In between shovelfuls of snow, it was announced by Granite City Sports (based in St. Cloud) that former Twins closer Glen Perkins was going to hang up his spikes after 13 years in the major leagues. While disappointing to see Perk fade off into the sunset, the end was clearly near after his shoulder injury that required surgery, causing him to miss the majority of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Since converting into a full-time reliever, Perkins found another level of success that he had never seen as a starting pitcher. In a 2013 interview with FanGraphs, he mentioned that after tallying 12 wins with a 4.40 ERA in the 2008 season, he felt “that’s not bad.” However, after starting the 2009 season with three consecutive eight-inning starts while allowing just three runs, he was surprised to learn that he was due to regress. He discovered that the reason was that he only struck out “10” (actually 12) batters in those 24 innings, which caused his FIP to be significantly higher than his ERA. He ignored the regression comment, but he indeed struggled the rest of the year while finishing with a 5.89 ERA and striking out just 10.6% of the batters he faced (7.4 percentage points below the 2009 MLB average). By his own admission, he looked more into his secondary numbers in 2010 and started to realize that he had to pitch “quality innings,” which were judged by more than just holding an opponent scoreless. Perhaps it was not a coincidence that Perkins’ career took off in 2011 when he recorded a 2.48 ERA, 2.41 FIP, and struck out 25.7% of batters faced, his first year as a full-time reliever.
From that same interview, Perkins acknowledged that he felt FIP was the most important statistic for a pitcher. Research has shown that FIP - calculated by merely using a pitcher’s walks and hit-by-pitch total, strikeouts and infield pop-ups, home runs allowed, and innings pitched, with a constant to adjust it to match the league ERA - has been more effective in predicting a pitcher’s future ERA than his past ERA. (Other stats such as xFIP and SIERA also exist, but FIP is the simplest to compute). With that information, he worked to improve his strikeout rate, which came about by learning to pitch more up in the zone. This strategy coincided with a league-wide trend for hitters to start uppercutting the ball in response to pitchers trying to induce more grounders. Instead of joining the majority of MLB hurlers, Perkins found a different strategy that was more effective for him.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not arguing that the Twins have to talk Perkins out of retirement. Instead, I think he’d be a perfect fit for the organization’s coaching or front office staff. He knows FIP, he knows pitchF/X, he’s familiar with Z-swing% and O-swing% (percentage of pitches inside and outside the zone that are swung at, respectively), he just seems like a natural fit to bridge the gap between the players and the stats guys in the front office, much like another Jeremy Hefner. Additionally, with the organization already hiring Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Justin Morneau in recent years, it would seem that the Twins would already have an interest in bringing back Perkins in an office role. Granted, this would all be dependent on what Perkins wants as well, but I would think that offering a role that allows him to stay in Minnesota for most, if not all of the year would be beneficial for both parties. I would hope that the Twins are already exploring the idea of hiring Perkins as yet another off-the-field signing that would fly under the radar around MLB.