Wednesday has been an incredibly busy day on the MLB news front, so much so that one of my favorite quotes of the afternoon got lost among the abundance of noise.
Here’s Mike Pelfrey, as quoted by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, after allowing one run on four hits over four innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday:
“I think one day I’d like to become an actual pitcher.”
Though he was speaking in jest, there’s a real kernel of truth in there. The 26-year-old right-hander was recently told by pitching coach Dan Warthen to rely less on his sinker, his primary pitch. In turn, Pelfrey estimates than more than half of the 66 pitches he threw on Wednesday were his secondary offerings — curveball, slider and splitter.
Of course, Pelfrey has long been praised for his sinker, but while the pitch was a real weapon for him in 2008, he turned in a negative run value with the pitch last season, according to Fangraphs.
Pelfrey was 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA last season, garnering the reputation as a headcase on the bump thanks to six balks, but it probably didn’t help that someone who induced groundballs 50.1 percent of the time had one of baseball’s worst defenses behind him. Thus, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see his batting average on balls (or BABIP) in play go up nearly 20 points to .321 and his strand rate fall to 66.7 percent.
Sure, I understand that news about pitchers tinkering with their arsenals is typical spring training fodder. I get that. I really do. But for a rotation in need of a reliable arm behind Johan Santana, the prospect of Pelfrey becoming less predictable to opposing batters just became an intriguing storyline to track this season. Still, nothing can save him from Luis Castillo patrolling second base.
Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.
That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:
It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.