Sorry, Minnesota Twins, but Mike Pelfrey just isn’t the answer.
Though the righty’s 4.12 post-break ERA might suggest that the Tommy John surgery survivor may be rounding into something of a groove after a disappointing first half (5.55 ERA over 82.2 IP), the fact is that when he becomes an FA at the end of the season, the team should make no attempt to bring him back for 2014, even if the 29-year-old would agree to another one-year deal.
Why, though? After all, doesn’t he deserve some leeway on a post-TJ season, and hasn’t he shown that he can still pitch to contact (88.5 percent) and generate ground balls (1.22 GB/FB)?
Well, if the overall 5.06/1.54 ERA/WHIP doesn’t already paint an overall picture for how much he’s contributing to the team, the short version is that he’s been luckboxing his way through the 2013 season with bad habits — ones that are ultimately going to lead to both him and the team getting burned.
The latest of these were in full force in his latest turn on Sunday, when Big Pelf ultimately put together a five-inning, one-run performance in which he only allowed two hits against the Cleveland Indians while striking out three. But the reason he needed all 94 pitches just to get to that point? Try six free passes.
This start is similar to a 98-pitch outing just three turns earlier when he’d walked five through five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) in the process against the Chicago White Sox.
See how a little luck can make all the difference?
Whether it’s the .293 BAA or the 3.28 BB/9, the fact is that Pelfrey is a rare case where his 4.30 FIP and 1.3 fWAR really belies the below-average stuff he’s brought to the mound this season for the Twins. Yes, he eats innings and is actually the most valuable starter for the Twins at the moment, but even the disaster known as Josh Johnson is a 0.6 fWAR player, and Pelfrey’s place is more of an indictment of the Twins rotation than anything else.
If the team wants to make some headway in the AL Central going forward, it’s going to have to start by ridding themselves of the league-worst 5.11 starters ERA (3.5 fWAR production) on the mound. Sure, inning-eaters have inherent value even if they’re not very good; but as the Twins have seen this season, there’s a point where that value can be detrimental to the overall growth of the team.
Unless they’re content with having another lost season with starters that eat innings for the sake of having them eaten, they ought to let Pelfrey find work elsewhere after 2013 because … well, the upside just isn’t really there.