Thursday, November 6, 2008
Is Perez among game's five best lefties?
Scott Boras has written another book -- this one about his client Oliver Perez -- and The New York Times' Michael Schmidt has a copy:
The Perez book is divided into eight chapters that include such headings as: "Perez Turns Corner in 2006," "Perez Is One of Baseball's Top 5 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers," "A Rare Young Left-Handed Starting Pitcher Available on the Free-Agent Market," "Big-Game Ollie," and "Durable Ollie."
In the chapter "Perez Turns Corner in 2006," charts are used to argue that the pitching statistics for Perez, who is now 27, are similar to those of Randy Johnson and the Hall-of-Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax at the same age. What's more, the charts argue that Perez's control problems will improve, just like they did for Koufax and Johnson as they got older.
Chapter Three is titled: "Perez Is One of Baseball's Top 5 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers." It puts Perez in a grouping with CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Ted Lilly and Johan Santana, who was Perez's teammate on the Mets in 2007. Two charts are included to show that in each of the past two seasons on the Mets, Perez was the youngest left-handed pitcher in the majors to have an earned run average of less than 4.25 while accumulating at least 170 strikeouts and 10 victories.
Let's leave aside that last bit of statistical trickery. Chapter Three is the Chapter That Matters. Chapter Three is Daniel Craig, and the other chapters are Judi Dench and whichever Bond Girls happen to show up.
Did Ollie turn a corner two years ago? Is Ollie rare? Is Ollie durable? Nobody cares. Or rather, nobody cares unless those things add up to something significant. For example, his being one of the five best left-handed pitchers in the majors. If you're one of the five best lefties, you can just about name your price.
So, is he?
With the "help" of Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, I made a list ranking, in order of ERA+, all the left-handed pitchers with at least 450 innings over the last three seasons. Is Ollie in the top five?
Yes, he is.
If you rank them in ascending order. Which is a problem for Perez, because when it comes to ERA+, big is better. Perez has actually been the fifth-worst left-handed starter from 2006 through 2008. Perez's ERA+ over that span is 94, in the same neighborhood as Jarrod Washburn and Nate Robertson.
Now, in fairness, Perez did not pitch well in 2006. So let's chop off that season, and interpret his performance as generously as we possibly can. Looking at only the last two seasons, left-handers with at least 300 innings, Perez ranks 11th in ERA+ (107), 11th in innings pitched, and sixth in strikeouts. He is, it should be said, third in strikeouts per nine innings (8.58), behind only Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana. It should also be said that he's 15th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.92).
Throw in the difference between the National League and the American League, and I can name at least seven left-handed pitchers I would definitely rather have, including three Boras lists -- Sabathia, Hamels and Santana -- and four he doesn't -- Kazmir, Mark Buehrle, Cliff Lee and Joe Saunders. Throw in Ted Lilly (whom Boras also mentions), John Danks and Jeff Francis, and it's not altogether apparent that Perez is one of the 10 best left-handers.
He probably is. But Oliver Perez is not CC Sabathia or Cole Hamels or Johan Santana, and I'm going to break some big-time news right here, just for you: He's not Randy Johnson or Sandy Koufax, either.