MLB Picks: Understanding Mike Pelfrey’s Success This Season

Jake Walker

Thursday, June 11, 2015 12:14 AM GMT

Mike Pelfrey has revived his career this season, leading the Twins' surprising turnaround. We look at what Pelfrey changed in his mechanics and how it has made Minnesota an intriguing MLB Pick.

After going 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts in 2013 and 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA in just five starts last season, the Twins didn’t expect much from Mike Pelfrey this year, but he has provided an unexpected boost for them replacing Ervin Santana, who was supposed to be the ace of their starting rotation before his 80-game suspension for PED use.

Pelfrey’s turnaround has been incredible. He has a 2.28 ERA, fourth-best among American League starters and he is one of the main reasons why the Twins are 33-26, just two games behind the Royals for first place in the AL Central. MLB odds makers expected the Twins to finish last in the division but his performances have made a difference for Minnesota. Pelfrey threw eight shutout innings in Sunday’s 2-0 home win against the Brewers to snap his team’s two-game losing streak and he has now pitched 28 innings over his last four starts, giving up just three earned runs in that span.

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Reasons Behind Pelfrey’s Turnaround
Pelfrey underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and there were questions about whether he could be an effective major league pitcher again after he posted a 5.19 ERA in his first season with the team in 2013 and a 7.99 ERA in limited action last year but he has managed to turn his career around by doing things differently. 

The following analysis of FanGraphs explains Pelfrey’s new approach. Pelfrey is using split-finger fastballs and slow-speed splitters as major weapons, throwing more of them than he ever has. PITCH f/x data reveals that he has thrown splitters 16.8 percent of the time. He threw splitters 15.9 percent of the time in 2010, when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA in 34 games (33 starts).

The infographic below shows that he threw fewer splitters from 2011-14, a stretch of his career in which he went 12-29 with a 5.01 ERA in 71 games (70 starts).

 

 

Pelfrey is also throwing a slow speed splitter at an average of 81 mph, changing the pace of this pitch to prevent batters from having a chance to adjust to it. He is also throwing sinking fastballs 53.8 percent of the time and it has helped him get ground balls 55.2 percent of the time (his overall career average is 48.1 percent), which has allowed him to give up just three home runs in 67 innings this season.

Pelfrey’s adjusted approach has paid off, as he has given up more than two earned runs just twice in 11 starts this season. Whether he can keep this up remains to be seen, but the stats show that his results are not a fluke.

 

What’s Next for Pelfrey
Mike Pelfrey will look to improve his 5-2 record and keep the Twins in the race for the AL Central when he takes the hill on the road against the Rangers next Saturday. Those who place MLB picks know that Pelfrey hasn’t faced Texas since 2013, when he gave up one run over seven innings of a no-decision. He is 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two games against the Rangers, both at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

There’s great betting value on the Twins at +600 to win the AL Central (BetOnline).