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Game Thread Twins @ Indians 9/15/19 12:10 PM CDT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:58 AM
Good morning Twin fans! The Twins go for the sweep against Cleveland this afternoon. The Twins swept a day-night doubleheader to take a 5...
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Front Page: Suspension Shouldn’t Factor into Potential Pi...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:44 AM
Michael Pineda's current contract with the Twins will end with him under suspension. So his comeback season was tainted and this is the e...
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Front Page: Is It Time for a New Bullpen Paradigm?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:43 AM
As the season winds down there has been some talk about Taylor Roger’s ineffectiveness when pitching in back to back games. A quick glanc...
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Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:37 AM
That nice 6.5 game lead is down to 4 and the Twins face good pitching in their next four scheduled games. I do believe it is very possibl...
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Front Page: Will Minnesota Get Raided This Off-Season?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:14 AM
It can’t be argued that Minnesota is having one of their best seasons in the Target Field era. Rocco Baldelli and his coaching staff have...
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What's Wrong With Martin Perez? A Deep Dive into Ups and Downs

It’s easy, with the 2019 Minnesota Twins, for their excellence to get in the way of reason and rationality. On Monday night, I found myself screaming at the team after a magical performance by Jose Berrios was squandered by poor offensive execution. It was a totally unreasonable reaction to a team that had won 47 of its first 71 games. When considering the moves Derrick Falvey and Thad Levine made this offseason, it’s fair to say that most have worked out superbly for the Twins.
Image courtesy of © David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
When examining the performance of individual players, it’s important that context is factored in. What was their 2018 season like? What developments has the organization catalyzed in helping to maximize their production? Martin Perez should be viewed with such a contextual lens. The Twins signed Perez for $3.5 million with a team option year for 2020 (which they should pick up if he maintains his current level of performance). To put that another way, contract-wise, Perez was a lottery ticket reclamation project, who the Twins impressively turned around. He’s already been worth around $13 million to them based on his 2019 fWAR.

Before we dig into Perez’s ups and downs, let’s set some historical precedent. Despite being a top prospect, it’s easy to overlook just how bad Perez has been throughout his career as a starting pitcher. In 2018, Perez put up a 6.22 ERA, his wOBA was .390 (bottom 1% of the league), xSLG was .471 (bottom 7% of the league) and his K% was 13% (bottom 1% of the league). Perez was, at best, a replacement level pitcher who gave up a ton of hard contact often. The addition of Perez’s cutter has completely transformed his outcomes as a pitcher. In 68.2 IP as a starter (he has 8.1 horrible innings in relief at the beginning of the season), he’s managed a 3.67 ERA, a .292 wOBA, and a K% of 22. Perez is in the top 5% of the league in Exit Velocity and Hard Hit%. To put it simply, he’s gone from giving up lots of hard contact, to less contact which is mostly soft.

Perez really started to put things together in May. From the end of April to the end of May, he racked up 37.2 IP in six starts and gave up just 7 ER. Mechanical similarities and same-handedness had Twins fans ready to anoint the second coming of Johan Santana, then June happened.

There’s been a ton of great work already published on Perez’s cutter. If you’re looking for a deeper dive on the pitch specifically, I’d suggest a great piece from Dan Hayes of the Athletic, or Twins Daily’s own Codie Christie, or a Baseball Prospectus piece from Aaron Gleeman. For me, pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll just leave this beauty here (courtesy of Mike Petriello). One of the keys to Perez’s cutter has been his ability to locate the pitch, specifically down and in to right-handed hitters (more on that later).



Perez has struggled more in recent outings, giving up 16 ER in his last 4 starts, so has he fallen off a cliff? What can we expect moving forward? Looking at Perez’s peripheral numbers is a good starting point when looking at small sample sizes, as they tell their own story.

Attached Image: Perez1.png

Perez had one clunker at the end of May in which he gave up 6 ER in 2.2 IP. Outside of this start, his May and June have been similar process, with slightly different results. There are however, a couple of notable differences about Perez’s setup over the last month. Perez’s vertical release point has dropped slightly.. Additionally, his horizontal release point has shifted towards the first base side of the rubber. It’s natural for pitchers release points to vary significantly throughout the course of the season, but in Perez’s case, it’s been accompanied by less pinpoint command.


Attached Image: Perez2.png
Attached Image: Perez3.png

Perez is throwing a similar percentage of strikes from May to June. (63% in May VS 64% in June). What’s been significantly different between the two months is his LOB% (79% in May VS 44% in June - his career average is 68%).

The side by side pitch heat maps show the location of Perez’s cutter and fastball. The left hand image in each pair shows Perez’s incredible stretch from late April to late May, the right hand image shows late May to mid-June. What’s noticeable about each pair is the consistency of Perez’s command when he’s in a groove. Perez consistently buried his cutter down and in to right handed hitter in May and has struggled to find the plate with it with consistency in June. Perez’s fastball tells a similar story. In May, the clustering is middle-in to right handed hitters. In June, his consistency is gone and he is leaving more fastballs middle up and inside to left-handed hitters. It’s not certain that Perez’s move across the rubber and a drop in his vertical release are causing these less consistent offerings, but his consistency in managing the plate has diminished significantly in his last 5-6 starts.

Attached Image: Perez4.png
Attached Image: Perez5.png


It’s time we view Perez for what he is. He’s not consistently going to be the pitcher who threw eight shutout innings against the Astros on May 1st. Conversely, he’s not going to be the pitcher who gave up six earned in 2.2 IP against Tampa Bay on May 30th. In Perez, the Twins have created a viable mid-rotation starter whose performance has already paid for his 2019 salary four times over. If Perez continues his level of performance throughout the 2019 season, he’s a no-brainer to return to the Twins in 2020 and to a rotation with very little certainty surrounding it.

  • Mike Frasier Law, hybridbear, nclahammer and 2 others like this

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16 Comments

Well written!

    • glunn, Mike Frasier Law and Tom Froemming like this

Looks like the only uncertainty here is how to get Perez to get his left hand up.

 

Point a gun at him? Ask a question he knows the answer to? 

 

Before we dig into Perez’s ups and downs, let’s set some historical precedent. Despite being a top prospect, it’s easy to overlook just how bad Perez has been throughout his career as a starting pitcher. In 2018, Perez put up a 6.22 ERA, his wOBA was .390 (bottom 1% of the league), xSLG was .471 (bottom 7% of the league) and his K% was 13% (bottom 1% of the league). Perez was, at best, a replacement level pitcher who gave up a ton of hard contact often.

Why do you say "throughout his career" and then only quote stats for 2018? 2018 only represented 11% of his career innings prior to 2018. Prior to 2018, Perez had 8.8 fWAR and 6.3 bWAR in 113 starts, with a 100 ERA-, 99 FIP-, and 107 xFIP-. He was still a low K guy who gave up his share of hard contact (albeit with a very favorable hitting environment as his home park) but he was much closer to an average starter than replacement level prior to 2018.

 

It's possible that 2018 was a harbinger of him fizzling out with that approach, in which case the Twins still get some credit for altering his approach and turning him around. But it's a bit misleading to suggest 2018 was representative of his pre-Twins career.

    • Shaitan, jkcarew and Doctor Wu like this

 

He’s already been worth around $13 million to them based on his 2019 fWAR.

Perez is easily worth his modest contract, but this might overstate it. The Twins probably don't value each 1 WAR at $8 mil! But Perez still looks poised to exceed more frugal estimates too. Also, his FIP (the basis of fWAR) is his most favorable metric at the moment. His ERA and xFIP are still solid, but both worse than his FIP.

 

Although by RA9-WAR (fWAR without the FIP?), Fangraphs still pegs him at 1.1 for 2019 which is still solid. Something based on xFIP might be similar.

 

By bWAR, he's still only at 0.3 for 2019. Looks like B-Ref is giving him a lot of benefit from his defense -- they have the Twins, Rays, and Astros as leading the league defensively by a large margin... would be interesting to look into that too!

 

He’s not consistently going to be the pitcher who threw eight shutout innings against the Astros on May 1st. Conversely, he’s not going to be the pitcher who gave up six earned in 2.2 IP against Tampa Bay on May 30th.

 

So ... he's like every pitcher who has been around 7+ years?

 

Looking at Perez's stats at a high level and ignoring all the splits, he has an overall 4.09 ERA and 110 ERA+. This is still a tip over his career norm, but he is playing within his conceivable range.

 

For all the hootin' and hollerin' over him on his "hot streak" -- his quality start percentage is still only 42%. That's not good enough as the Twins bats cool off. I don't suspect he will be as good the rest of the way through, but he won't be a disaster every time out either.

 

    • Mike Sixel likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Jun 21 2019 11:21 AM

Perez looks like a classic 4/5 LH starter. No more, no less. He's streaky with control issues, good against weaker teams not so good against stronger teams who will wait out his wildness. Worth what we're paying him but ... we should always be on the lookout for an upgrade from the minor league system or in a trade. Smeltzer? Stewart? Poppen? Probably not yet, but not far off. Stroman? Baumgarner? Zack Wheeler? Absolutely. Danny Duffy or Andrew Cashner? Meh. Same basic guy. Perez stays in the rotation unless we trade for a starter, then he's the first one out IMHO. 

    • DocBauer likes this

Good article. Conclusion: Perez is who he is. Wes Johnson and the Twins staff (or any staff) are not capable of anything other than providing information and ideas that can make differences on the margins. (Yes, margins matter in MLB.)

But, if a guy can consistently throw multiple major-league-quality pitches where he wants to, he's going to be consistently good. If he can't, he's not. A couple of MPH and pitch sequencing are drops to the ocean that is command.

 

And while Perez is currently regressing a bit, Pineda seems to be moving upward toward his 'norm'.

    • DocBauer likes this

Perez stays in the rotation until someone bumps him from the minors. Right now the candidates are Smeltzer, Stewart and Poppen. At one point we all thought Littell, Gonsalves and Thorpe were the next guys in line with Stewart. How things change. And one wonders if the Twins are still comfortable with taking Romero out of the rotation prospect status.

 

Perez, happily, could also perform in the bullpen if the Twins decide to work rookies into the rotation, as well as keep Pineda in the mix.

 

The sad thing is that Gibson, Odorizzi and Pineda are all free agents and I don't see the need to throw a ton of money at any of them, and if the Twins want to make a qualifying offer to one (Odorizzi), he might sacrifice one BIG payday for a multi-year contract elsewhere for roughly twice the amount.

 

Again, it will be interesting to see how the Twins work the rotation the second half of the season. How the Red Wings starters perform to push themselves into major league consideration. Can the Twins give 8-10 starts to prospects. What do they do in September when they only need to really have three solid rotation arms for the playoffs. A good time to rest pitchers (perhaps too much) to look at the future, if they continue with a double-digit lead in the division.

 

Man, you look at the rotation with a 37-18 record in 74 games. Pretty good looking. 

 

 

Perez stays in the rotation until someone bumps him from the minors. Right now the candidates are Smeltzer, Stewart and Poppen. At one point we all thought Littell, Gonsalves and Thorpe were the next guys in line with Stewart. How things change. And one wonders if the Twins are still comfortable with taking Romero out of the rotation prospect status.

 

Perez, happily, could also perform in the bullpen if the Twins decide to work rookies into the rotation, as well as keep Pineda in the mix.

 

The sad thing is that Gibson, Odorizzi and Pineda are all free agents and I don't see the need to throw a ton of money at any of them, and if the Twins want to make a qualifying offer to one (Odorizzi), he might sacrifice one BIG payday for a multi-year contract elsewhere for roughly twice the amount.

 

Again, it will be interesting to see how the Twins work the rotation the second half of the season. How the Red Wings starters perform to push themselves into major league consideration. Can the Twins give 8-10 starts to prospects. What do they do in September when they only need to really have three solid rotation arms for the playoffs. A good time to rest pitchers (perhaps too much) to look at the future, if they continue with a double-digit lead in the division.

 

Man, you look at the rotation with a 37-18 record in 74 games. Pretty good looking. 

 

Did people really think Littel was a legit starting candidate this year? And Gonsalves? Both seem like RPs to me. Thorpe? Yes, I thought he was next up.

 

Having 60% of your rotation becoming FAs, no one in AAA ready, and a limited budget doesn't look good for next year......hence my desire to go more all in this year than they planned, now that they have this kind of lead.

What’s wrong with Martin Perez? He’s Martin Perez.

He was great over a small sample. He’s been terrible over a huge sample. Sure, he found some things that made him effective for a minute. Not really surprising that he didn’t turn into an ace overnight.
Ignoring analytics and stating simple truth, I dont believe he is the guy we saw in April and May. But I think he may be better than the guy we've seen so far in June.

I'd be OK with that and I think we all should be.

I havent watched many of his recent outings, but what I have seen and read, it appears he's had a couple bad plays behind him and the proverbial one bad inning. In other words, grooving a pitch for a 3 run shot, but pitch solid the other 4-5 innings he's out there.

Is that just who he really is? Or can a few corrections snap him out of this recent slump and help him find just a little more consistency? To me, that is the question. I don't expect a top of the rotation performance.
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yarnivek1972
Jun 21 2019 08:30 PM
If he can’t fix himself vs the Royals, then who? The Twins don’t play the Orioles or Blue Jays anymore.
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Soft Tosser
Jun 22 2019 05:47 AM

I've bee watching velocity on his fastball. It's generally down from what it was in April and May.

    • stringer bell likes this
It’s a league of adjustments. He threw a wrinkle at them with the cutter and got lots of chases. Now the league has seen it and aren’t chasing anymore. That and he isn’t locating as well as he was before
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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 22 2019 09:47 AM

It's probably worth noting that the beautiful pitch he threw in the video wasn't a strike. I think hitter are laying off of that pitch a bit more...

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stringer bell
Jun 22 2019 11:19 AM

Such a fine line between success and failure. Pérez is out of the first with one run if Polanco makes a play he makes 99% of the time and he was one pitch from a scoreless fifth. In his previous start, Rosario had a ball in his glove that he couldn't hold in the seventh inning that turned into runs. 

 

That said, both command and velocity have fallen off. The 97 mph fastball is 93-94 and he's missing both in the zone and out of the zone. I don't think his curve or breaking ball are "A" pitches.

    • USAFChief likes this

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