A preview of the 2008 Mets, presented in the expected batting order, followed by pitching rotation, followed by impact bullpen/bench players. Today we focus on starting pitchers Orlando Hernandez and Mike Pelfrey.
HERNANDEZ: 9-5, 3.72 ERA, 128 K's, 64 walks, 147.2 IP
PELFREY: 3-8, 5.57 ERA, 45 K's, 39 walks, 72.2 IP
I didn't set out to combine two of my starting pitcher summaries, but I think the 2008 seasons of Hernandez and Pelfrey will be linked even more than those of John Maine and Oliver Perez.
I just can't see El Duque, at his age (whatever it may be), making it through a full season, especially considering the starts he has missed the past couple of years. All kinds of ailments have popped up with him in just a season and a half with the Mets. So when he pitches, I think the expectation is that he will be solid, as he has been since coming back to New York. And El Duque will not pitch out of the bullpen this year - he's against it, and I really haven't heard it brought up again since he came out so vehemently against doing it.
The pressure here lies squarely on Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey is saying all the right things - while he would prefer to start, he'll do whatever the team wants him to do, etc. I think the only thing he really needs to worry about is pitching well, and making sure the team and its fans are confident that when he is asked to step in, he'll be effective.
The bad news is that Mike Pelfrey began 2007 0-7, and as the record indicates, he pitched poorly for most of the year. The good news is that Pelfrey made progress, and finished the year 3-1 (albeit with a 4.88 ERA). And he figured some things out as he went along.
Pelfrey's highlight was his first game back up with the Mets, on September 1st. He started at Atlanta, and threw six innings, giving up one run on one hit while striking out 7. He says he was throwing the ball more confidently, and the Braves were making outs. The one bad start down the stretch Pelfrey had was at the end of September, when he gave up 6 runs in 5-and-2-thirds to Washington, when everyone on the Mets was playing poorly. So if Pelfrey comes out with the kind of confidence he showed in most of September, he can have a good season.
One of the biggest questions is whether the Mets would start Pelfrey in the majors out of the bullpen, so that he is on standby in case El Duque goes down. I suspect, unless there are serious health questions about the veteran, that Pelfrey will start the year in New Orleans, so that he can get his regular work in. Mike Pelfrey is in the organization's future as a starter, and I don't think starting a season out of the bullpen does anyone much good.
One of the biggest insults to Pelfrey over the off-season had to be how far his stock has dropped. As he watched his closest friend in the organization, Philip Humber, get shipped to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana (incidentally, the acquisition that knocks Pelfrey out of the rotation until he can earn himself a spot), Pelfrey had to hear all of the analysts talk about how the Mets were in a hole when it came to negotiating trades, because Pelfrey was not held in high esteem anymore by any other organization.
That had to provide a spark for Pelfrey. It will be evident early on whether or not he took that as an inspiration to get better. Because if he continues his losing ways, the Mets can't really afford to let him work through 0-7 again (especially if they look back on last year and realize any one of those games cost them the playoffs). If the Mike Pelfrey of early-to-mid September 2007 shows up in 2008, though, the Mets will have the best rotation in baseball, hands down.