Detroit Tigers: Mike Pelfrey and Base Runners

Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Pelfrey hasn’t enjoyed the best start to his career in the Motor City. The veteran has struggled for long stretches of the season, and has allowed too many base runners.

Detroit Tigers fans have seen some solid pitching displays from the team’s starters this season. Justin Verlander is in the discussion for the Cy Young and Michael Fulmer is a front runner for American League Rookie of the Year. What’s more, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd have both excelled in their first full season in the Majors.

However, there have been some less-than positive results. Jordan Zimmermann struggled mightily after an excellent start, while Anibal Sanchez has been up and down.

Another struggling starter is Mike Pelfrey.

Signed in the offseason as an innings eater, the veteran has made 22 starts. Verlander, Fulmer and Sanchez have logged more innings out of the rotation than the former Met. Additionally, Pelfrey has struggled to keep runners off the base paths.

Among starting pitchers with at least 100 innings, Pelfrey has the highest WHIP in the league at 1.78. Opposing batters have posted a .350 BABIP, but that still hasn’t stopped the walks. Pelfrey is currently allowing 3.67 free passes per nine innings. That’s good (or bad) for the 19th-worst rate in the league.

All those base runners have eventually translated to poor run-prevention stats. Only Jered Weaver owns a worse SIERA in all of baseball. Pelfrey is also sixth-worst in both FIP and xFIP.

Simply Too Many Base Runners Allowed

Even in good starts, Pelfrey has struggled to keep hitters off the base paths.

In just his second start of the season, the 32-year-old allowed one run in six innings against the Astros. The problem was he also allowed six walks and five hits.

During a 5-4 win against the Phillies, Pelfrey allowed four runs in six innings. He was also tagged for 11 hits.

Opposing teams have registered four or more walks versus Pelfrey on four different occasions. Opponents have collected seven or more hits against the Detroit starter 11 times.

In two June starts versus Seattle and Miami, the M’s and Marlins combined for 24 hits, 10 runs and a pair of walks in just 10.1 innings.

The unfortunate thing is that Pelfrey is doing an excellent job of preventing damage via the long ball. His 1.12 home runs allowed per nine innings rate is the same as Felix Hernandez’ stat in the category.

It’s also a lower number than the rates posted by Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Andrew Cashner, Marco Estrada and Chris Archer.

Detroit Tigers

Apr 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (37) pitches in the second inning against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If he could have kept the base runners down, he likely would have been the innings-eating option Detroit needed when the team signed him. However, he couldn’t, and the Tigers are going all in with their young starting pitchers.

Future Role

With Verlander, Fulmer, Boyd, Norris, Zimmermann and Sanchez all under contract next season, it will be interesting to see what Detroit does with Pelfrey moving forward. The veteran’s contract is up after the 2017 season.

For the time being, Pelfrey will be pitching out of the bullpen. In an article published in the Detroit Free Press, Anthony Fenech reported that, per manager Brad Ausmus, Pelfrey isn’t going to start anymore in 2016.

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With a bullpen that has been set for weeks, Pelfrey will likely only see time in blowouts for the Detroit Tigers down the stretch this season.

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