Martin Perez threw his first complete game of the season on Sunday afternoon — allowing his only run on a 1-2 pitch to Chris Carter, which he bombed — with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. Perez’s 8 strikeouts and 115 pitches were both career-high marks.
The Rangers led 2-0, but the offense didn’t break out until the 9th inning when the team scored 4 runs, albeit aided by some horrific Houston defense. Had Texas’ lead remained at 2 heading into the bottom-half of the 9th, there’s a good chance Perez would have been lifted in favor of closer Joe Nathan.
But it didn’t, so he wasn’t.
Martín, still only in his age-22 season, hasn’t merely held his own since returning from the disabled list with a broken elbow, he’s excelled in his role.
In 11 starts he’s thrown 68.0 IP (over 6 IP/start) and surrendered 26 ER (3.44 ERA), with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 47:21 (better than 2:1). He’s performed somewhere on the fringe of a #3 starting pitcher.
The one cause for concern in Perez’s game has been the amount of base-runners he’s allowed (67 hits and 21 walks in 68 frames), though his .278 BABIP — which is league-average, more or less — would suggest he hasn’t benefited from too much luck. His xFIP of 3.90, for instance — extrapolated over a full season’s worth of starts, hitherto — would rank him between James Shields (3.87) and Yovani Gallardo (3.92).
Since the Rangers have the luxury of one of the richest, deepest stables of pitching in MLB, Martín doesn’t figure to play much of a role if and when the postseason rolls around. With Yu Darvish and Derek Holland both pitching like #1′s, with Matt Garza doing his thing as a productive head case, and the likelihood (or hope) that Matt Harrison returns healthy enough to assume the 4th slot in the rotation, Perez is an afterthought.
Though, you have to ask yourself, if Matt Harrison were to return on September 1st, let’s say, are you more comfortable removing Perez from the starting 5, or Alexi Ogando?
Conventional wisdom would say Ogando should be moved to be part of the bullpen artillery, but that’s less to do with my confidence in Alexi, and has everything to do with the fact that Texas couldn’t do the same thing with Martin Perez.
At this point in the season, you want your best 25 players on the roster and that’s it. The Rangers would be maximizing their assets by moving Alexi Ogando to the bullpen — where he thrives — while keeping Martín in what would be a rare left-handed-dominant rotation. Which is basically the equivalent to sex. The slow kind.
It’s taken Derek Holland almost 5 years to mature into the pitcher he is now, the pitcher everyone expected him to eventually become, and Martin Perez is already sprouting signs we never saw from Holland at the same relative big league experience level.
Player comparisons are not my forte, as I tend to prescribe to the notion that every individual is different and, as such, should be handled differently. However, my logic tells me Perez was always lauded as a higher-caliber prospect than Holland, so if he can continue to display the signs of life he’s already shown at age-22, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t expect him to eventually turn into something of the same.
It’s a tall order, sure, but the Rangers are the Rangers for a reason. This is what they do.