Breakfast & Baseball: Rafael Perez, Bunting for Power, Sabermetrics in Medicine, Shagging, and More

Dave Reginek

In today's B&B post, I offer up my opinions to the signing of Rafael Perez, and also take a look at bunting for extra-base hits in 2012, a baseball writer's physical check-up that turns into a stats vs. gut feeling argument in his head, Trevor Bauer being labeled as noncompliant by a former teammate and then taking the high road, and Mariano Rivera decides that he will continue to shag, though it's unclear if he means like Austin Powers or like an outfielder.

On the transaction front, the Twins have been rather quiet after the trades of Ben Revere and Denard Span, followed by the semi-rapid fire signings of Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Rich Harden, but that changed earlier this week when they signed reliever Rafael Perez to a minor league contract. You're likely familiar with Perez as he spent the past 7 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, stifling AL Central lefties with his slider. At first glance, he seems like a good candidate to challenge Tyler Robertson for the 3rd LHP spot in the bullpen after Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing, but there are some hints that he could be a starting pitcher this season. Now, I'm all for giving every pitcher a chance to succeed as either a starter or reliever. After all, that's how we discovered that Glen Perkins, failed starter, was able to change into Glen Perkins, shutdown closer.

However, I'm just not optimistic for Perez. He doesn't have issues with righthanded hitters in his career (.250/.317/.377 versus .253/.323/.355 against lefties) but Perez has evolved into virtually a one-pitch pitcher. When he first joined the Indians, he threw his fastball and slider at about 45% each. The past couple seasons have seen Perez stop throwing his fastball in lieu of a change-up, and in 2011 (since he threw fewer than 8 innings in 2012 due to injury) he was at an extreme 60% slider, 26% fastball, 14% change-up mix, according to FanGraphs. Last year, no starting pitcher threw more than 39% sliders (Madison Bumgarner) or 34% curveballs (A.J. Burnett) that threw at least 100 innings. I feel that Perez will have to start mixing in more fastballs and change-ups (and maybe even develop a curveball) if he wants to have success as a starter. Granted, we need to play the game first, so there's always that chance that Perez just pulls a Michael Pineda and baffles hitters with a fastball-slider combo.

Finally, I was a bit skeptical of signing Perez in the first place, only for this paragraph from Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.

The Twins are probably equally excited not to face him anymore. Perez has appeared in 41 games against the Twins, and his 1.89 ERA is his best against any American League team. He has also never given up a home run to a Twins player in 38 career innings. Justin Morneau is 4-for-19 against him, and Joe Mauer is 3-for-12.

What's wrong with it? It sounds a lot like Dusty Hughes, who was touted for pitching well against the Twins the season before he was claimed off waivers. The organization seemed to focus on his ERA in 2010, his 2.03 ERA against the Twins that year (best against any team), and the glowing reports from hitters such as Mauer and Morneau, and basically handed him a spot in the bullpen before the season even started, while ignoring his secondary numbers that hinted that 2010 was a lucky season. Hughes rewarded the Twins' decision with a 9.95 ERA in 12.2 innings in 2011, and he hasn't seen the major leagues since.

However, my original thought of Perez being the second coming of Dusty Hughes is absolutely wrong. Perez has had success for most of his career while Hughes was brought in after a single good season, and Perez has the secondary numbers to back up his career 3.64 ERA. Provided he is healthy, he should definitely help out the bullpen this season.

  • Ben Revere was never particularly adept at laying down bunts, which was a shame considering his speed could turn even a poor bunt into an infield single. But what about a bunt double? Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs has an article up about two bunt doubles from the 2012 season. Now, there are some issues with both of them, as one was more of an Alexi Casilla-type slug bunt and the other probably should have had an error called if not for obstruction with the runner, but official scorers somewhere decided that they were both doubles. Now an interesting thought from a commenter on the article: If a fielder happened to throw his glove at a bunted ball, it would be a bunt triple.
  • Although the mindset has been shifting for some time now, sabermetrics still is scorned by people. Some people always have this idea that a player's worth cannot be fully quantified by numbers, or that the numbers simply do not tell the truth. Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra recently had his annual physical and despite losing 25 lbs. over the past couple years and eating a healthier diet after being told his "bad cholesterol" (LDL-C) levels were too high, he was told by the doctor that his cholesterol was still at a risky level. This time, the doctor was citing his LDL-P levels, which apparently are a better predictor for heart attacks than LDL-C. Calcaterra saw a parallel between this discussion and the discussion about WAR in baseball, though I think we could also talk about FIP or BABIP instead. It's a pretty humorous read about how we can't always judge something on our gut feelings.
  • The Diamondbacks have undertaken an interesting philosophy this offseason, acquiring players that they feel are "gritty" and "hard-nosed," and that ideal led to them trading pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. However, it was also because Bauer was a stubborn player that refused to listen to advice, according to D-Backs catcher Miguel Montero. One of the catcher's complaints was that in spring training, Bauer was throwing 100 pitches in a bullpen session right away, whereas Montero wanted him to build up his arm strength. Instead, Bauer did another 100 pitch session the next time, frustrating Montero. It should be noted that Bauer also is a fan of long toss (which some teams forbid for fear of developing arm injuries) and a believer of "effective velocity", or the ability to make every pitch look identical for the first 20 feet of flight. In spite of Montero's comments and the opinions of his immaturity from the Diamondbacks organization, Bauer chose to take the high road on Twitter and looked good doing it.


  • Finally, because we always need moar (yes, moar) Austin Powers.


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