Big couple of days for big Mike Pelfrey. After posting 15 victories in 2010, the Mets rewarded Pelfrey with a hefty raise. Pelfrey, who earned $500,000 last season, will earn $3.9 million in 2011.
But wait, it gets better. Not only will Big Mike be cashing bigger checks, manager Terry Collins has already announced Pelfrey as the opening day pitcher with the injured Johan Santana expected to miss the first part of the season.
With that little bit of suspense put to rest, the pressure of a new c0ntract and ace status puts Pelfrey squarely in the crosshairs with expectations of success. The sensitive righty put together a solid season last year with a 3.66 ERA rebounding from an inconsistent ‘09 where his ERA landed above 5.00. Despite having a fairly high fly ball percentage last season (32%), his success was largely due to his development of the split-finger fastball, throwing first pitch strikes 62% of the time and keeping the ball in the park. Armed with his heavy sinker, he allowed just 12 home runs all season with a HR/9 of 0.53.
Based upon Pelfrey’s 2010 stats, his wins above replacement value (WAR) was 2.9. Lately, the fair market value for a win has been going around $4.0 million. So doing the quick math, Pelfrey would have been worth around $11.5 million last year. So his 2011 $3.9 million salary comes as a relative bargain.
It also seems that Pelfrey has put his confidence issues behind him and with management’s recent vote of confidence, he should be able to put together another solid season. Certainly, they believe in him. He needs to continue to believe in himself.
Other good news: Johan Santana’s return is on track and scheduled for June. This may be optimistic as the Mets will certainly take a cautious approach and ensure they are not pushing him too quickly. But this news is positive as he continues to make forward progress with no setbacks.
With an expected opening day rotation of Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Capuano and Chris Young (OK, this may be a little premature as no official announcement has been made, but we’ll pencil him in), Santana’s return will push one of the above five out of the rotation. Fortunately, it’s a decision that is far down the road and depending on how the starters fair, Collins may or may not have a difficult decision at that time.