• Glen Perkins and the future

    Question: Why is this graph smiling?

    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:

    “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.”
    This just goes to prove that even though you may be industry leaders in predicting performance it is still a very inexact science.
    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:

    "[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."
    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.
    This article was originally published in blog: Glen Perkins and the future started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I do not think that it is coincidental that Perkins' highest career K/9 (on both ends of his career so far) came when he is a reliever. His career K/9 as a reliever is 8.1 and as a strarter 4.3. Another thing that has to be mentioned is that his 2011 BABIP (probably thanks to the Twins' defense) was .333, so his actual pitching effectiveness in 2011 is deflated. I really expect great things from Perkins in the years to come.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      I do not think that it is coincidental that Perkins' highest career K/9 (on both ends of his career so far) came when he is a reliever. His career K/9 as a reliever is 8.1 and as a strarter 4.3.
      Yes, there is typically a higher strikeout rate for relievers over starters for various reasons, but most do not have such a discrepancies such as the one Perkins displayed. Last year, the difference between starters K/9 (6.8) and the relievers (7.9) was not nearly as pronounced as Perkins' differential. So, while his strikeout rates jump because of the smaller universe, he was clearly an improved pitcher - notably with the velocity and his slider - elevating him to the strikeout pitcher he was in 2011.
    1. 2wins87's Avatar
      2wins87 -
      Another thing that helped Perk out a lot last year was limiting the long ball. 0.29 HR/9 with 4.3% HR/FB. You'd expect that his home run rate would drop after moving to Target field, but it actually skyrocketed in 2010. In fact it was the worst in his career at 1.25 HR/9 with 14.3% HR/FB. It was twice as bad as a starter than as a reliever, but still, not good. Which one was a fluke? (Or which was more flukey?) Hard to say, projections vary a lot. Bill James' projection system is really down on him projecting a 4.94 ERA, rotochamp is much better projecting a respectable 3.45 ERA. It probably depends on how much these rating systems weigh past seasons.

      I'm hopeful that last year was closer to the future, because I think he's actually been going through a transformation as a pitcher, not a rediscovery. When he came up in 2006 he was a fastball/curveball/change-up guy, and a flyball pitcher. In 2008 he added a slider and phased out his curveball. In the process he has steadily turned into a groundball pitcher. Last year he threw his slider more than ever and it was better than ever, as you've noted in the article. His peripherals and success have also consistently been better as a reliever than as a starter as thrylos noted. I think this will end up being a very good contract for the Twins.
    1. Tweety's Avatar
      Tweety -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Yes, there is typically a higher strikeout rate for relievers over starters for various reasons, but most do not have such a discrepancies such as the one Perkins displayed. Last year, the difference between starters K/9 (6.8) and the relievers (7.9) was not nearly as pronounced as Perkins' differential. So, while his strikeout rates jump because of the smaller universe, he was clearly an improved pitcher - notably with the velocity and his slider - elevating him to the strikeout pitcher he was in 2011.
      While you're right that Perkins' discrepancy is somewhat larger than one might expect, the stats that you choose to back up that assertion are misplaced I think. We're talking about the difference in strikeout rate for a single player, not all starters vs. all relievers. This is a bad comp for a large number of reasons, not least among which is the fact that, on average, starters are simply better pitchers. A way better comp (albeit a much harder one) would be pitchers who did significant time in the majors as both starters and relievers. I know that it's not terribly uncommon for failed starters to become lights-out relievers, and even closers. What reason do we have to disbelieve in Perkins' K numbers as a reliever? After multiple full seasons in the role, the sample size isn't exactly miniscule.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      We all saw how much better Glen Perkins was throwing the ball last year. Increasing his heater from low 90's to high 90's is a rare thing, especially after a pitcher has had arm trouble. Somehow Perkins developed better technique on both his fastball and his slider. It's unlikely he will suddenly forget what he figured out. How Glen Perkins refined his throwing motion would be the topic of a truly fascinating article.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      While you're right that Perkins' discrepancy is somewhat larger than one might expect, the stats that you choose to back up that assertion are misplaced I think. We're talking about the difference in strikeout rate for a single player, not all starters vs. all relievers.
      Right, I was not using it as a rule of thumb but rather as a yardstick. There was a study performed by either the Hardball Times or Baseball Prospectus -- which I couldn't find -- that should that there was a difference between starters-turned-relievers or relievers-turned-starters but, from what I remember, it was not nearly as big as Perkins' differential. I do not believe that if you had placed 2008-2009 starter Perkins in the pen he would have been capable of posting the same strikeout rate/level as 2011 Perkins.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      The change in K/9 rates reflects the change in being a reliever versus a starter more than anything else.Perkins low rates were years when he started (2008 & 2009: 33 starts) while his high rates were years when he pitched in relief. (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011: 1 start.) HOF reliever Rich Gossage's K/9 his last year as a starter (1976) was 5.4 but it improved 10.2 in 1977 when he became a reliever. Another HOF reliever, Dennis Eckersley, went from he low 6's to the high 8's upon his conversion in 1987.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      It had to be a rude awakening that no one claimed you on waivers...and that maybe you have to work/think a little bit harder about a major league career. That being said, he is a Minnesota boy, a good booster of the Gopher program, and can become a spokesperson for the team a la Michael Cuddyer. Plus, he is left-handed. Just ahs to maintain a great attitude and enjoy throwing strikes!
    1. ossieO's Avatar
      ossieO -
      PMKI? What does it mean?
    1. ben's Avatar
      ben -
      PMKI = pretty much killing it. It's a twitter thing
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      It had to be a rude awakening that no one claimed you on waivers...
      Correct me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure that he had options left so he was not placed on waivers when sent to Rochester
    1. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      Makes the Matt Capps signing look brilliant. Terry Ryan made another great deal.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Perkins should have been named the starter and Matt Capps should have been sent packing. That is clear. What might be overlooked here is that sometimes the mental aspect of the game is powerful for certain players. There is a big difference in the mentality of a short reliever and a starter. Perkins may just have blossomed because he can concentrate mentally better as a short reliever.
    1. Neinstein's Avatar
      Neinstein -
      I can't wait to see that smile slowly turn into a smirk.
    1. TwinsMusings's Avatar
      TwinsMusings -
      There is another factor that shouldn't be discounted. Perkins himself credits the change in his off-season (2010-11) workout routine for his velocity improvement. He did less weight training and more flexibility work as well as participating in other sports activities. He did the same this past off-season and so far he looks good in ST games. If he can stay healthy and if he is not overused, I look for him to have another excellent season.
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