Oliver Perez’s name has always been synonymous with top flight starter potential. In 2004, he pitched one of the best seasons in recent Pirates’ history, posting a 3.45 FIP in almost 200 innings of work. Since then, he’s racked up exactly one FIP below 4.5 and three (while working on a fourth) seasons with FIP over 5.5. Potential isn’t a static attribute and Perez is proof positive of that. Unfortunately for the Mets, they paid him as if his potential were solid and as if Perez were a safe bet to reach that upside.
Needless to say, Perez hasn’t been right since, for reasons mostly unrelated to his paychecks.
He’s always had issues with walks. Always, with the exception of that 2004 season. In his first full season in the majors he walked nearly 5.5 per nine innings. In 2005 he walked more than 6. In fact, 2007 is the only other season in which his BB/9 was lower than 4.5. Those walks were sufferable because of high strikeout totals, but Perez hasn’t even been striking out as many batters as usual this year. Not only that, but since signing that new contract, he’s walked three fewer batters than he’s struck out.
Perez looks broken. His fastball is averaging a career low 88 miles per hour. Distressing, since his previous career low was 90 MPH, set just last season. He’s not missing bats, he’s not getting outs, he is allowing ton of baserunners, but really he’s not doing anything to help the Mets. Not even getting lefties out. It seems like that knee injury is still bugging Perez and that he’s being selfish in not admitting it to the team.
No matter the parallels in highly paid starting pitchers being converted to the bullpen this season, Carlos Zambrano’s situation has nothing on this one. Unlike Zambrano, Perez doesn’t belong in the rotation, and frankly, he doesn’t belong in the majors.