Chris Perez is not the perfect closer.
He’s frustrating on and off the field. He’s vastly overpaid. And he hasn’t always gotten along with the fans here.
But before booing him as he exits the bullpen in his next appearance – which feels inevitable after the reaction to last night’s debacle – take a minute and reconsider your position on Perez.
For some reason most Tribe fans seem to have this perception that Perez comes up small in big spots. But how can this be true when the Indians are just now playing meaningful September games for the first time in Perez’s career? 14 of Perez 19 career blown saves have come in seasons in which the Indians finished under .500. Another two came in April and May of this year.
Yes, last night’s blown save was a mess. And the one on August 5 against the Tigers was even worse. But blown saves happen, even to the best of the best.
Since the save became an official statistic in 1969, only Mike Jackson and Bob Wickman have posted a higher save percentage than Perez. More often than not – 124 out of 143 times, to be exact – Perez has gotten the job done.
In fact, Perez’s 86.7 career save percentage is only marginally worse than perhaps the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera (87.3).
While fans, by definition, are fanatical and create their own version of history, as Indians fans we’ve collectively gone overboard with our treatment of Perez. It’s as though we expect perfection.
Perez is not the best closer in baseball. He never will be. And he may not even be in a closer’s role next season. But, if nothing else, he’s been consistent.
Since 2010, Chris Perez is the only closer in baseball with at least 20 saves in each season – all for the same team.
Yes, he is frustrating us right now. But for four straight years the Indians have had consistency in the back end of the bullpen. And it’s thanks to Perez’s stability that the Tribe has been able to develop others such as Vinnie Pestano, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw in more appropriate roles.
I won’t argue with anyone who says that Perez is overpaid. And I won’t even argue with anyone who says he shouldn’t be brought back next year. But let’s appreciate what he’s done for us and what he can potentially still do for (hopefully) another couple of weeks.