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.

Like it? Hate it? Confused by it? Tell Adam what you think on Twitter (@palagoon)



  • medfest says:

    Hey! You are using logic and cold hard facts to support your argument that Perez is actually quite a good pitcher.

    I’d like to add that he does his job,saving games ,at a success rate almost identical to Mariano Rivera.

    If people want to boo,go ahead and boo.I already don’t think much of our local “fans” intelligence,this only reinforces my opinion.

  • Curtis says:

    I certainly hope you’re right about his HR problems going away, but if he keeps grooving fastballs over the middle of the plate like yesterday, I’m not so sure. It could be an anomaly and correct itself over the course of the season or it could continue to be a problem. We will have to wait and see. He may have better stuff than Indians’ closers of the past, but we had better hope that 75 save percentage increases…

    Statistics are great, but as proven by Chris Perez right now, they don’t always translate to all-star caliber results.

  • Curtis says:

    And to correct medfest, Chris Perez has a career save % of 84, while Rivera is up around 90%…

  • Seattle Stu says:

    Let me begin with what (hopefully) unites us – we smoked Felix & the M’s today and are the verge of a series sweep for your….wait for it….first place Cleveland Indians….I like the sound of that.

    Ok, as for Mr. Perez….i would humbly offer a few thoughts –

    • i respect those who defend him, as well as those who have an issue with him….i think differences of opinion are great, and I for one appreciate the education on statistical underpinnings like ERA+ (although if that stat puts CP on par with verlander i might page Mark Twain for his statistics perspective)

    • i think comments like “stop it”, “give it a rest”, “it needs to end”, “borderline stupid” and questioning whether Perez doubters are true fans are inappropriate. This is a public blog that allows people to post comments. If you only value the opinion of certain folks and want an echo chamber I’d be disappointed, but you have the power to establish that type of set-up. But if you’re willing to allow comments from the peanut gallery , I think impugning the motives and intelligence of dissenters, and effectively telling them to stop contributing just seems childish.
    • statistics never tell the whole story. e.g.. game situations and opponent strength. I find it particularly galling that Perez gave up consecutive dingers at home after 2 quick outs. To Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak. Ibanez is a pro, but he’s 38 and struggling this year, and you don’t put anything fat & juicy in the middle of the plate for a guy like that. Smoak is a disaster who has only hit 2 homers this year, one courtesy of CP. I can tell you first hand that Seattleites are crucifying GM Jack Zduriencik for acquiring him as a supposed franchise foundation piece in the Cliff Lee deal w/ Texas. You can’t give up that second homer against a struggling bust who likely won’t be in the majors by this time next year.

    My last comment is I fully admit I could be wrong about CP, and I hope I am.

    Let’s go Tribe.

  • Adam Hintz says:

    Stu, that’s the appealing thing (and the biggest drawback) about statistical endeavors… they’re unbiased. They can’t tell you that watching Chris Perez is rarely as smooth as his statistics suggest, but they can also clue you in to when your eyes might be telling the wrong story.

    I don’t want you to come away from this post thinking I said Chris Perez = Justin Verlander. What I meant to say is that the average Justin Verlander INNING (of which he averages somewhere around 6+ per start) is roughly equal to the average inning of Chris Perez.

    Relievers are supposed to be more dominant than starters because their entire career exists within the margins of small sample size, so that 129/128 ERA+ comparison is a bit of a fool’s journey. Verlander has the kind of stuff where he COULD be one of the best relievers ever… certainly much more dominant than his 129 ERA+ would suggest.

    That’s why the look at THIS season is so important. ERA+ over 200 suggests a great pitcher, and it’s no small feat that Perez, Pestano, and Joe Smith all sport such great pitching resumes in 2013 (Fun fact: Joe Smith’s 2013 ERA+ is 615. That’s what a >9.00 K/9 rating and a K/BB ratio over 4.60 will do for you). We can debate all you want about Perez not being an All-Star in 2011 or 2012, and I’d be hard pressed to debate that point… but Perez is getting the job done this year right now. Even if the Indians didn’t win on Saturday afternoon I’d be sitting here making the same point.

    As to your last point, Justin Verlander grooved one to Geovany Soto on Friday night. You know, he of the .185 batting average in 2013? It happens. Pitchers miss spots all the time, and it just so happens that Perez missed twice and two hitters did exactly what they had to do. It happens.

    We don’t talk enough about how Perez came in on Friday night and blew the doors off the building in his inning of work. What we WOULD hear about, however, is how Perez sucks in non-save situations… you know, if he had pitched poorly. It’s a one-result endgame for Perez: He’s either invisible or he’s the goat. It is a patently unfair position.

  • Drew says:

    When analysis returns results like this, and you begin to think, “How could that be?”, it often is that the details are hidden and further segmentation of the data is needed. This season, CP has pitched 15 innings in 15 games. He has had 8 save opportunities. In those 8 opportunities, he has a WHIP of 1.625 and ERA of 3.38, and a 9K/9IP. He has also hit 2 batters this season and each came in save situations. Add those HBP to his WHIP (because it really should be included) and his adjusted WHIP would be 1.875. That is definitely mediocre and WHIP that high has many wondering how he has converted 75% of his save opportunities. He has also allowed 3 HRs during save opportunities.

    Comparing those totals to his non-save opportunities, he has 7 of them, his ERA is 0.00 and his WHIP is 0.57. He also strikes out 10.29 batters per 9 IP in non-save situations. When the pressure is off, CP is on fire.

  • Seattle Stu says:

    nice post drew….adam, the ball is in your statistical court….

  • Thomas says:

    At the end of the day, Chris Perez is a good closer, not a HOF closer, not a perennial All Star, just good. Does he seem to make some saves look difficult, heck yes. All things considered I would take him over several other guys who are closers in MLB.

  • Adam Hintz says:

    Stu and Drew,

    I hate to scream small sample size, but I’m going to have to use it here (Did you ever notice we only say “Small sample size!” in April? Saying it on May 19th feels like saying Merry Christmas on December 28th).

    I seem to remember a lot of fans getting their proverbial knickers in a twist whenever Manny Acta would bring Perez into a non-save situation, and 2013 aside, the statistics support the notion that CP is much better as a closer than a non-closer.

    Non-Save Situations: 3-5, 4.18 ERA, 12 BB, 14 K, 1.31 WHIP
    Save Situations: 1-2, 2.75 ERA, 14 BB, 25 K, 1.14 WHIP

    NS: 0-1, 3.24 ERA, 3 BB, 17 K, 1.02 WHIP
    SS: 0-3, 3.73 ERA, 13 BB, 42 K, 1.17 WHIP

    And those are the numbers for Perez in his two “All-Star” seasons that coincided with his two worst seasons as an Indian. Let’s look at 2010 (when he was a revelation):

    NS: 1-0, 2.59, 12BB, 22K, 1.07 WHIP
    SS: 1-2, 1.16, 16BB, 39K, 1.09 WHIP
    (WHIP is actually lower in NS situations, but that ERA and K/BB ratio is ghastly)

    Overall, CP has pitched 147 career innings in a “Save opportunity” and 146 innings in “Non-Save Opportunities.” His ERA in the former? 3.18. His ERA in the latter? 3.13.

    Over time, all of these numbers start to even out. Looking at any one season of a reliever’s career and trying to extrapolate future returns is impossible, because any 50-70 inning stretch of a pitcher’s career is just a bump in the road, even if those innings take place over 6 months. When we look at relievers, we need to look at the whole career if we want to understand what that player is capable of.

    What is Chris Perez? He’s a guy with a good fastball and a good slider. He’s a guy who competes really hard every day he’s out there. He’s a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve (for better or worse). He’s not a bad pitcher, though he’s not perfect. I just wish we could stop crucifying the guy because he’s not Mariano Rivera. His presence at the end of that bullpen is important to this team, and he’s more than good enough for the role he is paid to do.


    • Drew says:

      Oh I am well-aware of sample size, Adam. I chose to use 2013 data because you used 2013 ERA+ in an earlier post. Must compare apples to apples even if the data is not statistically significant. Also it is important to note Chris Perez has been scaring Indians fan THIS season, not necessarily over the course of his career. We can always look back and see what he has done and know that he has the stuff to finish games. But any statistician will you that you cannot predict future results from past performance, even if it the best indicator that we have. The question many of us are asking is: “Is it just a slow start and he will turn it around by having several 3-batter saves before May ends or is he really losing his edge?, I hope its the former.

      I like Rage, I am glad he is the guy to close out games. Last season, he converted 24 straight save opportunities into saves. He is good at what he does and I agree it is unfair to compare him to Mariano Rivera.

      • Drew says:

        Today’s 28 pitch laboring where he faced 6 batters and allowing 2 BBs and 1 HR is more of the recent trend with CP. I know his history is excellent, but he certainly has an alarming trend in 2013.

  • Shep says:

    I’m saddened any time fans boo their own players, unless it’s something really justified. And in this case, I do not think it’s justified.

    I personally don’t care about the things that Perez has said in the past, or his past stats. Nor do I care about stats this season since it’s such a small sample size. What I care about is what my EYES tell me right now. And what my eyes tell me is that his stuff this year is not as good as in years past. His pitches don’t seem to have the same movement, and he seems to be struggling more with location than in the past. Batters also seem so be getting more of the ball, even when fouled off, compared to recent years. And if that continues, I hope that he loses his job as closer sooner rather than later.

    We’ve got a great thing going right now, and the last thing we need is to let someone keep hold of their job because of their past performance. I was happy to see Chisenhall sent back down with his current performance (and I hope he finds his mojo soon!). Let’s hope that Francona will continue to pull the plug if needed, no matter who the player is.

  • The Doctor says:

    endy chavez! already gleefully anticipating the next wave of chris perez discussion!

  • Seattle Stu says:

    hey chavez has 27 homers… 12 years…..but this luckily wont impact CP’s #saves or BS%….