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  • What Is Going On With Glen?


    Parker Hageman

    For most of 2014 it was business as usual for Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins.

    His numbers have been very similar to his previous two seasons. Yes, there were subtle changes -- like he has struck out batters at a slightly lower rate (declined from 32% to 26%) and he also shaved off free passes (reducing his walk rate from 6.3% to 4.3%) but you would have to squint to pick up the differences.

    Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports

    The latter statistic is a point of pride for the closer.

    “I know that I want to avoid home runs, strike guys out and not walk guys,” Perkins told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger in August. “If I can do that, and maybe even get a groundball, and even that it's that important to me as not walking a guy and those things. As long as I don't walk guys and don't give up home runs, I know I'm doing the right thing.”

    But while he has limited the walks, he has been hit hard as of late -- allowing a home run in each of his last three outings -- and even raising concerns that there may be an injury in play. He told reporters that he was unable to finish his slider which even prompted an MRI of his shoulder to see if there was any damage.

    No damage was found but the location of his sliders since August -- which have led to three home runs -- shows that something is not right:

    Perkins Slider.png

    In addition to his slider, there is also concern for his fastball. According to the Pioneer Press, an unnamed scout had watched Perkins’ September 4th outing and said that his “velocity was down a tick”. While it is more noticeable as he has scuffled as of late, Perkins’ fastball has been “down a tick” almost all season.

    When the left-hander was converted to a reliever, he saw his average fastball velocity increase considerably from his days as a starter with the Twins. In 2011, he was averaging 93.9 but touched 98 several times. In 2012 and 2013, he was averaging 94.9 and throwing his fastball above 96 on a semi-regular basis. This season however Perkins has not had that same gas on the pitch that he had in 2012 and 2013. Just four of the 604 fastballs he has thrown this season were measured at 96 miles per hour or above:

    Perkins Velocity.png

    Despite the drop in velocity, Perkins’ fastball has not been a liability this season. Yes, it has been turned into hits more frequently partly due to a higher line drive rate than past years but according to ESPN/TruMedia’s Hard Hit Average, it has not been hit that hard. Beyond that, Perkins has shown a better ability to locate his fastball in the strike zone -- he has his career highest in-zone percentage (59.6%) and tied his highest strike rate (70%). So the higher batting average on his fastball could be a product of attacking the strike zone and avoiding walks.

    Still, this precipitous dip in velocity could be of concern for the front office with $17.25 million remaining to be paid to the closer. At 31 years old, Perkins is near the age where relievers start to experience a decline in their velocity, which also correlates to fewer strikeouts:

    While relievers don’t lose a mile per hour against their peak fastball velocity until their age-32 season, the fate of the strikeouts-per-nine-innings is more closely tied velocity. Starting pitchers don’t lose a strikeout-per-nine until their age-32 season. And relievers? The dip begins a year earlier, during their age-31 season. Losing velocity could indicate that a starter’s likely to see a decline in performance — but we see that the ability to be effective (particularly in terms of strikeouts) is less affected by velocity than compared to relievers.

    The difference for relievers who throw 92-to-95 or 96-to-98 is significant. This year, hitters are batting .267/.347/.412 with a 9.1% swinging strike rate on fastballs that range from 92-to-95. From 96-to-98, hitters have been less successful posting a .230/.305/.326 line with a 11.4% swinging strike rate. Being able to throw 96-plus is a definite advantage.

    If it is an injury that has been acting as a governor for Perkins’ fastball, the good news is the year is almost finished. If it is age that is inhibiting his velocity, that is a different story.

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    He gave the Twins a very good hometown discount when he signed that contract.  I would tend to believe that most contracts have a good portion of it considered as a bonus for the production already provided by that player.  

     

    Are the predictability of relievers that much different that other players?  Or are you talking about the potential arm problems?  If so, pitchers as a group are too unpredictable.

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    Well...maybe thats why they signed Nick Burdi and Jack Reed. Glen Perkins is a smart pitcher. He will make the adjustment to cover lower velocity and to better locate his slider, which appears to be the biggest issue. Hopefully its just a mechanical issue.

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    I am hoping that is something as simple as his neck still bothering him and it will correct itself with some rest.  I thought I read (or heard) on of the sports media say that the velocity significantly dropped after he reported the neck soreness.

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    Perkins will be just fine. Good fastball, very good slider. All relievers have their moments that last a couple of weeks to a month. It happens to the best.

     

     

    I wish I could always be as positive as you, Seth! I unfortunately look at too much data. 

     

    In all, I think he will be "fine". The recent struggles with the slider appear to be influenced by the neck/shoulder. More concerning, as shown in the chart, his velocity has been down all season -- not just at the end. The hope is that the velocity loss is effected by the lingering neck/shoulder issue and that will rebound after an offseason of rest. If not, and it is indeed the effects of aging, we will still see a very good Perkins, just not the shutdown one from 2012-2013. 

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    The Twins should embrass full rebuild mode.  In most cases, replacements are already on the roster.  Perkins seems to be wearing out a lot.  Time to trade him while they can still get max value.  From what I know of Tompkin, he can close.   Dozer [santana or Escobar sliding over] and Plouffe [hopefully, Sano] are easily replaceable.  And do whatever you can with Mauer.  Seriously, I'd tell him he faces the max 20% deduction in salary for non-performance.  Hughes, Gibson and May look like keepers.  Milone was already spent when he was acquired.  And frankly, Twins need more power arms to make him successful.  Nolasco can go and probably most of the middle relievers and spent after logging huge innings for the past several years.

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    Perkins doesn't have a big contract. He has a modest contract for a relief pitcher. Papelbon makes $13M a year. Perkins is getting $4.6M next year and $6.5M after that. Even if he declines slightly he will be useful for years as a lefthanded specialist. I wouldn't be surprised to see Perkins pitching for a long time to come. Lefties with closing experience get nine lives. Guardado got by on a lot less stuff.

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    I was very disappointed they didn't trade him at the deadline especially with guys like Street (Angels) going around for fairly decent package of prospects.

     

    Mauer gave us a hometown discount too. Could have easily got another $5-$8M per year from the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers. One person's monetary choice is independent of W-L and performance correlations.

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    I wish I could always be as positive as you, Seth! I unfortunately look at too much data. 

     

    In all, I think he will be "fine". The recent struggles with the slider appear to be influenced by the neck/shoulder. More concerning, as shown in the chart, his velocity has been down all season -- not just at the end. The hope is that the velocity loss is effected by the lingering neck/shoulder issue and that will rebound after an offseason of rest. If not, and it is indeed the effects of aging, we will still see a very good Perkins, just not the shutdown one from 2012-2013. 

     

    I'm positive in that, if he is healthy, he is a smart guy and will make some adjustments. He was very good until the last few weeks despite the lower velocity. If he's hurt, obviously at that point there is a concern. 

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    I'm positive in that, if he is healthy, he is a smart guy and will make some adjustments. He was very good until the last few weeks despite the lower velocity.

     

     

    Agreed. 

     

    In theory, there are two things happening. The season-long velocity decline is aging while the recent trend of not being able to finish his slider is injury related. 

     

    To the former, it is of concern but not damning. As you said, he had been very good. Different approach, but good. If he continues to trend like Fangraphs.com show that relievers experience, there is going to be a decline in production over the next few seasons. After all -- a 92-to-95 mph fastball is turned into a hit more frequently than the 96+. More 92-to-95 = more hits. More hits = more runs. I guess we'll see after the winter where he is at. 

     

    Hopefully, whatever is ailing his arm right now, is something that rest will resolve. 

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    If the Twins can get at least another season out of him as a closer...good contract. He is tradeable. And can always extend his career as being that lefty set-up guy out of the bullpen. Technically, he should be able o pitch. I think the season has just worn him down a bit.

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    I think he'll be fine also......but not elite. That's the issue, imo. It isn't a ton of money, so I doubt it matters, but this is why you don't sign RP to long term deals. History has shown this, outside of a handful of outliers.....

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    This should be interesting.

     

    Indeed.  The issue is that his speed decline has been since ST.  I would hate to see that it is due to an injury that went untreated.  They are talking shoulder.  Hopefully is just fatigue.  It will be ok if they shut him down for the rest of the season.  Don't need him right now

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