So I'm poring over Oliver Perez's game logs trying to figure out if he's really turned a corner of late. Perusing boxscores obviously doesn't tell you the whole story, I know. Has he looked better? I guess. The results have been better, so when someone says "he's looked better" I think they really mean that he's just pitching better, which really just means that the results have improved. I have no idea if he *really* looks better. He seems more confident out there, but that may just be the residue of better results. I have zero scouting background, so I'm hardly qualified to say whether he has actually changed things mechanically. Gary Cohen has indicated that new-ish pitching coach Dan Warthen has tinkered with Perez since taking over for Rick Peterson, and this article specifically says that Perez made a "significant mechanical change" after Warthen entered the fray.
Perez dominated the
first-place second-place Phillies on Thursday, striking out twelve and walking just one (Pat Burrell, intentionally) in 7.2 innings. He allowed six hits and one run and hit a batter and left with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth. Aaron Heilman cleaned up Perez's mess by getting Jayson Werth to fly out to center. Carlos Delgado drove home the go-ahead and insurance runs with a double in the bottom of the inning and Billy Wagner closed things out with his second straight strikeout-less save.
This was probably Ollie's best start of the year; the 74 game score was his second-best this season, trailing only the 75 he notched against the Yankees at Shea a few weeks ago. His current stretch -- five straight games of 53 or higher game scores -- matches a career high he set in 2004 with the Pirates and equalled in 2007 with the Mets. The current streak might actually be the best of the three. Here's what he's done over that span:
The WHIP is under 1, which is ridiculous for Perez. He has walked just over one batter every three innings, which is terrific when you consider that he has walked almost five batters every nine innings for his career. I wanted to see if his control had actually gotten any better, and the results are pretty encouraging. Over his first 16 starts, Perez threw 886 of his 1,492 pitches for strikes, a 59.4% strike rate. In his last five starts, he has thrown 333 of his 530 pitches for strikes, or a 62.8% strike rate. That may not seem like much, but it's an improvement of 5.7%, which is actually pretty substantial.
It's hard to get terribly excited, perhaps because Perez has already had two similar winning streaks earlier in his career and still ended up spiraling into despair on many subsequent occasions. Nevertheless, *some* hope is a helluva lot more than we had a few weeks ago, so I'm happy to take the good feelings and move forward, looking forward to continued encouraging starts.
I'll also throw this out there: maybe Scottie Boras pulled Perez aside a few weeks ago and reminded him that he's in a contract year and is in a position to make a boatload of money this offseason if he can just get his act together. Before the season started, Perez was coming off a solid year and had won his arbitration case against the Mets. At the time, I figured he'd be in line for a five-year, $75 million deal at least. A couple of months into this year and he was probably looking at a one-year, make-good deal at around $12 million. Now he's back on course for a giant payday and he may be pitching his way out of the Mets' plans. Not that they couldn't afford him, just that they'd be wise to steer clear of his erratic services at huge dollars. The Mets will have some money coming off the books and some more Citi money coming into the coffers so there'll be plenty of cash to throw around next winter, though other names like Sheets, Sabathia and Burnett will be out there and may be more attractive than Perez (Burnett maybe not, since he's kind of a right-handed Perez with a far sketchier injury history).
As my mom says, we'll just have to play this one by ear. Whatever happens after the season, Perez is showing plenty of encouraging signs, and even if he falls apart at some point, he's helping the Mets right now. The first-place Mets, that is.