Mike Pelfrey became the de facto "ace" for the New York Mets once Johan Santana went down till at least the All-Star break.
While I think big Pelf is a good pitcher and a decent No. 2, I think most Mets fans would agree with me that he doesn't exactly fit the No. 1 slot/ace-type mold.
I know there are definite arguments against Jonathan Niese being the "ace" for the Mets, and these are some of them:
He is too young in only his second year in the majors
He faded late last season
He is a little inconsistent
They would have back-to-back lefties with Chris Capuano and Niese
I can understand these arguments, they make good points, but in my opinion, the good with Niese outweighs the bad, or at least the good and bad of Pelfrey. Here are the reasons why I believe the Mets should go with Niese as their number one starter.
There are some times in a game where you need your "ace" to be able to step up and a get a strikeout. While Niese isn't a dominant strikeout pitcher yet, he can miss a lot of bats, mostly with that gorgeous hook he has.
A prime example of this is the first two games of this year.
In the opener against the Marlins, Pelfrey was in a tight spot in the fourth, with the bases loaded and only one out. He got ahead of John Buck 0-2 and was pitching well, but after Buck took two balls and fouled off three straight pitches, Pelfrey just couldn't put him away. Then, on pitch eight of the at-bat, Buck hit one 400 feet to right field for a grand slam.
Against Josh Johnson, the Mets couldn't recover from that.
In the second game, Niese was in a bit of a tight spot in the bottom of the fifth with the Mets down 2-1. The speedy Emilio Bonifacio was on second for the Marlins with one out and ready to score on any hit to the outfield. Niese threw three straight fastballs to an overmatched Chris Coghlan, striking him out.
For a hypothetical example: The bases are loaded in the bottom of the third and there's nobody out. The infield is playing back, willing to give up the run for the chance for a double play.
Who would you rather have on the mound in that spot?
Some people would chose Pelfrey in that spot for the chance to get the double play. But the way I look at it, Pelfrey is giving up at least one run about 95 percent of the time. The batter is most likely going to be able to put the ball in play against Pelfrey because he doesn't strike many guys out.
With Niese, however, there's the chance that he strikes the batter out and then can run a cutter in on a righty and get the double play and get out of the inning without giving up a run. Strikeouts can be crucial at some points and I think a true ace needs to have that possibility in his arsenal.
Everyone has heard the knock on Pelfrey for most of his career has been his poise and body language on the mound. That's why he's currently working with a sports psychologist to try and figure it out.
On Opening Day, Pelfrey gave up a grand slam but was able to get out of the inning without giving up anything further.
When he went out for the next inning, you could just tell that he was doubting himself, his velocity dropped and he looked tired. He got a leadoff out, but then walked Omar Infante on four pitches. Then, he got ahead of Hanley Ramirez 0-2, ran it to a full count and gave up a single. He couldn't recover. But, this wasn't just Friday, like I said, this has been the knock on Pelfrey his whole career.
For Niese, the opposite is true, and for being so young, he has had shown good composure early in his career.
Starting yesterday's game, Coghlan hit a slow bouncer up the middle. Brad Emaus took a poor route to the ball, misjudging Coghlan's speed and Coghlan was able to beat it out for an infield single. The Marlins ended up scoring two runs in that inning to take a 2-0 lead. After that, Niese was unhittable.
He didn't let that inning bother him and ended up giving up just one hit over his next six innings. Without his performance, I don't think the Mets are able to win yesterday. When your "ace" is going up against Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum, you don't want him to get discouraged after giving up one run, you want him to buckle down and say to himself, "that's all I'm giving up today." Niese is much better at this than Pelfrey, at least to this point in their careers.
You want your "ace" to have not only the ability to miss bats, but also the ability to keep guys off the bases.
Pelfrey is a pitcher that wants contact. He wants you to put the ball in play and let his defense get the outs and that's fine, but I don't think it's what you want from your No. 1. Pelfrey tends to get more hard contact than most sinkerballers and I think it's because his 2-seam (which he uses as his sinker), can be a little flat. You want your "ace" to be able to work 1-2-3 innings with regularity, something he does not excel at.
Niese, on the other hand, has the type of stuff that can lead to a lot of 1-2-3 innings. Yesterday, four of his seven innings went 1-2-3 and he only threw 86 pitches in seven innings.
I had the great pleasure of being at the one-hitter Niese threw last year against the Padres, in which he retired the last 21 batters he faced. It was one of those days where right from the start, you could tell something special was going to happen. Niese's stuff was filthy right from the start and if it weren't for the Padres' double that landed directly on the right field foul line, Niese would have thrown the first perfect game in Mets history.
Niese has that kind of stuff. He has those days where the Mets know that one or two runs could very well be enough for the win. I just don't think Pelfrey has that in his arsenal.