February 5, 2013
The Keeper Reaper
Relievers for 2/5/2013
Chris Perez | Indians
Heading into 2012, I counted Chris Perez among the closers who were likely to lose their jobs before the end of the season. Although he logged 36 saves and a respectable 3.32 ERA in 2011, Perez’s peripherals—5.88 K/9, 3.92 BB/9, 28 percent ground-ball rate—were awful that year. And even conceding that he’s always had a knack for converting balls in play into outs (.248 career BABIP), Perez’s 4.30 FIP in 2011 pointed strongly toward an imminent regression.
Ironically, while Perez’s 3.59 ERA in 2012 represented a small step backward from the preceding campaign, his peripherals actually improved dramatically: 9.21 K/9, 2.50 BB/9, 40 percent ground-ball rate. And, most importantly, Perez never lost his job, becoming one of the handful of closers who went wire-to-wire as their respective team’s ninth-inning men last season.
To single out either season as a predictive tool for Perez in 2013 is probably a fool’s errand. While his 2012 rebound in strikeouts more closely resembles his career average (8.68 K/9), his gains in control warrant skepticism. It’s unwise to entirely dismiss the idea that a previously erratic pitcher with questionable makeup can refine his repertoire and improve his control—indeed, Perez seems to have relied more on his above-average slider last season—but I’d bet against the 27-year-old posting a similar walk rate in 2013.
Put all of that together, and I think Perez nets out as a league-average closer in 2013, especially if you account for his job security. The right-hander won’t wow you with eye-popping strikeout rates, but he should amass about one of them per inning, and since there’s mounting evidence that he has the ability to induce weak fly-ball contact, I don’t see a modest regression in walks killing him, either.