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Deep Breaths: Understanding #54

Okay. After my initial reaction of "f*** everything", I left work for a couple minutes (my shift had just ended). I hopped in my car, drove to grab some lunch, and came back to campus. Now that all the raw anger is out, here is what I see:

Chris Perez has definitely given us a ride this season. What he needs, we don't exactly know. More playing time? Possibly. A stint on the DL? Potentially. But what is clear is that something needs to be done.


My best friend was messaging me as Pure Rage sent us all into our own fits of rage. While all my uncensored anger was filling up our messaging client, he was looking at the numbers. At first, I thought "why are you trying to rationalize this? Chris Perez can't pitch! What else is there to say?" Alas, like most of the time, he was right on the money. Here are Rage's numbers so far this year:

ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2.25 16 6 16 13 5 4 4 7 18 1.25

Overall, not bad. Could be better, could be worse. But for 16 innings of work, only giving up 5 runs (and one of them unearned), is nothing terrible. What is concerning is that the 4 earned runs that Perez did give up were all on the long ball. Hitters, when striking for runs, are hitting him pretty hard.

Now those stats didn't include today's performance. When added:

ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
4.32 17 6 16.2 15 9 8 4 10 18 1.5

As we have all seen, Chris has been struggling as of late. When did it all start? It's hard to tell. A good place, I think, to start, is looking at his monthly production. Here are his stats, broken up into months (including today's performance):

ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
April 1.12 8 3 8 5 1 1 1 2 9 0.875
May 7.68 9 3 8.2 10 8 7 3 8 9 2.195

Yikes. But we all knew that. The biggest indicator of a problem is his BB/9 ratio. In April, his BB/9 ratio was 2.25, whereas in May, it jumps to 8.78. In short, Rage isn't throwing strikes. In April, his K/BB ratio was 4.5; in May, it plummets to 1.13. Why? There's gotta be some reason.

I think the answer is pretty clear that it's Chris' shoulder. In lest than 3 months, Rage has been out because of a shoulder injury 3 separate times on:

March 1st

May 12

May 26

The May 12 one is the one that worries me the most. He sat out a lot during Spring Training, so we all hoped that when he came back, he would be fine. But something tells me that his injury, whatever it is, hasn't fully healed. It was still bothering him 14 days ago. And it shows, a lot. Just look at his velocity chart:

5213_p_fa_20130520_large

via www.fangraphs.com

Chris is losing a lot on his fastball. What was once a pitch that he blew by hitters, his fastball is now turning into a meatball for players to drive. Looking at his heat maps from this year:

453198_l_fa__2013_40_14_0_20130520_medium 453198_r_fa__2013_40_14_0_20130520_medium

via www.fangraphs.com

He's staying as far away from the inside part of the plate as he can. I think that this is coming from trying to compensate for the drop in velocity. Can't blast it by 'em? Aim the ball and try to pinpoint the location. Especially in May, he isn't succeeding. It's the age old adage of pitchers: don't aim, throw. With a shoulder injury plaguing Rage, he can't throw anymore, so he's aiming. And his aim is off; he's either throwing balls out of the zone entirely or in the best part of the zone for a hitter to drive.

Does Chris still have the stuff to be a legitimate closer? I think he does. However, he isn't ever going to get back to the level that he wants to (or needs to) be at unless he seriously gets his shoulder issues fixed. He's a competitor, we all know this. But if he is going to compete at the level that the Tribe needs him to compete at, he may have to opt for the short-term loss, long-term gain approach to his recovery. He's doing nobody any good if he's throwing on a bum arm. And giving up 4 runs in a game that was an easily winnable should be the final straw.

There's a lot going on with Chris Perez right now. I think that there's a lot more to the problem than what I've laid out, but hopefully it can at least be a start to understanding #54.

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