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April 28, 2014

Pebble Hunting

Martin Perez Turns Two, 12 Times

by Sam Miller


Back in the 2013 Annual, we wrote that Martin Perez’s “strikeout rate dropped off significantly last season, along with his ceiling. Once thought to be a potential front-end rotation arm, he’s now considered more of a third starter.” But he heads into his start tomorrow with the best ERA in the American League, while his strikeout rate hovers around the 15th percentile. There’s a contradiction there—those two statements aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are certainly opposed to each other. Perez has the career-low BABIP of an early-season fluke, and he has the pristine HR/FB rate of an early-season fluke. But what about the most magical part of his game thus far? Is it possible that Perez’s exceptional ability to induce double plays is a skill that he can carry forward?

To appreciate just how significant the 6-4-3 has been to Perez’s 1.42 ERA this year, consider: 31 times so far he has had a runner on first base (at least) and fewer than two outs. Those 31 at-bats have produced 12 double plays and three fielder’s choices, along with three caught stealings, six strikeouts, and just three singles. In those 31 chances he has turned about nine more double plays than an average pitcher should have, according to our NetDP stat, putting him more than four net double plays ahead of the next-best doubleplayer. A double play with a runner on first and nobody out is worth about three-quarters of a run, according to our 2014 run-expectancy matrix. In Perez’s 31 matchups with a runner on first (at least) and fewer than two outs, he has around 13 runs off his expected runs allowed. He has allowed six runs all year. The double plays alone have been roughly as valuable as Mike Trout's sixth-in-the-AL home run total.

So, to sum up, if Perez were getting double plays like a normal person, and everything else—his BABIP, his HR/FB rate, some other stuff—stayed exactly the same, his ERA would likely be about twice what it is now. So, about those double plays.

We’ll ignore the line drive double play he got off the bat of John Mayberry in his first start, and focus on the 11 GIDPs.

1. Dustin Pedroia, 1-2 four-seamer.

When you’re a groundball pitcher, people will credit you with sinkers you didn’t even throw. In this case, Perez gets a double play on a four-seam fastball at the top of the zone. After it goes for a double play, a Rangers announcer says something like, “if you’re a sinkerball pitcher, you can erase a lot of baserunners that way. Perez gets a good sinker in on Pedroia.” No, he doesn’t, but on the other hand, part of what makes Perez interesting is that he gets groundballs not just on his sinker, but on the rest of his pitches, too. Some more than others, of course. But relative to the rest of the league's four-seamers, sliders, and changeups, his four-seamer, slider, and changeup have all been plus or plus-plus groundball-generating pitches this year.

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Related Content:  Texas Rangers,  Martin Perez,  Double Plays

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: M... (04/28)
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Pebble Hunting: The Me... (04/30)
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