June 06, 2008

Pelfrey, Swoboda & The Breaking Ball

Pelfrey looked good tonite- he only gave up one run, even though it looked like he might get hit hard at any moment, but he looked good. And that only adds to the Jeckyl and Hyde-like season that Pelfrey's had, and it's certainly not his fault.

Let's look back on another Mets prospect who didn't realize his potential, and never grew into the type of player he could have been- Ron Swoboda!

Back in 1964, the Mets lost a promising outfielder, Paul Blair, to the Orioles, in the first year player draft. Back then, if a player spent time with the big league club, and didn't stay with the club all season, he was eligible the following season for the "first year player draft." After losing Blair, the Mets grew paranoid the following season, and so they kept prospects including Tug McGraw and Ron Swoboda on the major league roster all season, rather than risk losing them.

Swoboda started off the year well, hitting 15 home runs and looking like a future power-hitting star; halfway through the season, pitchers figured out that he couldn't hit a slider, nor could he do much against breaking balls of practically any kind. He received a junkball diet the rest of the season, and hit a whopping 4 homers from then on. There were no hitting coaches back then, and without being able to go down to the minors to work on his timing against the junk, Swoboda couldn't progress and the Mets wouldn't let him.

With Pelfrey, I feel that we're at risk of following the same path- and again, the kryptonite is the breaking stuff, only this time, Pelfrey can't throw it! His fastball can be dominating, and at times he looks every inch the player we expected when we drafted him in the first round a few years ago. However, without giving him innings in the minors, in order to work out his rough edges without the scrutiny that a major league season supplies, chances are that Pelfrey will have to either go elsewhere to reach his potential, or never reach it at all. Yes, we're in a pennant race (at least I THINK we are) and yes, it would be great to break in a "livewire" arm who we've promoted from our minor league system; but at what cost? Couldn't a combo of Vargas and Armas work for us right now, while Pedro is back, and Pelfrey can get some time in AAA now, before the summer's over, so that when he does come back, his heater is complimented by at least one more decent pitch?

There's always the chance that he pitches more like he did tonite, and less like he has the majority of his other outings, but without that breaking stuff, more than likely, that won't be the case. Let's hope big Pelf becomes more like a "Seaver" and less like a "Swoboda"...(although that catch in the '69 Series will ALWAYS be one of the best!!! And he was a pretty good sportscaster there for a while...)

Editor's Note: Ironic, isn't it, that this post was written 3 days ago and wasn't posted til today- a day after Pelfrey pitched his best game yet! Oh well...the theories still hold true...

1 comment:

Me Am Big Pelf said...

Great timing, huh? I agree- I am a huge pelfrey fan, and think he'll end up being great for us. But he needs a breaking ball because last night he was up against AAA hitters (except for Gonzalez) and we were lucky to make it out of there. He won't look so good next time, and with some good breaking stuff, look out!!! Great historical comparison- thanks!!!!