Excuse me for not caring much one way or the other that Terry Collins named Mike Pelfrey his Opening Day starter, something that sparked at least a little bit of bluster in the blog- and Twitter-sphere yesterday.
I suppose, yes, it’s early to do so, but then pitchers are creatures of schedule and they’ll need to start mapping out the Spring Training rotation to line up with the regular season soon enough.
And Pelfrey is at the very least the most proven of the starters likely to be in the Mets’ rotation, since R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese have only a year apiece of Major League success and Chris Capuano and Chris Young are coming off injury. I don’t think anyone’s expecting to pitch like Johan Santana just because he’s technically the No. 1 guy in the Mets’ rotation.
Again, like so many annoying arguments in baseball analysis, it comes down to silly and meaningless labels. Pelfrey shouldn’t be handed the Opening Day starter’s job because that’s for True No. 1s and Pelfrey is not a True No. 1. What is that? As long as he’s healthy coming out of Spring Training, he’s going to be in the rotation, right? So what difference does it make if he starts Friday, April 1 or Sunday, April 3?
Jerry Manuel would say — and did a bunch of times last year — that because of schedules the No. 1 pitcher will often match up with the opponent’s best. Problem is, that’s not really true.
The Mets’ Opening Day starter last year, Johan Santana, matched up with opponents’ Opening Day starters eight times in 29 starts in 2010. Take out Opening Day — when it is inevitable — and it happened once in every four of his starts. And one of them was Vicente Padilla and another was Zach Duke.
You’re hardly condemning Pelfrey to run a gauntlet of Hall of Famers by starting him on Opening Day. And it’s not like they have any pitcher that’s obviously better suited than Pelfrey to run a gauntlet of Hall of Famers anyway.
If the Mets are going to compete in 2011, it’s very likely they’ll have to do so with depth in the rotation but without a brand-name capital-letter True Ace Starter, at least not before Johan Santana returns from surgery. And since Pelfrey has proven himself durable and capable of pitching deep into games, he’s as good a choice as any to pitch the opener.