Note: I’m going to leave any emotional analysis out of this post. Fellow IPL blogger Chris Burnham hit that sentiment on the head with his previous post. You can view it from the main IPL page or by clicking HERE. The message is clear and important: demanding perfection from a closer is impossible. Stop it.
At this point, it is as perplexing as that whole “Chicken/Egg” debate: What came first, the blown lead or the criticism of Chris Perez? Sure, the grumbling gets noticeably louder when leads evaporate in the 9th inning, but it seems people are ready to pounce on the Indians closer before he even throws a pitch. In a city that has seen some truly atrocious closing over the past 10 years, it seems somewhat backwards to see fans openly trying to get rid of the Best Closer the Indians have Had Since Jose Mesa. Yeah. I said it.
The statistics back it up, too.
For today’s statistical analysis, I want to focus on ERA+, a simple standardized measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness adjusted for ballpark and era. With ERA+, a score of 100 is league average, and anything above is, obviously, above average. Starters tend to have lower total ERA+ because of the total number of innings they pitch is so much higher than that of relievers.
For reference: Pedro Martinez has the highest official career ERA+ of any pitcher (minimum 1000 IP), with 154. In 2000, when Pedro went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA in 217.0 IP with 284 strikeouts? His ERA+ that season was 291, which is beyond absurd. He was pretty good.
Justin Verlander, one of the few pitchers so dominant as to win an MVP and Cy Young in the same season, has a career ERA+ of 129. I want you to think about that number. Think really hard about it. Think about all the times you’ve seen Verlander completely dominant. Yes, good, think about those 10 strikeout games, the shutouts, the 100mph fastball. Think about all of it. Make sure it gives you nightmares.
Okay, are we fully in awe of Verlander right now, with this ERA+ of 129? You might want to sit down when I tell you this, oh hater-of-Chris-Perez, but Perez’s career ERA+ is 128.
If that isn’t enough of a statistic to make you question your feelings about CP, then consider that his ERA+ in 2013 is 225.
225. And that takes into account the 2 HRs he gave up yesterday and the blown save and all of that. It doesn’t take into account Rosales’ home run from a couple weeks ago, but that’s because Angel Hernandez declared it didn’t happen. Statistics aren’t magic.
Right now, in 2013, Chris Perez is dominating. Your eyes are lying to you. He has given up 3 HR (cough.. 4 HR), but that is the only statistic far out of line with his track record. Most likely, the number of HR Perez gives up from here on out will regress back to baseline — in other words, Perez might even be better from here on out.
Now, if you wanted to talk about how his ERA+ in 2011 and 2012 was under 120 and his two all-star selections don’t make a whole lot of sense, that’s a debate we can have… but I’ll bring up his 2010 season in which he saved 23 games with a 1.71 ERA and a 231 ERA+.
We can talk about how Vinnie Pestano has a career ERA+ of 160, sure, but I’ll be forced to remind you that his 2013 ERA+ is actually lower than Perez’s at 206.
We can talk about how you want Chris Perez gone, but we’re going to have to talk about how we’ll fill that void in the bullpen. Relievers who can match Justin Verlander in overall effectiveness don’t exactly grow on trees.
Anyway, remember what happened when Vinnie Pestano went on the DL and how the whole continuity of the bullpen got thrown off? Taking Chris Perez out of the equation would have a similar effect on the bullpen, but it was also thrust an untested arm into the closer’s role. Pestano and Smith have been great, but no one knows how they’ll adjust to the closer’s role until they take it.
So take a big, deep breath. Chris Perez isn’t going anywhere. If you’re not a fan, that’s fine, but this would be a good opportunity to stop worrying and love your closer for who he is, an emotional and effective guy who has a track record of excellent results.
Now, if you want to discuss how Bob Wickman had an ERA+ of 134 in five seasons with the Tribe… well, I’ll remind you that for all his consistency, he didn’t have the ceiling or the raw stuff of Chris Perez.
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