Martin Perez and Solo Home Run Situations
Martin Perez started the 2014 campaign on fire. Though we recommended cashing in on Perez, the young left-hander showed the ability to be an above-average starter, even if he promptly fell apart and suffered a torn UCL. On the shelf until mid-2015, does Perez’s injury make more sense considering his Solo Home Run situations?
Over his 40 big league starts and a couple of relief outings, Martin Perez has thrown a total of 109.1 of his 213.2 innings in Solo Home Run situations. Perez’s career rate is easily the lowest of the group so far at 51.2%. Here is his year-by-year breakdown:
2012: 38 IP overall, 19.1 IP +/- 1 run (50.9%)
2013: 124.1 IP overall, 65.2 IP +/- 1 run (52.8%)
2014: 51.1 IP overall, 24.1 IP +/- 1 run (47.4%)
Prior to his injury, Martin Perez fit a very different profile than the other pitchers I’ve researched for Solo Home Run rates. He threw in front of some of the best defenders in the world like Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus and for a ballclub with tremendous offensive firepower. Perez’s Rangers were very good at both run creation and run prevention. As a result, of the pitchers studied so far, Perez logged the highest rate of innings with a three-run lead at 21.1% since he became a full-time starter in 2013.
Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey, on the other hand, played for teams with weaker defenses and anemic offenses. It makes sense both pitchers racked up high strikeout numbers- they had smaller margins of error and relied more on the strikeout. Conversely, Perez “improved” to 6.14 K/9 in 2014. Add in this year’s contact rate, 82.7% (for reference, in their careers, Fernandez checks in at 76% with Harvey at 75%), and you start to wonder how Perez kept those leads. One of the answers? Perez developed a pretty nifty sinker.
Between 2013 and 2014 something clicked for Martin Perez. His sinker was better this year and it became his go-to pitch. As a result, his FIP dropped over a half of a run. Perez became a more effective pitcher, which we saw over a 26-inning scoreless streak this year. With the emphasis on the sinker and a plus change-up, and low strikeout and whiff rates, Perez’s approach is clear: induce bad contact.
So What Gives with Martin Perez’s Injury?
Solo Home Run situations allow us to explore how stress impacts pitchers and potentially contributes to injuries. For some, it means needing their best pitch, every pitch with the game on the line. For others, it’s over-reliance on the strikeout (and a high usage of breaking balls). Perez was in fewer innings with the game on the line and threw to contact more. In theory, this is one profile of a player who could effectively manage the stress of being a Major League pitcher.
Instead, Martin Perez reveals another way stress shows up for pitchers: he throws a lot of balls out of the strike zone. If we look at pitchers with 50 IP this year (since Perez logged 51.1), we find he has the second-worst Zone%, the percentage of pitches seen inside the zone. Certainly, a poor Zone% doesn’t mean a pitcher cannot be effective. In Perez’s case, it does mean a higher walk rate and more base-runners: his career WHIP is 1.39. When he’s on, batters chase balls out of the zone and can’t square up. When he’s not, batters can wait him out, making him labor to throw more strikes.
Martin Perez didn’t throw as high of a rate of Solo Home Run situations, but the lefty still managed to pitch under great stress. Struggling against control problems is just another way to show how stress, be it physical or mental, and the ability to manage it can impact a pitcher. While Perez didn’t always need his best pitch, he often required a certain pitch- a strike. Martin Perez is in a great situation to be a successful starter with good stuff, good approach, and a good team. All he needs is good control.
18 Jun 2014 / Ben Flajole / 5
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