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Mets 4, Phillies 3: Will Mike Pelfrey Win 15 Games? Does It Matter?

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Eric wrote this.

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In his post-game press conference this evening, Jerry Manuel talked about Mike Pelfrey's start and how, despite "legitimate ups and downs" this season, Pelfrey could get to 15 or 16 wins. On hearing that comment, it dawned on me that I'd probably have a really tough time ballparking the win totals for Mets starters this season, Pelfrey included (prior to right now, anyway). There was a time when I could have reeled off won-lost records for every pitcher on the Mets, starters and relievers both. I also could have told you, within a few points, their ERAs, and, likewise within a smidge, the batting averages of every position player and most of the bench to boot. I can't do that anymore, and it's certainly not because I follow the game any less obsessively. I still watch 150 or so games every year, and I spend untold hours perusing tables of stats and reading Mets coverage and analysis, to say nothing of the time spent ruminating on all manner of Mets-related topics here.

I've long read and talked and written about the slow death of wins and losses as useful measures of a pitcher's skill or performance, and that they're far more representative of the vicissitudes of run support and other factors outside the pitcher's control than things he actually does. Traditional baseball people know this. They know that a pitcher whose team has little trouble scoring runs will usually win more games (and suffer fewer defeats) than one whose team couldn't hit its way out of a wet paper bag. And yet they'll prattle on about how this guy or that is a 15-game winner as if that tells us anything about anything, except of course that he managed to allow fewer runs than his team happened to score on 15 separate occasions that season.

Mike Pelfrey has been good or great for three months this season -- 3.14 FIP in April, 3.84 FIP in May, 3.64 FIP in June. He has also been decent or lousy for three months -- 4.79 FIP in July, 4.22 FIP in August, 5.29 FIP in September. He has been much better at home (3.48 FIP) than on the road (4.58 FIP), though much of that difference is accounted for in his respective home run rates (3.2% HR/FB at home, 9.9% on the road). On balance it has been an unspectacular season for Pelfrey, and pretty similar to 2008 and 2009, all things considered. But he has 13 wins (and nine losses), and he has a realistic -- if not altogether likely -- shot at hitting the magical 15-win plateau, which means what exactly? Practically nothing, which I guess is why I had no idea until just now that he even had a shot at that vacuous milestone.

Some actual thoughts about the game the Mets played:

  • Wins and losses aside, Pelfrey did pitch well today. Not too many swinging strikes, but more grounders than fly balls and five strikeouts overall to no walks. He also chipped in a single and has a higher OPS (.254) than Lucas Duda (.227).
  • Ike Davis went 4-for-4, knocked in 75% of the Mets runs, and pushed his OPS over .800 for the first time since June 23, 84 games ago. Bad players have great months and great players have bad months, so a 1.326 OPS in ten September games doesn't tell us much about the big picture of Ike, but his plate discipline has been much better than in previous months so maybe he's finally adjusting to the pitchers who had themselves adjusted to him some time ago.
  • Despite missing a bunch of games due to injury and playing at reduced capacity in others, Jose Reyes stole his 29th base tonight and is a safe bet for 30 steals for the fifth time in his career. He has only been caught seven times, so his 80% success rate is well into the "positive contribution" range on the steal-o-meter.
  • Did we all suffer from a bad case of premature extrapolation when Angel Pagan was one of the most valuable players in the league at the end of July? His August OPS was .571 and it's just .531 so far in September. I don't know if he's tired, hurt, or regressing to the mean, or just some combination of the three.
  • I can't decide if I think Bobby Parnell is any good. I think he might be, but I'd be more convinced if he had a decent off-speed pitch.

Jon Niese takes on Roy Oswalt at 1:10pm on Sunday as the Mets and Phillies wrap up their series.

Poem by Howard Megdal

Beating the Phillies
Behind Ike's bat, Pelf's arm; nice,
But few years too late

SB Nation Coverage

* Traditional Recap
* Boxscore
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* The Good Phight Gamethread

Win Probability Added

Big winners: Mike Pelfrey, +36.3% WPA, Ike Davis, +23.8% WPA
Big losers: Josh Thole, -9.5% WPA, Luis Hernandez, -8.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Ruiz ground out to end game, +12.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Sweeney double in ninth, -13.6% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +46.2% WPA
Total batter WPA: +3.8% WPA
GWRBI!: Ike Davis

Game Thread Roll Call

Nice job by MookieTheCat; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.

Num Name # of Posts
1 MookieTheCat 104
2 Whichyablackbat 73
3 MetsFan4Decades 59
4 Gina 56
5 Brian. 46
6 the caveman 45
7 aparkermarshall 44
8 Syler 35
9 itsmetsforme 27
10 NYC Russ 26