2008 Season: It was a breakthrough for Pelfrey, who muddled through the first two months of the season before suddenly discovering the secret to his success. On May 26 Pelfrey's record stood at 2-6 and he was being tattooed by the league on a regular basis. Mets fans could be forgiven for wondering if the big right-hander from Wichita State was ever going to put it all together. Suddenly, and without much warning, he did.
Pelfrey dominated the Dodgers over seven innings on May 31 and never looked back again. He went 11-5 with a 3.20 ERA the rest of the way and was undoubtedly the Mets' second-best starter by the time the season ended. Pelfrey wasn't dominant - only 110 strikeouts in 200 innings on the season - but he kept the ball in the ballpark and gave up less than a hit per inning over his final 150 innings pitched.
Contract Status: Pelfrey signed a major-league deal out of college, which expires at the end of the season. I'm pretty sure that he'll be arbitration-eligible after the season, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mets offer a multi-year extension if he replicates 2008's success.
The Verdict: It was a wonderful season for Pelfrey, one that begins to justify his high position in the 2006 Draft. He showed signs of the pitcher the Mets hoped he would become - a workhorse who kept his team in the game every time out, with enough dominanting performances to suggest he has a future as a #2 or a #3 starter. Pelfrey will never become a true ace without increasing his strikeout rate, but he'll be plentry respected if he continues pitching the way he did last year.
2009 Outlook: We may have seen the best of Mike Pelfrey last season, and it would not be surprising to see some regression in the first part of 2009. He did throw a lot of innings last year and there's some concern that Pelfrey is a bit of an injury risk as a consequence. I don't buy it - Pelfrey's frame strikes me as the type that will allow for endless 200-inning seasons with few bumps in the road.
Frankly, I think the only thing holding Pelfrey back at this point is confidence and experience, and both will need to develop a little bit more before I'm ready to annoint him as Johan Santana's sidekick. I'd like to see him refine an out pitch against lefties and to continue pounding that hard sinker against righties; it's a formula that will bring him sustained success. Look for 13 wins and an ERA around 4.00 this year, but don't be surprised if he puts it all together and puts up even better numbers.