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He Won't Be Missed: Oliver Perez

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Much like Luis Castillo, I’ve been counting down the days until I could write this article.  Today, the Mets released 29 year old southpaw, Oliver Perez, eating the remaining twelve million dollars on his contract.  Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Roberto Hernandez (who was the primary piece of the trade) for Xavier Nady at the trading deadline in 2006, Perez has been nothing but a disappointment for the Mets since inking the three year deal in 2009.

Perez began his career with the San Diego Padres and was sent to the Pirates (along with Jason Bay) in 2003 for Brian Giles.  His numbers in San Diego were OK, tossing 193.2 IP with a 4.51 ERA, but what was intriguing was his impressive 9.8 K/9 ratio, despite averaging 5.3 walks per nine innings.  In his first full season in Pittsburgh, Perez shined, going 12-10 (he received little run support) with a 2.98 ERA (3.55 xFIP, so he might have been a little lucky), 1.153 WHIP and major league leading 11.0 K/9, just ahead of Randy Johnson, and finished with a WAR of 5.1.  More encouraging, he lowered his walk rate to 3.7 BB9-not exactly Greg Maddux, but it was a marked improvement.  Perez, however, could not build on his success and struggled with his control as well as injuries over the next couple of seasons.  In ’06, he was shipped to the Mets.

Called up in late August, Ollie did not perform well in his first two starts with New York before tossing a five hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves in September.  After losing Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez to injury, the Mets were forced to put Perez on the postseason roster, where he performed well, including a six inning, one run, four hit performance against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS (it could’ve been three runs if it wasn’t for Endy Chavez).  Having earned a rotation spot, Perez pitched well fairly well in 2007 and 2008 (combined stats: 3.91 ERA, 1.358 WHIP and 8.6 K9) before signing a three year, $36 million contract, a move that was praised at the time.

To be fair, Ollie battled injuries the past two seasons, but when he’s been healthy, he’s been a disaster.  In 2009, he went 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA (6.08 xFIP), 1.924 WHIP, while walking 58 batters in only 66 innings.  The following season, Perez made seven starts, going 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA, surrendering 36 hits and 28 walks in 33.1 innings.  Perez was moved to the bullpen where he did not fare much better (13 innings, 18 hits and 14 walks) while also refusing to accept a minor league assignment.  Often the last resort, Perez went as long as 28 days without an appearance while on the roster.

What happened to Ollie?  The most obvious answer is that his walks started to catch up with him.  Between 2009-10, he averaged eight walks per nine innings and wasn’t striking batters out at the same rate as before (7.9 K/9 during that time period, which isn’t bad, just lower than his 9.1 K/9 average).  Earlier in his career, Perez was the definition of effectively wild.  In 2008, he walked 4.9 batters per nine innings, but batters were swinging and missing 8.7% of the time (it was even better earlier in his career.  In 2004, batters whiffed at a 13.8% clip) and throwing his fastball 91.2 mph.  In 2010, when Ollie walked 8.2 batters per nine innings, hitters swung and missed 7.1% of the time, and the velocity on his heater fell to 88 mph.  From 2007-08, batters hit just .231/.326/.385 off of Perez.  From 2009-10, the line read .281/.418/.494.  His WAR for the past two seasons was -1.4 and -1.5, respectively.

I’m not quite sure who would take a chance on Perez given his history of wildness and lack of zip on his fastball.  But given his refusal to go to the minors last season, some teams might not want to sign a guy who could be labeled as a head case.  Either way, the last image Met fans will have of Oliver Perez is this: throwing ball four to Justin Maxwell, walking in the winning run and losing the final game of the 2010 season.

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Tags: Erratic Jason Bay Matt Kaufman Mets Mph New York Mets NLCS No Control Oliver Perez Ollie Ollie Perez Pittsburgh Pirates Queens Rising Apple Roberto Hernandez San Diego Padres St. Louis Cardinals Trade Velocity Walk Wild Xavier Nady

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