out the month. He finished the year with an 0-2 September, earning just one win in the final two months of the year.
In 2011 he went 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. Pelfrey posted 105 strike outs & 65 walks in 193 innings.
In 2012 he pitched just three games and it was learned he would need Tommy John surgery. The surgery was done by the famous Dr. James Andrews, ending Pelfrey's season & his time in New York.
In December of 2012 he signed a one year deal with the Minnesota Twins. In Minnesota he has a bad year going 5-13 (7th most losses in the AL) with a 5.19 ERA.
He was given another one year deal in 2014, starting out the season with the club in April. He would make five starts, including one in the fourth game of the season where he gave up three runs & tool the loss at Cleveland against the Indians. His next start was at home against the Oakland A's & Pelfrey gave up six runs over five innings, taking another loss. By May 1st he was 0-3 with an ERA just under eight, then was sent to AAA Rochester where he ended his season after two games.
In 2015 his season began well, at the end of May he was 4-1 with 2.77 ERA with 26 strikeouts. In June he had a five game losing streak & then a four game skid in September causing him to finish up at 6-11 with the second place Twins.
That year he was first in the league with a 0.601 HR per nine inning ratio. After being granted free agency he signed on with the Detroit Tigers for 2016. In 22 starts he went 4-10 with a 5.07 ERA.
In 2017 he signed with the Chicago White Sox going 3-12 in 34 appearances making 21 starts. He once again posted an ERA over five (5.93) ending his career.
In his twelve year career he is 68-103 with a 4.68 ERA, striking out 838 batters & walking 542 in 1476 innings in 275 appearances.
While with the Mets, Pelfrey lived in Long Island City, Queens with his wife & son, having a very short commute (without traffic) to work at Citi Field.
Trivia: On the mound he is famous for his habit of licking his hands while on the mound, one official count had him do it 89 times during the course of a game.
Pelfrey was one of the many people victimized by $8 billion fraud from Allen Stanford. He stated that 99% of his assets were frozen after the incident.