Did Collins Ask the Wrong Starter About Closing?

Photo by Michael G. Baron

So, as I’m sure you’ve all seen by now, Andy Martino of The Daily News reported in this article that Terry Collins approached Mike Pelfrey about whether or not he’s be interested in closing for the team next season.  While Pelfrey replied “Absolutely”, I can’t help but think it’s just not a good idea for multiple reasons.

So here’s my crazy-go-nutty idea of the day.  If you’re going to give any current starter a shot at closing, why not Chris Capuano?  Now, while I’m sure you’ve either decided I’m a complete moron or am smoking something, please don’t judge JUST YET and hear me out. Capuano’s numbers compare favorably to Pelfrey’s when you look at the qualities one usually wants in a closer.  So why is Pelfrey a better option to close than Capuano?  I’m not sure he is…

I think most people would agree that a good closer is capable of striking out hitters, getting out of jams, walking few hitters while having electric stuff.  First thing’s first, neither Pelfrey nor Capuano really qualify in that electric stuff category.  So let’s put that aside for argument’s sake.  Regardless, let’s take a look at some stats here…

First strikeouts and walks, on the season Capuano has struck out 123 hitters and walked 44.  In comparison, Mike Pelfrey has struck out 85 while walking 48.

Photo by Michael G. Baron

But that’s over the whole season and a lot of innings, a closer only throws 1-2 innings max, right?  So let’s compare their numbers in the first inning of work, because that’s what a closer does, they come in and work an inning without being faced prior in that game.  Mike Pelfrey has struck out 12 in his first innings of work this season, while walking 7 with an opponents batting average of .321 and a .356 OBP.  Chris Capuano, on the otherhand, has struck out 26 batters in his first innings of work this season while walking 8 with an opponents batting average of .195 with an OBP of .263.  It seems pretty obvious from those stats that Capuano seems to be the most effective of the two pitchers in the first inning.  If you combine that with Capuano’s tendency to not go far into games and him being less effective in later innings, this seems like an opportunity to take advantage of a strength while limiting a weakness.  But, that’s not all…

With runners in scoring position and two outs, which is an obvious closer-type situation, Mike Pelfrey’s batting average against is .247 with a .368 OBP and giving up 12 walks while striking out 12.  Capuano’s batting average against is .237 with a .357 OBP while striking out 13 and walking 9.  Fairly comparable numbers there.  Also, closers tend to pitch up a run, or two, making every base runner and run valuable.  Taking that into consideration with Pelfrey giving up 19 homers and 23 stolen bases over the season, while Capuano has given up 21 homers and only 7 stolen bases, and we’ve got an argument here as those stolen bases could cost the team the game.

But the truth here is that I’m not REALLY supporting Chris Capuano as a closer.  I like the guy, and think he’s done a good job for what he is, but he’s not a closer.  So, what was the point of all this?  If you go back and look at those stats I threw out there you notice that while I don’t think Capuano would be a good closer, he still seems like just as viable an option to close as Pelfrey does.  He has better numbers in his first inning of work, has more strike outs overall (and in his first inning of work and in the clutch), and a lower batting average with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.  So I ask again, What makes him a worse option that Pelfrey to close?  Maybe a better way to phrase that is what EXACTLY makes Big Pelf a better option to close?

Photo taken by Michael Baron

That’s my point.  Why Pelfrey?  Yes, Bobby Parnell probably has the stuff but not the make up to be a closer.  And with all this Pedro Beato to the rotation stuff being thrown around I don’t know that the Mets really trust anyone on the current roster to close.  That’s probably why they approached Pelfrey, but it still doesn’t make a god decision.  Both the rotation and bullpen have not been good this year, so does a potential Beato/Pelfrey shuffle change that problem?  I don’t think so.  He’s a better idea, let’s look outside the organization for a closer or bring up a KID from the minors for a shot because I don’t think anyone REALLY believes closing games with Mike Pelfrey is a good idea.

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