perez_2014-06-15

What’s The Upside Of Keeping Chris Perez?

Here’s a secret about Chris Perez: He was never that good in the first place.

You might think he once was, and it’s understandable why he’d have that reputation. He made the All-Star Game, twice. He saved 23 or more games four seasons in a row, topping out at 36 and 39. He once had an ERA of 1.71. He looked like a closer, what with the beard and the 94 mph fastball.

Perez FIP xFIP
2009 4.27 3.92
2010 3.54 4.13
2011 4.27 5.01
2012 3.34 3.67
2013 5.08 3.83
2014 5.42 4.56

But we know that saves and ERA aren’t really great ways to evaluate relievers — I always like to point to Shawn Chacon‘s 35 saves and 7.11 ERA for the 2004 Rockies — and the more effective ways tell the real story about Perez. Sure, he could miss bats, usually, but he never had elite control, and he was below-average at preventing the longball. That’s why, if you look at his FIP/xFIP numbers over the years, what you see is a pretty fungible, mediocre reliever. Sure, he had his moments — 2012 was a particular high point — but for the most part, there’s not a lot that stands out.

Saves, as they often do, give value to a reliever that doesn’t otherwise deserve it. Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland, for example, aren’t great because they’re the only two relievers with more than 60 saves in 2013-14; they’re great because the highest FIP or xFIP either has is 1.88. Kenley Jansen is at 2.07 (FIP) and 2.01 (xFIP). That’s what an elite closer looks like.

And to its credit, the baseball world recognized that. There’s a reason that Perez managed to only land himself only $2.3 million in guaranteed (with a ton of incentives) money this winter, for only a single year. (Well, a reason besides the thing where he mailed marijuana to his dog. Yes, really.) He wasn’t valued like a man with a closing resume. He was valued like a very questionable reliever. This is good. This is progress.

But it also means that there’s really no reason why the Dodgers can’t cut him and move on, and there’s very little that indicates that they shouldn’t, especially after he faced six Diamondbacks yesterday and allowed five to reach. After a lousy end to his Cleveland career, Perez has been even worse this year, putting up career-worst marks in, well, just about everything. It’s not velocity-related — if anything, he’s throwing harder — but it’s not a good sign that he’s:

  • • allowing more flyballs (45.8 percent) than he has since 2011
  • • inducing fewer groundballs (30.6 percent) than he has since 2011
  • • throwing fewer strikes (50.3 percent) than he ever has
  • • putting up easily the worst FIP- (152) of his career

That’s all bad. So is this: Over his career, his slider has always been his best pitch, holding hitters to a 45 wRC+, which is excellent. But the slider isn’t working this year, since that wRC+ is up to 115, considerably-below average on his end. Despite that, he’s begun to throw it more because his fastball, despite the heat, is so awful, allowing a 181 wRC+ this year and a 123 over his career. A pitcher can’t live on one good pitch alone, at least pitchers who aren’t Mariano Rivera, and especially not when that one good pitch isn’t performing. Perhaps in recognition of that, it does look like he’s tried to start using a change over his last few outings, which he discussed using in 2011, but never did.

When you look at the results, it’s difficult to hold out hope. His FIP of 5.42 is only the 21st-worst of pitchers with at least 20 innings, but it actually looks worse than that if you dive into that list. Mike Pelfrey, Ivan Nova, Brad Hand, and Tanner Scheppers have all been injured. Wandy Rodriguez, Dan Straily, Franklin Morales, Josh Lueke, and Brandon Gomes have already lost their jobs. Marco Estrada might soonNick Martinez and Rafael Montero are rookies. It’s hard to be this bad and continue to be in the big leagues.

You might wondering why we’re talking about Perez and not Paul Maholm, who has also been terrible and is on that FIP list. Frankly, I’d be fine with seeing them both move on, but if we’re choosing only one, it’s going to be the guy who isn’t lefty and can’t throw multiple innings. Besides, Maholm has been much more effective since moving to the bullpen; after allowing an awful .404 wOBA as a starter, it’s been only .288 in the bullpen, which is better than league-average. It’s not great, and it’s not a big sample, but it’s something.

So how might you replace Perez? To be honest, I’d prefer if it weren’t with a pitcher, but with a bench player. I’ve long despised the inflation of bullpens to include 12 or 13 total pitchers on the staff at the expense of bench players, and we’ve seen the impact on this team repeatedly. Every time a Hanley Ramirez or Yasiel Puig or Dee Gordon or even Justin Turner tweaks something and needs a day or two, Don Mattingly is continually put in situations where he has no choice but to let Miguel Rojas or Jamie Romak or Tim Federowicz hit with the game on the line. I’m not saying I always love the choices Mattingly makes, but far too often his options are limited. With the starting rotation intact and working deep into games more often than not, now would seem like the ideal time to do it.

Unfortunately, if you look at the organizational depth chart, you can see that there’s not a bat worth calling up. Do we really think Mike Baxter or Clint Robinson or Jeremy Hazelbaker — none of whom are on the 40-man roster — are going to add much to the bench? Not really, and no, now is not the time to start talking about Joc Pederson. Perhaps when Juan Uribe or Carl Crawford are healthy, we can make the argument to add an extra bench player, but probably not now.

The good news is, the one thing the Dodgers have plenty of is available minor league relievers. They have six different 40-man relievers in Albuquerque, and while you may argue for the return of Paco Rodriguez or Jose Dominguez, the one who interests me the most — warning, scouting the stat line ahead — is Yimi Garcia, who has a 34/5 K/BB this year and 201/45 since 2012.

No matter who it is, it’s time for a change. Perez isn’t getting the job done. He didn’t get the job done last year, either. There’s no Brandon League contract keeping him in place, and there’s plenty of depth. This was worth a shot, and it hasn’t worked out. Make the move.


About

Mike wrote daily for over six long years (2007-13) about the Dodgers at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, which was named 2011′s “Best Sports Blog” by LA Weekly. He can currently be found writing multiple times per week at FanGraphs and ESPN, has been a producer and editor for Sports on Earth, and built The Hardball Times. He lives in New York City and will probably be asleep or on vacation when awesome things happen.


1419 comments
P_F_P
P_F_P

Pushing down the Star Wars discussion.


















P_F_P
P_F_P

Lobo,


1. I forgot how great the "You don't want to sell me death sticks" line was. Lol.

2. This guy made some good points, even if his vocal mannerisms made me want to jam an ice pick in my ear.

3. I don't like the whole argument of "Well, you probably thought this thing from the prequels was bad, but you forgot that that thing was there in the OT too," because, again, the fatal flaw in peoples' analysis of the prequels is that they're inevitably compared to three of the greatest fantasy adventure movies of all time, and of course they're going to suffer in comparison to that. When analyzing the prequel trilogy (and ESPECIALLY analyzing it in comparison to the OT), just let the prequels stand on their own.

4. The Darth Maul fight should have been top two, after...

5. ...the closing scene of Revenge of the Sith. Gave me hella goosebumps when I first saw it, still does to this day when I re-watch it.

6. In short, here's my analysis of the prequels: Phantom Menace was good when I first saw it, because I was ten years old. It did its job by appealing to the age group it meant to. Clones was also good when I first saw it, because I was still its target demographic. I was a little older and more experienced with movies when Sith came out...which is why I legitimately loved it, because it was the darkest and most mature of all the Star Wars movies. It would be dumb and unfair of me to go back and claim that I "hate" Menace and Clones, because I did like them when I first saw them. And Sith is better than Jedi and a lot of New Hope, for the record.

7. NO MENTION OF LIAM NEESON????!!!!

DBrim
DBrim moderator

I spent an hour breaking then fixing my bike

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

Why does the Dodger website show Patterson starting instead of Ryu?  Injury?  :(

KMT59
KMT59

@steelmohawk This is one of the balls I'm bringing to the game tomorrow...I hoping to run into Vinny, Rick or Fernando on the stadium tour

1981 world series ball

fan person
fan person

Hey i was just reading the xfip formula, does anyone know the rationale for multiplying by 13 at the beginning?

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@KMT59 Is this the first time giving away balls since the forfeit?

efb
efb

@KMT59 i predict that balls will be thrown on the field 

efb
efb

@KMT59 who the fuck is that on the left? 

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

@DBrim I spent several hours watching soccer on a roof and then eating tacos and now I am here

KMT59
KMT59

@steelmohawk looks like the shows been going on for a while...bottle almost gone