New York Mets: Will the Real Mike Pelfrey Please Stand Up?

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New York Mets: Will the Real Mike Pelfrey Please Stand Up?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last season, the Mets were supposed to be strong offensively and weak in the starting pitching department.

It was the opposite.

This season, the Mets are firing on all cylinders and sit at 3-2 without playing a home game. For a team that went 32-49 on the road last season, they're off to a good start.

Jose Reyes is 100 percent for the first time in two seasons, batting .280 with two stolen bases in as many tries. They getting excellent production out of David Wright (.364/.417/.545, 1 HR, 5 RBI), Ike Davis (.368/.455/.684, 1 HR, 6 RBI) and even Willie Harris (.357/.438/.714, 1 HR, 4 RBI).

Even Jon Niese, in his second full season in the majors, and R.A. Dickey, looking to prove 2010 wasn't a fluke, were fantastic in each of their first starts of the season against the Florida Marlins.

Chris Young made his Mets debut on Tuesday night, giving up just one earned run over 5.1 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies (he also went 3-for-3 with an RBI at the plate), giving Mets fans hope that the "high reward" might be even better than they dared to dream.

And after watching the Mets come back from seven runs down against the Phillies last night to tie the game, which they eventually lost 10-7, it's safe to say the 2011 Mets are different than the 2010 version.

But it's still only five games and there's a lot of baseball to play. And so far, Mike Pelfrey, the Mets' de facto "ace" isn't showing signs he's capable of handling the job of a No. 1 starter.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last night against the Phillies, Pelfrey couldn't throw strikes, couldn't keep the ball on the ground and couldn't keep the Phillies off the board, allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over just two innings of work.

Through two starts this season, Pelfrey has a 15.63 ERA and a ridiculous 2.68 WHIP. He's given up 12 hits in just 6.1 innings this season.

With Johan Santana on the DL until at least early July, Pelfrey has a big load to shoulder. He has to show the Mets he can be a No. 1 starter without having No. 1 stuff.

For the last few seasons, Pelfrey's numbers have been all over the place. A sinkerball pitcher by trade, his ground-ball rates have been steadily declining, from 51.3 percent in 2009 to 47.8 percent last season. This season it's all the way down to 46.4 percent.

With guys like Reyes, Wright and Davis on the infield, and Harris, Angel Pagan and Carlos Beltran in the outfield, the Mets defense is just too good for Pelfrey to sustain a .370 BABIP all season. But he's not throwing strikes (43.2 percent of pitches for strikes, 67.6 percent on the first pitch) and hitters aren't being fooled by his stuff out of the zone.

Basically, Pelfrey is a ground-ball pitcher who can't get ground balls and doesn't have the stuff to get strikeouts (career 5.10 K/9 rate).

So what are the Mets going to do with Pelfrey?

They know he can pitch. Last season, Pelfrey was 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA over his first 16 starts. And though his ERA in July was an ugly 10.02, he still finished the season with a career-high 15 wins and a 3.66 ERA.

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But Pelfrey hasn't had anything in his first two starts and certainly doesn't look like a front-of-the-rotation starter. And though it's only been two starts each, Dickey and Niese are looking like better pitchers.

Quite frankly, they are.

For now though, Mets manager Terry Collins has to go forward with Pelfrey. Hopefully, Pelfrey is getting his midseason struggles out in April instead of July this season, and he'll straighten himself out. But his early struggles might just be the culmination of a career that's been on the downturn for two seasons now.

It will be interesting to see if Collins plays with his starting rotation if Pelfrey keeps this up.

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