Now, it’s like people are really excited to play here, to pitch with Elvis Andrus at shortstop, and Mike Young at third base, and Kinsler at second and Chris Davis at first. For me, that’s a big thing for us, is that our defense is so much better that people are excited to be pitchers now for us.
Better defense means less frustration for the pitcher and less work as he doesn’t need to get four outs in an inning.
This leads to an obvious question: Are we undercounting the impact of fielding? … Brainy sorts have made a great deal of progress in separating pitching and fielding, but it occurs to me that there might still be a great deal of work to be done.
I say: This makes me think about Mike Pelfrey and all his supposed mental issues last season.
We know 2009 was stressful for Big Pelf. He became a father. His ERA swelled. He ran laps around Coors Field.
But perhaps more maddening than all that, he yielded a high rate of groundballs in front of an infield that often included Luis Castillo at second and Alex Cora at short, and, to boot, David Wright having a rough year with the glove at third.
When people argue that Mike Pelfrey’s struggles in 2009 were all mental, I usually counter that he was mostly the victim of that awful defense behind him, since many of his rate stats were similar to those in his breakout 2008 season.
But I rarely consider that we could all be right, and that the crummy defense could have made Pelfrey crazy. I mean, after all, it made me crazy just to watch.
One of the weird tidbits in Pelfrey’s statline from 2009 that often goes unnoticed was that he yielded only nine home runs in his first 24 starts, then nine more in his last seven. Randomness? Could be. Did he tire due to the Verducci effect? Possibly.
Or did he tire of watching grounders dribble by his lead-footed infielders and just start chucking it?
I have no answers, of course. I’m not privy to Mike Pelfrey’s mental state and I probably shouldn’t be speculating about it.
But I suppose, like Neyer and Pinto suggest, it’s important to consider all the various ways defense that might affect a pitcher’s game beyond what could be measured.