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.

save percentageSince 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.


  • shaun says:

    good article but we all know that stats are only good for whats requested…
    and i guess it comes down to how you feel about the closer and their role…

    to me, a closer’s role is to come in the 9th inning and make the opposing offense go 1-2-3.
    compare perez from 2012 to 2013 and the numbers don’t look good. in less AB, he’s allowed two less runs with more hits (all categories) across the board, more walks, less strikeouts, higher BAA, more HR allowed etc. sorry ryan, its ugly. In 70% of his appearances, he allows one or more hits nevermind the walks.

    • Jami says:

      ^^ For this reason, I give Perez no slack. How does Perez stack up against all closers this season?

    • Jim says:

      Okay. you both have points. But what it comes down to is results. Stats are stat, but holding leads is what the guy is paid to do. He’s paid to not let the other guys beat you. He may do it in ugly ways more often than we’d like, but bottom line, about 87 times out of every 100 when he goes in the Tribe comes out a winner.

    • Kevin says:

      As if the 1-2-3 closer is what EVERYONE has? Its like trashing Michael Brantley because he isn’t Barry Bonds. Get Real.

      • Kevin says:

        To be fair, Chris Perez’s WHIP is terrible. Higher than all other closers and although I don’t know what that means 100%, I assume its a pretty bad thing.

    • Josh says:

      Shaun, agree completely. Another scary stat, since he brought up Mo. Perez has allowed 38 homeruns in 6 seasons. Mo has given up 71 in 19 seasons. I think the move to swap Perez out of closer position would have happened if he didn’t get those vulture walk off wins. He was very good in April and July but his September ERA is 6.23 with 14 hits given up in 8.2 innings. He’s just scary to watch pitch. No Cleveland fan enjoys it.

    • Trevor says:

      I closer’s role is definitely not to come in and get a 1-2-3 inning. It is to preserve the win, bottom line. I could care less how he gets it done as long as he gets it done. Would you rather have a guy that saves 100% of games but loads the bases every time, or a guy that is 1-2-3 90% of the time but blows the save the other 10%? Who’s the better closer? I understand that having a higher WHIP makes it harder for him to continue to save games at a high rate, but as long as he is still one of the best closers in the game, by percentage, I couldn’t care less what his WHIP is.

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Suggesting that the closer’s role is to go 1-2-3 is simply absurd. Even the most dominant closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel, has completed a perfect save in just 46-98 chances over the past two seasons (47%). Perez is 26-73 (36 percent).

      Obviously, he’s no Kimbrel. But my point is that there aren’t Craig Kimbrel’s growing on trees. When you have a Chris Perez, you should appreciate him.

      Remember how frustrating Bob Wickman could be a times? With the Tribe, he had a 1-2-3 save rate of just 27%. Perez and Wickman are both frustrating and inconsistent, but they both have provided the Tribe with consistency – something which at least 2/3 of the team in baseball would LOVE to have for a stretch of a three or four years.

      • Swift says:

        Excellent point about Wickman. Wickman even admitted that he didn’t care about giving up hits or runs. If he had a two run lead he would ignore the guy he just gave up the double to, as he didn’t care if they scored. All he cared about was getting the win.

      • shaun says:

        try reading my post again without going into the defensive to begin with. the suggestion that a closer’s role is to go 1-2-3 is not absurd at all. that is the IDEAL result of the closer. sure, its not going to happen everytime but thats not the point! my point is that he has been progressively sloppy and that is a cause for concern…but with that being said, as i just mentioned below…somewhere…after some reflection, there is nobody else that i would stick in there now on a lark. he’s the only proven arm for the situation.

  • TobaccoRoad says:

    The reason people don’t cut Perez any slack is because he runs his mouth. And he’s not accountable in the least. He calls out the fans, management and the talent said management has assembled over the years, then evades the media after blown saves or gets off Twitter mere days before the news of his pot arrest makes headlines. The guy comes across as a child.

  • DaveR says:

    As a kid Doug Jones and Steve Olin(RIP) seemed to be a great closers but their conversion % is less than Perez. Wickman, Jackson, and Mesa helped the Indians thru the Jacobs WS chase years. But they all burned bright then faded within a couple of years. Jackson lasted 3 seasons while Wick and Mesa only had 2 seasons over 16! If he stuck around another year and pitched about avg he’d be the best closer the Indians have ever had.

    Note that this doesn’t mean he is any less frustrating but we can’t assume the Indians can find any guy off the street to start closing games.

    • Kevin says:

      Good Point. Chris Perez is currently under performing, but his career as a player for the Cleveland Indians has been pretty great. People have short memories and they forget what he DID in the past. Stakes are just really high right now.

      • Shaun says:

        Yes, saving garbage games and having the stats improve are deceiving. Each time he has stepped on the mound this year has been cause for anxiety. And nowhere do I say that every other team has 1,2,3 closers so I really have no idea where you are extrapolating that from. The job of the closer is to shut down the offense. Period. Every h, bb, hbp, etc is one tick toward “reliever” and away from “closer”. Yes, nobody is perfect and thing happen but his numbers are way down from last year and we were out of it by July. This year our games down the stretch count. Time to step up and earn the millies

    • Sean Porter says:

      I have to say I was really surprised by Jones’ relatively poor save conversion % too… Somewhat different time though, the “closer” position back then wasn’t quite set in stone I suppose, and the expectations weren’t as high either.

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Dave, the last part of your comment is exactly what I’m trying to convey.

      Perez isn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination, but I think we’d be crazy to assume that Shaw, Allen, Smith or even a healthy Pestano could immediately step in and do a better job than Perez done for almost four seasons. And asking any one of them to step into that role for the first time in late September is crazy.

  • pihc says:

    I can see booing him as we did in the first ChiSox game, but that booing was a HATEFUL boo and went beyond what Perez deserved. Why not boo every hitter or pitcher that much each time a hitter doesn’t get the job done or every time another pitcher screws up.

    Question, what other pitcher or hitter has a better conversion rate than Perez on this Tribe roster? Carson doesn’t count as he doesn’t have enough ABs. But… even Carson’s .700 ba is worse than Perez’s .867 Save Conversions.

    • shaun says:

      well, he’s a polarizing personality. no good has ever come from calling out fans.

      • Swift says:

        Even (or maybe especially) when some of his points were correct. But you are right, no good can come of it (and no good has). Unfortunately, he learned to shutup too late.

        I also recall a fair amount of hating aimed at Wickman and Mesa in the day, and certainly a lot of anxiety when they would pitch in critical games.

        Maybe that’s what really makes a closer different from the 8th or 7th inning guy, being able to handle (or not) the intensity of the spotlight that gets shined on them.

  • Josh says:

    The Mo defense seems a bit ambitious. Mo has sustained that conversion % for 19 seasons. Perez, who is noticeably declining in what should be prime seasons is barely hanging onto that % in a mere 6 seasons. I feel like most fans would be more comfortable with a different arm in the back end of that pen.

  • phil says:

    Pulling certain stats while ignoring others doesn’t paint the full picture. Let’s look at other common pitching stats:

    ERA: 3.71 – fourth highest amongst pitchers with at least 20 save opportunities.
    HR: 10 – third highest
    SO: 54 – eighth worst
    HB: 4 – tied for second highest
    WHIP: 1.37 – tied for highest
    Opposing BA: .251 – third highest
    Opposing OBP: .322 – second highest
    Opposing SLG: .478 – highest
    Opposing OPS: .478 – highest

    I’ve been a Perez supporter for a long time, but I’ve had enough. I have no trust in him in close, high pressure situations.

  • David says:

    The problem with Perez lies with the combination of his substandard WHIP and his one HR per 5.3 IP ratio. This creates the potential for him to blow even multi-run leads. Its one thing to allow baserunners but a closer has to be able to keep the ball in the park and limit the damage.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Closers are supposed to be eccentric, even weird. Those silly rituals and quirks are what make them intimidating and able to handle the emotional pressure of saving close games day after day. There’s a reason most closers don’t last but a few years. Maybe Perez’s crime is that he hasn’t parlayed his weirdness into cult hero status like some closers have. He says and does unpopular things and likes to burn his bridges. But he gets the job done better than most, and there are few alternatives available to replace him with. Everyone just assumed that Pestano could step right into the role, but now sees that isn’t necessarily the case. Cody Allen has been terrific, but he’s only been in the majors for two years. Maybe he can close and maybe he can’t. For a team with playoff aspirations, you have to take Perez’s 86% and run with it. If he has a good postseason, he might even be back next year too, weirdness and all.

  • Bill Curtin says:

    Perez is a jerk. The “I’m not talking to anybody now’, the run-in with the Oakland provokers, the throwing Acta under the bus, the Pure Rage b.s.,and particularly the stupid stoner stunt of having his weed mailed to his dog’s name at his house and getting in trouble during the season. However, jerks are tolerated if they do their job. But he has been not at all consistent as of late, and since as of late is the first time the Indians have been in a pennant race in years, the natives get understandably restless. When he leaves after this season, it will likely be addition by subtraction no matter who closes next.

  • Seattle Stu says:

    save% meaningless without accompanying data on run margin of the save….as far as hateful boos (boo-friggin-hoo), if you’re going to put a target on your chest by bragging about yourself and criticizing others, dont be surprised when you get ripped senseless when you no longer bring it….instead you run and hide…..grow up, pothead.

  • Kevin says:

    There was an article on the Cleveland Indians facebook account this morning detailing the costumes the Tribe rookies had to wear. This was an attempt to keep it light and keep the whole team in good feelings.

    This was the Top Comment, 91 likes:
    “They’d be more embarrassed if they had to dress up like Chris Perez.”

    I was very sad to see this. I mean people can read, its almost like all these fans REALLY WANT the Indians to WIN but cannot understand how their HATRED of one player impacts our ability to win in the Postseason. You want a self fulfilling prophecy, give Chris Perez one big ol BOOOOOOOO right when he walks in to save the possible Play-In game at Home against Texas. If he fails then you can smile because the guy you hated failed… but the team you say you LOVE, just lost. I hope this isn’t our future but it is a possibility. Pitchers do better when they are highly confident in their abilities and every comment, every boo, every post, is a one step in the wrong direction for Playoff success.

    This person responded, got five likes:
    “The Tribe is closing in on one of just 5 spots in the Post Season and is riding a six game winning streak. Yet, your first response to the team keeping it light is to take a cheap shot one of the players. That just shows that you really aren’t a Tribe fan.”

    As for myself, I love the Cleveland Indians but I decided a few years back to limit myself to only liking THIS Cleveland team. These fans, your fans, our fans disappoint me continually and although I realize Chris hasn’t had the best year, I want him to succeed more than anything because he is a part of that one Cleveland team that I allow myself to love.

    • shaun says:

      the more you think about it, the less inclined i would be as well to stick someone else in there but perez. yes, he’s on the downside right now but there is nobody else in the pen that has demonstrated that they can step into the pressure cooker and deliver.

  • medfest says:

    While save percentage is not the be all end all stat for a closer,it does describe his job perfectly.While the numbers Phil put up for Perez provide ample cause for our frustration with Perez,the bottom line is he does his job reasonably well and this has been his worst season.

    What do you want Francona to do?Throw his closer under the bus?
    Managers who give into knee jerk reactions become fans real quickly.

  • Steve says:

    Jose Mesa’s is pretty close to Perez and we all know how he helped us in ’97.

  • SeattleStu says:

    I want Tito to put the best option out there. And it’s clear Perez is not in the right frame of mind to do the job. If we lose that game I’m pretty sure the defend Perez crowd would be a lot quieter.

  • phil says:

    Perez supporters…how y’all feelin’ about him now? Blown save Tuesday, 4 runs allowed on Thursday. Not lookin’ good for Pure Rage.

  • shaun says:

    yup! lets cut him some slack now! 4 runs on 4 hits in 0.2IP to bring a 6-1 game to 6-5. yeesh. i hope we didn’t jinx him. good thing he’s not in cleveland tonight.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Tonight probably changes the landscape on Perez. You can’t let one guy destroy your season or cost you a playoff berth if you can see that he’s obviously struggling at a crucial time. Right now, he’s awful.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    Ok… while I still think Perez has been treated unfairly by the fans in the past. I’ll concede that it’s time to shut him down for the season. The leash is short this late in the year and two meltdowns in a row means its time for a change.

    • Peter says:

      couldn’t agree more. I appreciate his success over the past years, but this is now and every game counts. Bench him and hope for improvement later.

      Speaking of every game counts, that blown save against Detroit looms awfully big right now. Or any loss in April when we said it was early. Can we have one of those no big deals back right now?

  • Anthony Minarik says:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. Use Salazar as the closer. I believe the Rays did that with Price all the way to the World Series in 2008.

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      the Rays sort of did it. He only actually recorded one save. They also used our old friend Dan Wheeler.

      But Price also only had 1 career start at that point. He was used out of the bullpen at the end of the regular season.

      Additionally, Salazar is probably one of our four best starters. And definitely one of the four best if Masterson can’t start. And even if Salazar gets bumped from the rotation, I’d rather have him in long relief. What if someone gets roughed up early in the game? With short leashes in the postseason you need your 5th starter in the pen to come in relief early in the game some times.

      • Anthony Minarik says:

        I guess so, but unless they take the reins off of him in the postseason I don’t see what the point would be of running a pitcher out there who’s on a pitch count. Also if you’re using a long-relief man in the postseason that usually doesn’t bode well for the result of the game. I’d rather have Danny in there trying to win a game rather than trying to get a game back to being winnable.

        • Ryan McCrystal says:

          Since the leash is so short in the postseason, the long relief pitcher actually rarely comes in when the game is already out of hand.

          In fact, over the past two postseasons when a team pulls its starter after 3 or fewer innings of work, that team is 11-8.