Thoughts on Pedro the teacher ….

Watching Pedro Martinez last night got me to thinking about his tenure with the Mets. He was brought in for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is his supposed influence on the younger pitchers. Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine all have physical skills to be good, but something is lacking.

1 + 1 = 3 to some Mets pitchers.

1 + 1 = 3 to some Mets pitchers.


I know Martinez worked hard with Perez, as has Johan Santana the past two seasons, but nothing has sunk in. At least it sure doesn’t look like it. If you can’t learn from those two, who can you learn from? In this case, I’m more inclined to think the student has a learning disability than I am a problem with the teachers.

I’m not sure Perez is ever going to get it. I’d like to unload his contract, but who would be crazy enough to pay him that much money? Ooops, never mind.

Pelfrey’s erratic nature has me leaning in that direction, too. In comparison to some of the other young pitchers in the game, Pelfrey is way behind in his mound make-up. All too often this season Pelfrey unraveled after several good innings. He doesn’t have the ability to command his secondary pitches and adjust under pressure.

Of the three, Maine appears to me to have taken a step back from his 15-win season, but that’s more attributable to injuries than anything else.

22 thoughts on “Thoughts on Pedro the teacher ….

  1. Nice post John. These are the kinds of things I wonder about too. We know Ollie can be good, he’s done it in the past, and the same goes for Pelf and Maine. But what is standing in the way of it happening? What do they need to do to make it happen? I agree with you on Maine that its been the health of his arm. I wouldn’t dismiss the idea that that’s been a significant part of Ollie’s problem too. I wouldn’t exactly call him learning disabled but his problem is more emotional. Anxiety, worry, the inability to get comfortable out there. Or maybe that was just my problem when I played and I’m projecting. But really thats what I see in Ollie. Also his velocity was down towards the end of the year.

  2. “If you can’t learn from those two [Pedro and Santana], who can you learn from?”

    How silly. How many of the best pitching coaches were successful pitchers themselves? In Met history, the best were a back-up catcher (Rube Walker) and a guy who never appeared in the bigs and compiled a career 5.67 ERA in the minors (the Jacket). And who’s arguably the best pitching coach in the game today — a catcher named Duncan who hit .214 and caught 7,000 big-league innings?

    Maybe Bob Gibson could get through to Ollie? When he was the Mets pitching coach in 1981, they brought their 12-round pick to workout in front of him, to see whether they should increase their offered signing bonus from $10,000 to $25,000. Gibson watched the pitcher workout and told the organization that the prospect was not worth the additional $15k. They only missed out on 316 wins and 7 Cy Youngs based on Gibson’s expertise as a coach.

    You still want to make the argument that, if you can’t learn from Pedro and Johan, then you’re just a lost cause?

  3. I would send big pelf down to AAA to learn to control his pitches.

    that wont happen because we have no staff without him.

  4. dave – Pelf can work on control in the bullpen

    I just wonder if they do it right. Keep the sinker low and inside on righties. Put a dummy in the batter’s box. Put a target on the low inside corner. Can you hit it 5 out of 10 times with velocity of 92 or greater? Good, keeping working on it until you can do it 6 out of 10. Then 7 out 10, then 8 out of 10. When he can do it 9 out of 10 times then he’s got that pitch in his arsenal. Its his. Its not a hope or a prayer. Its just a pitch he can execute when he needs it. Thats what Heilman needed to do with his change-up. It was great 50% of the time when it was down in the zone. The other 50% of the time it was at high risk for ending up in the seats. But I don’t think anyone needs to go to the minors for that. If you can’t execute you pitches in the pen you won’t be able to do it in the game.

  5. TMS

    The problem is there are no pitchers. Pelf is the only one who lasted the year and was not injured.

    He really needs confidence in his secondary pitches and that is best done pitching on a regular schedule.

    It might help to do it in AAA where the pressure is less.

    A bullpen role wont help as work is intermitant and if you are trying to win a game it may not mean that you can work on your curve ball or changeup.

  6. Pelfrey just might have been plagued with the inningsitis that comes with pitching a substantial amount of innings more than the year before..or whatever that Verducci effect is. You are probably seeing it with Hamels now. Pelfrey does need to step it up next year though in order to go forward.

  7. My pyschic prediction: Rich Harden for three years and $39 million. Harden will promptly strain his back when holding the fake check at the press conference, relegating him to another year and a half on the DL. Omar says it’s unfortunate, but unavoidable.

  8. 7. Definitely!
    9. She right Delcos…. Why does talent make them an automatic goodteacher.
    4. Your premise is totally wrong. You played the game, you should definitely know that throwing at a dummy and throwing at a human being have no connection.

  9. Harry (10): Being a good player doesn’t make you a good teacher, but both Santana and Martinez were approachable and willing to talk. Each said they were aware they could do something other pitchers could not. But, the point is from the observation factor. It’s like these guys weren’t paying attention.-JD

  10. (11) Ted Williams was a lousy hitting coach because he couldn’t understand why others didn’t have the ability to identify pitches and show the strike-zone discipline he did.

    Tom Seaver, when commenting on a teammate who made 20 warning-track outs one year, said, “I knew if it were me, I’d have found a way to make some of those leave the ballpark.”

    The best in the business are very rarely able to teach anyone else, partly because of their natural abilities and partly because of their individual drive. Sometimes it’s the mediocre guys who are better able to impart wisdom as a teacher. If you ask Ron Darling, for example, he’d probably say he learned more from Mike Torrez than he did from Tom Seaver.

    This is why it’s silly to place value on whether Perez learned from Pedro and/or Johan. What’s important is that he showed the ability to learn when with Peterson — and that Peterson is no longer there for him. Pedro and Johan are irrelevant to any conversation about Perez’ development.

  11. Oh, and it was _354_ wins and 7 Cy Youngs they lost out on because of Bob Gibson’s expertise. My bad.

  12. 11. Approachable doesn’t mean they can teach. Glalvine and Maddox were supposedly approachable their whole careers but they couldn’t make any of their teammates into 300 game winners.

  13. Tiffany (13) and Harry (14): I hear you. My point is I would have hoped Perez and Pelfrey could have grasped something by observation and discussion. I’m not all willing to neatly summarize it is any one’s fault in particular, but I think there’s a problem with the students. Let’s face it, have they really benefitted from anybody’s advise?-JD

  14. Tiffany (12): Not hearing it on Williams. From Yaz to Boggs to Evans and Rice and Lynn … not to mention Eddie Brinkman. They all say they learned and improved from being around Willilams in spring training. …. There’s no guarantee any great player will be a great teacher. But, somewhere along the line the student has to be accountable and neither Perez nor Pelfrey have shown to be accountable.-JD

  15. Right — they could field tips from him during Spring Training, but how did he do in an official, year-long, paid capacity? I mean, why isn’t Sandy Koufax the best pitching coach in the majors right now?

    Have Pelfrey and Perez benefited from anybody’s advice? Yes. Rick Peterson. That shows they’re teachable. And I would further caution you to remember that Maine’s success came on Peterson’s watch, as well; his recent injuries could very well obscure the fact that he, too, falls into the Pelfrey-Perez category.

    Perhaps Maine, Pelfrey and Perez are problematic pitchers who attained higher heights under Peterson’s direction and, without him, they have simply returned to their lower levels.

  16. Tiffany (17): Sandy Koufax would be hired in a second as a pitching coach, but HE DOESN’T want the job or attention. I asked him in spring training. … Eddie Brinkman, a career .224 hitter, batted some 40 points higher when Williams was his hitting coach. … I agree with you 100 percent that being a great player doesn’t translate into being a great teacher, coach or manager. History is loaded with examples. … However, I don’t see that necessarily being the case in this instance. I’ve seen a lot of people work with Perez-Pelfrey and except for a few flashes haven’t seen any consistency in improvement. I’m just wondering if they aren’t capable of picking things up. Martinez and Santana have tried with Perez, but nothing seems to work. Perez, by the way, had flashes before Peterson, but couldn’t sustain. Perez also had some flashes with Warthen, although if you blinked you would have missed it. … Pelfrey, on the other hand, remains an enigma. Sometimes, it is the pupil, and that’s my point.-JD

  17. Yes, Koufax would be hired in a second, just like Bob Gibson was with the Mets — but would he be successful?

    Your point regarding Perez and Pelfrey seemed to be that, because they had failed to learn from Pedro and Johan (“If you can’t learn from those two, who can you learn from?”), the problem rested with them. The idea that both of them have had success suggests that they can, indeed, learn and that it’s just a matter of finding the right coach. I’ll concede that the two have taken steps backward, but I don’t see the relevance of Pedro and Johan in their respective developments, unless you are still clinging to the concept of great performers being great teachers.

    And, yes, the example of Eddie Brinkman solves it all for me. It’s hard to believe that, in spite of Ted’s best efforts, Brinkman only hit .224 over his career. Perhaps what’s more telling is what happened to his team’s offensive numbers during Ted’s tenure with the Senators/Rangers:

    1969 .251/.330/.378
    1970 .238/.321/.358
    1971 .230/.307/.326
    1972 .217/.290/.290

  18. Tiffany (19): Give me a break will you? I never said a great player automatically equates to being a great teacher. … I never said their regression was because Santana and Martinez couldn’t help them. … As always, I appreciate your sarcasm. The Brinkman example was just one of how Williams helped one player because you weren’t satisfied with the spring training example.

    My feeling is in this teacher-student relationship, that I’m more inclined to place a bulk of the responsibility on their lack of success on the players. There was some progress with Peterson, and arguably they might have success with others. The comment of “if not Santana and Martinez, then who?” might be overstated, but you’re smart enough to realize the context in which it was written.

    In the lack of communication in this relationship, I’m more inclined to place the responsibility on Perez-Pelfrey. I’ve spoken to more than a few players, coaches, managers, scouts and management types who question the make-up of Pelfrey and Perez.-JD

  19. First off, I agree with your assessment about my intelligence. Right on the money, for at least that portion of your argument.

    If you want to place the blame at the feet of Perez and Pelfrey, so be it — but don’t drag Pedro and Johan into it. Otherwise, I’m going to ask you how many years Nolan Ryan spent with Seaver and Koosman and how productive he was during their time together.