I have seen or heard two different media segments in which Twins starters Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey were compared and fretted over. The Common Man on KFAN in the Twin Cities was trying to figure out which pitcher was the most worrisome. Bloguin’s Outside Corner wondered as to why either still has a job. Both came to the conclusion that Worley’s issues were most bothersome, and that Pelfrey was showing signs of hope.
The thing is, though, part of Worley’s issue thus far continues to be terrible luck. His BABIP is still over .400 which seems nigh on impossible, his strand rate, as a result is terribly low and his HR/FB rate is higher than his career average. While his strike out rate is much lower than his career normals, his walk rate is also half of what he usually spits out in a career. What I am driving at, is that his luck is bound to change.
The Outside Corner, in their support of Pelfrey as being less of an issue than Worley says “there is a glimmer of hope since [Pelfrey] has a 4.30 FIP.” Well, Worley’s is 4.79, and thanks in part to the unusually high HR/FB rate, his xFIP, which is park corrected, is actually lower than Pelfrey’s. Again, so much of Worley’s difficult first two months is attributable to bad luck. His velocity is down a bit on off speed pitches, but other than that, there isn’t much to do but be patient.
Instead, I would worry about Pelfrey, who is coming off of a significant surgery this off-season and is in the process of redefining himself as a pitcher. He used to be a traditional, pitch mixing type of pitcher, but this season (and admittedly, last season before he got hurt) he is trying to become a sinkerballer. Like, an extreme sinkerballer. 60.6% of his pitches, according to PitchF/X are sinkers, while only 10% are fastballs. Velocity is down across the board, which is usually an indicator of structural damage, which makes sense given the injury.
Pelfrey is only on a one year contract as he tries to come back from injury and re-style his delivery. The most optimistic thing I can point to is Carlos Silva, who always came on strong late in the season. But if they wanted a sinkerballer who struggled to get people out and had a tough time finding the strike zone, wouldn’t the Twins just be better off with Nick Blackburn back in the rotation? Maybe the Twins are comfortable waiting for Pelfrey to get the arm fatigue necessary to a quality sinker, but I think it’s more likely that Vance Worley gets the ball down a couple more inches in the zone and his fortunes change. Worley is going to be here long term, as well. It should be easier to cut ties with Pelfrey if and when the Twins decide to upgrade the rotation.