Writer’s Note: Perkins ranked 8th on Zach Sanders’ 2013 closer rankings.
Glen Perkins’ rebirth as a pitcher has been nothing short of amazing. Perkins’ days as a starter were nothing to write home about, even when his home isn’t more than about a half hour drive from Target Field.
There’s a reason Perkins’ career K/9 rate is still under 7 — 6.85 to be precise — despite three consecutive years of 9.5-plus K/9. As a starter, Perkins was a bulldog who liked to work inside with a fastball that routinely checked in somewhere between 89-91, sometimes reaching 92 on average. Armed with that, a changeup, and a curve (and later a slider in lieu of the curve), Perkins compiled a 19-12 career record with a 4.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and a Blackburn-esque 4.7 K/9.
Perkins battled arm woes at the end of his time as a starter, and subsequent service time gripes led to him file a grievance — which he later dropped — against the Twins to recoup service time and/or the wages it cost him from spending the latter part of that season at Rochester.
Perkins barely made the team out of spring training in 2011 after having a heart-to-heart conversation with manager Ron Gardenhire, and it wasn’t until mid-May — when he had an ERA of 0.48 — that the fireballer started working the late innings with regularity.
But by that point, Perkins — armed with a fastball now averaging 94 and touching 98-plus — had arrived on the scene as the trusted set-up man for Matt Capps. The Twins inexplicably decided to forego draft pick compensation to re-sign Capps for the next season, but Perkins wrangled the job away from him near midseason and hasn’t relinquished it since, compiling 52 saves in a year-and-a-half for a pair of 90-loss teams.
Perkins’ repertoire is simple, as he’s just a fastball-slider guy. “I know the PITCHf/x says otherwise,” Perkins said near midseason last year of his two-seamer/four-seamer usage patterns, “but I’ve thrown fewer than a handful of two-seamers this season. I think it’s just a classification thing.”
Perkins is in the midst of a three year run of 94-plus mph average fastballs. That, and the top level velocity he has reached (98-plus mph), represents a 3-5 mph increase on the numbers he was posting as a starter. Based on some crowdsourcing and a bit of research — including guys like Brian Duensing and Luke Hochevar, for instance — this seems to be what one should expect from that sort of transition. That has turned the OPS allowed on the offering from what was routinely in the 800-900 range into 500-600 range — with the exception of 2011.
But the money pitch which has keyed Perkins’ renaissance is the slider. According to PITCHf/x, Perkins’ swinging strike rate on the pitch has been between more or less in the 18-20 percent range. And while league average whiff rates aren’t readily accessible on individual pitches, I’d imagine this is safely above league averages.
Perkins’ resurrection has oddly exactly correlated with an awful time for the Twins. And while closers on losing teams can be a hard sell in fantasy, keep in mind that Perkins still managed to save 36 games for a team that won only 66. With the additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and the continued assimilation of minor league assets in one of the best farms in the game, the Twins should show considerable improvement this year and into the future, making Perkins a nice sleeper saves candidate even if his value was plenty high to begin with.
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