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Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Mike Pelfrey

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Mar 7, 2016; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (37) delivers a pitch during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2016; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (37) delivers a pitch during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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New Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey should have a successful first season in Motown.

The Detroit Tigers made a number of significant moves this offseason. Acquiring new closer Francisco Rodriguez in a trade was one, signing Jordan Zimmermann was another and inking Justin Upton to a massive contract was another still.

However, one move that didn’t draw quite the same fanfare was the signing of starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey. Yes, the same Mike Pelfrey who owns a 61-81 career record and had a 4.94 ERA in three recent seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Despite the somewhat unsightly numbers, there is definite reason for optimism regarding the former New York Mets pitcher.

Current Role

As it stands, Pelfrey will occupy the fourth spot in rotation. Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez will slot in ahead of him. It is still to be determined as to who will pitch, but Pelfrey will definitely have a place in the rotation.

So far this spring, the 32-year-old has showed well, with a miniscule 1.17 ERA and nine strikeouts in 15.1 innings pitched. Opposing batters have only managed a .151 batting average against Pelfrey.

Projections

In terms of projections, both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference project numbers that are very much in line with a typical back-of-the-rotation starter for the veteran.

FanGraphs’ Steamer thinks Pelfrey will post a 7-8 record with a 4.68 ERA over 21 starts totaling 117 innings pitched. What’s more, the publication projects a somewhat low 5.08 strikeouts per nine innings. 

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Baseball Reference isn’t particularly high on Pelfrey either. That website calls for the starter to throw 145 innings, pitching to a 4.59 ERA and posting a 6-10 record. Additionally, the publication calls for 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

Motor City Bengals Prediction

We at Motor City Bengals, or rather me specifically, believe Pelfrey could have a solid season with the Tigers. Case in point, I picked Mike Pelfrey as my “Best Breakout Candidate.” Yes, that’s right—while the rest of the staff rightly went with up and coming players like Nick Castellanos, Daniel Norris and Shane Greene as part of the roundtable… I went with the 10-year veteran.

While Pelfrey’s 4.26 ERA didn’t win him any awards in 2015, there were a number of positives to be had from his season with the Twins.

To begin with, Minnesota didn’t really help him much at all on defense. Pelfrey’s FIP was .26 runs lower than his ERA, and he had the third-highest BABIP in the league at .334. What’s more, he led all of Major League Baseball with the lowest home runs allowed per nine inning rate at 0.6. If he can keep it in the park with good defense, he has a chance to succeed.

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Additionally, outside of two bad months (June and September), Pelfrey’s ERA per month were 2.25, 3.21, 4.30 and 3.62. You’d take that production out of a fourth or fifth starter, right? Good, because I would too.

Pitching for the Detroit Tigers clearly has its perks, and Pelfrey should succeed in Motown in part thanks to a stellar offense. When pitching with less than two runs of run support, Pelfrey was 2-9 in 13 starts last season.

With a Detroit lineup that has seven different players who will likely surpass the 80-RBI mark, Pelfrey should have no trouble pitching with the lead. What’s more, the Tigers defense should also save some runs for the former Met. Like the lineup, Detroit’s defense is stocked with quality defenders.

An 11-8 record with a 3.79 ERA (oddly specific, I know) seems about right.

For more Detroit Tigers Player Profiles, check out our Detroit Tigers player profiles hub page.

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