Last Friday night I watched closely as Mike Pelfrey hung tough through 6 innings and held The Nats to 2 runs on 4 hits, 4 BB and 4 K in the winning effort. Pelfrey had success in his first full season in ’08 but regressed mightily in ’09 as he lost confidence in his off-speed pitches and threw the highest percentage (77.4%) of fastballs of any starter in the league. Obviously you’re not going to get through too many Major League lineups like that.
It’s never been a matter of ability for the hard throwing former 1st round pick of the ’05 draft. This spring, Pelfrey tooled with his approach and developed a new pitch in a splitter that arrives in the 85 MPH range. Replacing his ineffective change-up with the heavy dropping split that tails away from lefties and refining his slider, Pelfrey has looked like an entirely different pitcher so far this season. Today’s start was particularly impressive: 7 innings of shut out ball, striking out 6 and allowing only 5 hits and no walks. He was confident and efficient as he worked his way through a Rockies lineup that was without CarGo, Hawpe or Helton, with little hassle.
With a lilliputian career .69 HR rate and 50% ground ball rate, the big righty impressed me enough today to make me drop Scott Downs in The Big Ballers league and grab up the Big P. Maybe it’s blind homer optimism, but I think Pelfrey has the ability to be a surprisingly productive fantasy start this season. I’d take a wait and see approach in smaller leagues, but don’t wait too long. Another good start and Pelfrey’s going to be a hot name in fantasy circles.
For more on Flushing’s favorite palm-licker, check out this article by Dan Budreika at Rotographs.