For the most part, what we learned is that my post here earlier this week was prescient, in the sense that I could predict the future by seeing what happened repeatedly in the past.
But a couple of things jumped out at me, worth pointing out. One is that by working down in the strike zone more, Pelfrey was able to return to the type of pitcher he’s been at his most successful- a groundball producer. Generally, you are better off inducing ground balls than fly balls to produce outs- with the caveat that if Miguel Tejada is playing on your infield, the calculation changes somewhat.
Now, two starts ago against Arizona, Pelfrey pitched seven strong innings, results-wise. But process-wise, the game raised some eyebrows (well, mine anyway)- 17 flyballs, three ground balls, two line drives. Coming from a pitcher whose career rate is around 50 percent ground balls, this seemed odd. Did it mean he was becoming less able to induce ground balls? With a low K rate, that would be a rough combination.
However, that seems to be the outlier. He was right back to Pelfrey-type out distribution Thursday, with 13 ground balls, five fly balls and two line drives.
The other interesting thing Pelfrey did Thursday is strike out five in 7 2/3 innings. In what struck me as anything but a coincidence, that involved throwing his curveball more than once, and for strikes. Indeed, he even threw it first pitch to three hitters, getting strikes on two of the three. I spoke to Pelfrey about this after the game, and he visibly brightened at the chance to discuss it.
Clearly, Pelfrey understands that a pitch like his curveball, which changes both the hitter’s plane and velocity, can produce more swings and misses. As you watch Pelfrey’s subsequent starts, take a look at how he employs the curveball. Thursday, he commanded it about as well as I’ve ever seen.
Why does it matter? Those are precisely the things that produce more swings-and-misses in a hitter. And truly, Pelfrey’s only chance to be more than a durable pitcher subject to the whims of batting average on balls in play is to increase his K rate.