Help Wanted: Research Assistant for Marty Noble

With apologies for stepping on Jessica's toes here, in his latest mailbag, Marty Noble gets asked a pretty dumb question:

What do you think about bringing back Oliver Perez as a closer? He is a strikeout pitcher who thrives in pressure situations, and he would come cheaper than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes.
-- Erick E., San Marcos, Calif.

There are a couple of big problems with doing as Erick (?) E. has suggested. The first, as Noble will deftly point out, is that Perez has terrible control, and short of a propensity for allowing homeruns, poor control is one of the last things you want a closer to specialize in. Perhaps more important is that Perez is likely to make something in the affluent neighborhood of $15 million a season on the open market, for five years or so. I don't think I'm exaggerating this number, either.

If we accept that Perez is in line for a five-year, $75 million contract, why would the Mets pony up that kind of scratch for a closer? Furthermore, if they were actually inclined to spend that on a closer, why would they spend it on Perez, who has never closed, instead of Francisco Rodriguez, who is a terrific closer, albeit a bit overvalued right now?

Here's Noble's response

Typically, closers throw strikes. Are you sure you want Perez -- 105 walks in 194 innings -- closing? He's not that much of a strikeout pitcher. And this image that has been created, that he is a big-game pitcher, fascinates me. What is its origin? Perez can beat any team on days when he has command and lose to any team when he doesn't. I suspect the stature of his opponent or the significance of the game has less to do with it.

In short, you'll never see him as a closer.

The emphasis is mine, and is also the reason for this post's title. Without even looking it up I know that for all of the things Oliver Perez is not, what he is is a strikeout pitcher. How much of a strikeout pitcher? To reverse paraphrase Marty Noble, he is much of a strikeout hitter. It took me five seconds at Baseball Musings' Day-by-Day database to look it up.

Since 2004, Oliver Perez is third in strikeouts per nine innings among all pitchers with at least 750 innings pitched (roughly 150 innings per season, intended to include starters only). Third! His 9.11 strikeout rate over that period trails only Jake Peavy (9.38) and Johan Santana (9.33), and is ahead of Randy Johnson (9.01), A.J. Burnett (8.83), Ben Sheets, Josh Beckett, and many, many more.

I'm not going to throw a blanket over mainstream media or even Marty Noble's catalog of work, most of which is quite good, but this is exactly the reason that a lot of people have begun tuning out sportswriters and commentators of late. Avoiding this sort of error would have taken a mere five seconds of research that some intern at MLB.com would have gladly done to avoid making yet another pot of coffee or picking up Matt Vasgersian's dry cleaning.

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