Martín Perez Stifles Astros, Rangers Win 7th Straight


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.

  • BZ

    You’ve echoed my thoughts completely. I was never a fan of Feliz or Ogando as starters.

    If we can resign Garza after this year, we’ll have one of the best, (mostly) young pitching staffs in all MLB for at least the next 3 years. I only say three years because doesn’t Yu have an out in the final year of his contract if he places top 5 in Cy Young voting or something?

    Edit: “[Jon] Daniels said if Darvish wins the Cy Young and finishes in the “top three or four” of the balloting a second time in the five years, he can opt out of the sixth year of the contract. He can also get out of it if he finishes second in the balloting and then in the top three or four in two additional years.”

    • Andy

      Capable relievers aren’t that hard to find. Elite ones, maybe, but lots of journeymen can be satisfactory ones to fill out a pen. And I dare say, Ogando is probably not an elite reliever. He’s more than capable, but he’s not a Nathan.

      Starters, on the other hand…capable starters are harder to find. Elite ones are nearly impossible, unless you grow them up yourself. Feliz was projected as a possible ace. You don’t give up on that without giving it a pretty good try.

      Feliz had a rotation spot for a month. He didn’t do very badly. He deserves another shot, and he’ll probably get it. If nothing else, he’s proven that he can close, so that’s always an option if starting doesn’t work out.

      • Eric Reining

        Highly, highly doubtful Feliz ever returns to the rotation, IMO. At least in Texas. There’s just so much quality depth.

        • Andy

          I completely disagree.

          Assuming they aren’t injured, I think you can pretty well pencil in Yu, Holland, and Harry. As of right now, Perez is the favorite for spot #4 – assuming he doesn’t fall off a cliff for the rest of the year. Assuming we don’t re-sign Garza, that leaves, for the last spot, the following people: Feliz, Tepesch, Ogando, and a bunch of options that probably aren’t as good as those. This might include Colby, but I think he’s right along with Ogando. If we re-sign Colby, it will almost certainly be on a minor league deal, and I would expect him to be, at best, plan C.

          We already discussed why Ogando is better in the pen, if possible. I fail to see why Feliz shouldn’t be considered for spot #5, if not already be the favorite for it. If you don’t think Feliz is a leading candidate for it, who do you think is?

          • Eric Reining

            See, generally I would agree with you. But in Neftali’s specific case I cannot bring myself to it.

            I get that starting pitching is abundantly more valuable than relievers are, but, like you listed, the Rangers are not light of options.

            Jon Daniels has made it clear Martin Perez will be part of the team’s future. With Perez, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, that’s a top, inexpensive front 4. The 5th starter, whether that be Tepesch, or what have you, would almost become irrelevant.

            If David Price is available this offseason, which he’s assumed to be, I think that’s where the Rangers put their resources.

            From everything I surmise, Neftali never really took to being a starting pitcher. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would be surprised to see the Rangers experiment with him in the rotation again in 2014.

          • Andy

            I made a rather long-winded response to this that may have vanished into the ether. The crux of it was that Feliz seems more likely to be a good starter than Tepesch or whoever else, assuming they don’t go all in on Price, especially given that Tepesch has repeatedly shown difficulty getting through the order a 3rd time. Until he can do that regularly, I would prefer Feliz. Besides, at some point, he’ll be needed anyway. Depth is always needed. And at this point I’m not terribly worried about the bullpen; even without Nathan it looks alright.

    • Eric Reining

      The more I think about it, the more I doubt Matt Garza returning. That’s just a lot of money.

      Either way, the rotation will be an area of strength for the next 4 years.