Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Pelfrey has retired from Major League Baseball. Pelfrey made a long career out of being an unremarkable pitcher. Over his 12 seasons in the major leagues, he had a career ERA of 4.68, a 4.46 FIP, and a 1.51 WHIP. Nothing in those numbers is particularly abysmal, nor are they the type of numbers that net All-Star appearances or Cy Young contention.
In an offseason where many pitchers have found themselves without jobs, Pelfrey took it as an opportunity, returning to Wichita State University to finish his degree. Newman University, a nearby school, asked Pelfrey to join their baseball coaching staff, and he agreed. “This coaching thing sparked my interest, so I said when I was done I was going to get into coaching. I didn’t know it was going to be quite this soon,” Pelfrey admitted. “After a couple of surgeries and I felt like the last couple of years that my abilities were declining, I got more into that mentor role.”
Pelfrey, who spent the first seven years of his career with the New York Mets before bouncing around the AL Central between the Minnesota Twins, the Tigers, and the Chicago White Sox, was often the at the receiving end of fan ire. In his years in the big leagues, he only had two seasons with a winning record: 2008 and 2010. Yet, he kept enduring.
Former White Sox teammate Lucas Giolito spoke well of Pelfrey’s presence last season, saying, “Anytime a guy has been in the big-leagues for this long you can pick up so much stuff, not only about pitching and baseball but just clubhouse etiquette and how to carry yourself as a major-leaguer.”
This is the role Pelfrey found himself best suited for in the end. He spoke of having the opportunity to be the veteran mentor to the White Sox players. “Every good team has some kind of veteran leadership and somebody around who can show them the right way.”
During his Tigers-sponsored year with the White Sox, he said he would like to keep playing for three or four more years, but admitted he wanted to spend time at home as well. “The family stuff starts to play into it. My kids want me to be home and my wife wants me to be home,” he said.
It’s worth noting Pelfrey completed 10 full seasons in the MLB at the end of 2017, meaning he will get to retire with full MLB benefits.
Pelfrey was a polarizing player during his short stint with the Tigers. He was generally well thought of by his teammates and those who met him, but his performance during a make-or-break 2016 campaign came up short, leaving the team with no choice but to cut him loose in 2017. Still, it’s nice to see him find a place for himself in baseball that fits with his leadership passions.
All the best to Mike Pelfrey in his new adventures with Newman University Baseball.