Friday, April 28, 2017

Return of the Pelf

Danville, Kentucky -- A man cannot undo his mistakes. He can only learn to live with them. This is the lesson taught to us when we wake up on a Sunday morning with aching, heavy limbs and a throbbing migraine, with vodka sweats oozing out of our pores after a night of sorrowful drinking alone. This is the lesson taught to us when the dream of NAFTA withdrawal -- the dream of undoing the foolish trade policy mistakes of Clinton and Bush -- recedes further and further into the realm of fanciful and wishful thinking. This is a lesson the Detroit Tigers must learn after foolishly parting ways with Mike Pelfrey, electric right-handed pitcher and ground-ball artist.

The Tigers cannot now undo the mistake of unconditionally releasing Mike Pelfrey; he has been signed by the Chicago White Sox, who will happily throw him out on the mound every fifth day on the Tigers' dime. The Tigers may deeply regret this move. A White Sox rotation anchored by Mike Pelfrey and James Shields would've been quite formidable in 2010. Pelfrey will join a White Sox team that is already off to a surprisingly strong start, thanks to Detroit Tiger turned Tiger-killer Avisail Garcia, a man on a mission to exact revenge against the team that traded him at the 2013 trade deadline. Pelfrey and Avisail will find common cause in their efforts to avenge the team that said they were no good. Fangraphs keeps calling Garcia a major regression candidate, but the eye-test says he has turned a corner. Avi is seeing the ball well; he has confidence at the plate and appears to have changed his swing approach in the off-season. The Tigers dismiss the newly-stacked White Sox at their own peril, especially since they offloaded known clubhouse cancers Chris Sale and Brett Lawrie.

The Tigers must learn to live with their mistake to put Pelfrey in the hands of a hated divisional rival. They have, to a degree. They sport a winning (11-10) record. Yet their bullpen remains a bigger, stinkier, hotter mess than the Creamy Jalapeno Wings at Chili's.

The Tigers bullpen bungles high-leverage situations like Paul Ryan bungles Obamacare repeal-and-replace efforts. They could really use a guy like Pelf right now; who can wiggle his way out of jams by inducing double-plays. Unfortunately, the Tigers will now be paying Pelfrey to turn those double-plays against them.

The circumstances are cruel; Pelfrey will face off against Matthew Boyd, the handsome young man who out-pitched him for the final rotation spot back in spring training. Pelfrey doesn't have Boyd's boyish good looks or disappearing change-up, but he does have pluck born from years of major-league experience.

It won't be easy for Pelfrey to return to Comerica Park, the stadium where he was regularly greeted with groans, hisses, boos, and obscenities. Pelf is a man of steel, and won't let the cool reception he inevitably faces shake him. With ice blood in his veins, Pelfrey will twirl ground-ball after ground-ball, doubling up plodding sluggers like Victor Martinez and Alex Avila with ease. Pelf has pitched well in Comerica Park as a visiting pitcher before. As the ace of the Minnesota Twins in 2015, Pelf turned in some of his finest performances against the Tigers:

That being said, Pelf will have his work cut out for him. The Tigers offense is not at full strength with Miguel Cabrera and JD Martinez missing in action, but Jim Aducci and John Hicks are just as dangerous in their own wily, gritty way. 
When Pelf returns to the Motor City for his first game as an opposing pitcher since his untimely release, I predict a strong effort. Pelf will labor through 5 innings of 2 run ball, the only runs coming off a mistake pitch to the red-hot Tyler Collins. The Tigers have already made the mistake of releasing Pelfrey; the worst mistake they could make now is to underestimate him.