Glen Perkins and the future
Answer: Because its owner just locked in $10.3 million guaranteed.
On Thursday morning, the Twins announced that they have extended Glen Perkins through 2015with an option for 2016. Heading into 2011, based on his substandard results such as his strike out rate, this would have been unheard of, a Twitter punch line among baseball fans. Glen Perkins to a multi-year deal? Get the eff out of here.
Without question, it was hard to see this season coming. Take Baseball Prospectus - an entity that touts it as having “deadly accurate” predictions - and their forecast on Perkins:
This just goes to prove that even though you may be industry leaders in predicting performance it is still a very inexact science.
“Perkins clashed publicly with management in 2009, claiming that it had wrongfully downplayed the severity of his elbow injury. He then had an awful spring training and first half of the 2010 season at Triple-A before returning to the major leagues as a reliever late in the season. The real positive of 2010 was that Perkins regained velocity on his fastball (which averaged 92 mph) and improved the bite on his slider. This led to what was, by his standards, a successful September (11 innings, 11 strikeouts, 3.09 ERA). If there is a common thread to Perkins’ recent career, it is his inability to fool batters. They have hit .305 against him over the last three seasons and rarely strike out. Because he’s left-handed, Perkins will get his share of chances, be they from the Twins or other teams, but barring a continuation of his autumn activities, he’s just not a major-league pitcher.”
Last spring, Perkins’ breakthrough started innocuously enough. At Fort Myers, his totals were bested slightly by the soon-to-be washed out Dusty Hughes. Hughes worked 12 innings, posting a 7/5 K/BB ratio with a .183 opponent average against while not allowing a run. Perkins, on the other hand, went 12 innings too with a good 7/3 K/BB ratio with a .238 average against. While those are both good, superficially, more people may be inclined to select Hughes rather than Perkins.
And Baseball Prospectus was not alone on their assessment of Perkins. Unlike the national analysts who followed him from a far, many local bloggers who monitored his career more closely were also guilty of this egregious miscalculation of his career trajectory (present company included). His success in 2011 is a reminder to those of us who cull through the data to project players often forget about the drive that a player might have to stay at the highest level or the wherewithal to rebound from an injury. Rather than slinking into the Triple-A abyss or bouncing around from different organization to different organization, Glen Perkins went out and simply #PMKI.
As Baseball Prospectus said, Perkins’ velocity in 2010 of 92 miles an hour did not stop there. It progress throughout the 2011 season, averaging 94 miles an hour and, according to Pitch F/X data, peaking, on August 10th as a 98 mile an hour bullet against David Ortiz. His arm had progressed well beyond what most experts had expected giving him a rejuvenated fastball and giving him a much better foundation to throw his secondary offerings.
And it was the effects of his secondary pitch, his slider, which became the focal point of his reemergence. Baseball Prospectus observed that the “bite” had return but they had no idea of how impressive it would be combined with his now elite fastball. Fangraphs.com said his slider was evaluated as 9.9 runs above average – a mark that was eighth-best among qualified reliever.
Because of the effectiveness of his slider, Perkins was able to manhandle right-handed opponents, often a difficult task for left-handed pitchers. Due to the movement and location of his slider, Perkins was able to induce a 32 percent chase rate of out of zone pitches by right-handed batters – the highest rate posted by a left-hander last season. As you can see in this example to the Brewers’ Casey McGahee, he was able to make it appear to be a knee-high fastball which would quickly fade into their ankles, leaving right-handers flailing away at nothingness.
The results of his newfound (or rediscovered) stuff were nothing short of amazing. He went from a hurler who struck out hitters in the low-teens per plate appearance to one who was striking out more than 20 percent of opponents faced, putting him among the games top pitchers. What makes it more impressive is that he was able to handle both sides of the plate with ease.
The future for Glen Perkins, just like it had been in the winter of 2010, is just as unclear. The Twins are hedging their bets that he sustains this breakout for the next four years. If that is the case, and he maintains his 1.7 WAR (which is “worth” approximately $7.8 million) he will undoubtedly outperform this contract extension. Then again, while the Twins have done well signing set-up men like Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier in long-term deals, the front office seems to have a belief that relievers are a very inconsistent breed. After re-signing closer Matt Capps, who is coming off a down year, Terry Ryan said this:
So Ryan and his staff understand the volatile nature of the relief business. The small sample size and the over-reliance on certain arms can lead to a down year and thus the team may wind up overpaying for his services. Clearly, having watched Perkins come up through the system and understanding what he is capable of, the Twins must be more comfortable in his potential in order to dole out that kind of cheddar to a relief pitcher who has had one year on record of success.
"[Capps] had an off year. I'm not trying to hide anything there. We just think he had an off year and we had a little bit of that last year. Relievers are like that a lot, and it's not just Matt. It happens many times."