I originally grabbed my laptop as it was actually unfolding. Like a slow motion car crash, Chris Perez’s first appearance in 2012 ended with disastrous – and quite predictable – results: three hits, three runs, and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
Anyone that’s visited my site, or whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, knows my overall general displeasure for Cleveland’s closer. Not as a person mind you, but as a baseball player. And a lot of the writing I do about the Indians seems to focus on Perez. Whether it was originally discussing my concerns in August of last year (found here), describing a radical bullpen move which consisted of dealing Perez (found here), or as part of the team’s 2012 analysis (found here).
My whole frustration with him stems for one thing: Chris Perez is a thrower, not a pitcher. And, yes, I’m well aware that there are dozens of successful relievers that fall into this category, but Perez is different. Early in his career his fastball allowed him to be successful in that mode. But it’s steadily declined since his rookie season, going from 95.2 MPH to 93.4 MPH last season.
And, yes, that’s still an above average fastball, but it’s no longer quick enough to consistently throw past hitters, which he needs to do to counterbalance his terrible walk rates.
Since 2009, the year the Indians acquired him from the Cardinals, through the end of last season, Perez’s strikeout rates have also rapidly declined: 10.74 K/9 to 8.71 K/9 to 5.88 K/9. And his walk rates essentially remained the same (4.26 BB/9, 4.00 BB/9, and 3.92 BB/9).
Just for comparison’s sake consider this: In 2010, Jamie Moyer – then 47-years-old – posted only a slightly worse strikeout rate (5.08 K/9) than Perez did last season. And Moyer’s fastball averaged 80.9 MPH!
I have also thought – but have been reluctant to write about it since I don’t have firsthand knowledge – that Perez relies too much on his natural ability and doesn’t keep himself in the best of shape. But apparently trainer Lonnie Soloff agrees.
After injuring himself during the first bullpen session of the season, Soloff said, “His body was clearly not ready for the intensity of that bullpen session.”
Sure sounds like he didn’t come to camp in the best of shape, does it?
As for his actual numbers, Perez, despite posting a 3.32 ERA with 36 saves last season, was actually one of the worst relievers in all of baseball.
Of 134 qualified relievers, here’s how his numbers stacked up:
- strikeout rate — 5.88 K/9 — ranked 115th
- walk rate — 3.92 BB/9 – ranked 97th
- his SIERA (Skill Independent ERA), the most advanced ERA estimator, ranked 133rd. Basically, SIERA is a true measure of how the pitcher should have performed. Meaning, Perez was very, very lucky
- his WAR (wins above replacement), 0.1, ranked 100th, making him no better than the average minor league reliever.
Look, I know this is just one game. But it was easily apparent that Perez was not in solid game shape, again. His fastball mostly sat at 90 MPH, and he had to max out to get it to touch 92. And his command was nonexistent, again.
And I also know that a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the season. But there’s absolutely no reason to suspect – and this is based off his 2011 numbers, not his lone 2012 appearance – that Perez can be anything more than just an average reliever.
I also fear that Indians failed to capitalize on his relatively high value this offseason. Yes, I know I just talked about how poor his 2011 season was – which is very true – but there are teams that still value save totals and don’t delve deep into the numbers.
My final thought about his performance today:
Chris Perez entered the ninth inning with no one on and a three-run lead. In The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, Tom Tango, one of the best baseball analysts on the planet, states that a team with those exact conditions wins between 97% and 98% of the time by the end of the inning.
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