Wood Out 2 Months; Chris Perez Gets the 9th

According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Cleveland Indians closer Kerry Wood could miss up to two months with a strained latissimus muscle. The 32 year-old Wood, who inked a two-year, $20.5 million deal prior to the 2009 season, posted just 0.4 WAR last year as his walk rate ballooned and batters were reluctant to chase his stuff out of the strike zone. Because of the missed time, Wood has no chance of having his $11 million option for the 2011 season vest (he needs to appear in 55 games for that to happen).

With Wood out, save ops will go to 24 year-old Chris Perez. The former Miami Hurricane came to Cleveland via St. Louis, as part of last June’s Mark DeRosa trade that also netted the Indians Jess Todd.

A 6-4, 230 pound righty, Perez uses a mid-90’s fastball and a hard, mid-80’s slider to wreak havoc out of the ‘pen. He punched out 12 batters per nine innings in the minors, and has 10.03 K/9 in 98.2 career big league frames. Perez’s heater has been worth +0.39 runs per 100 pitches, with the slider checking in at +0.43.

Control, however, has proven elusive. Perez walked six hitters per nine on the farm, and he has issued 4.47 BB/9 in the majors. As you might expect, he doesn’t do a great job of getting ahead in the count (his 57.9 first-pitch strike percentage is about average). Opposing batters haven’t been especially giddy to chase his pitches off the plate, as Perez has a career 21.3 outside-swing percentage (25 percent MLB average).

Homers are another possible problem. Perez has burned worms just 36.8 percent of the time over the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and has surrendered 1.19 dingers per nine innings.

CHONE and ZiPS give similar forecasts for the 2010 season:

CHONE: 9.82 K/9, 4.91 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, 4.13 FIP
ZiPS: 10.07 K/9, 4.62 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9, 4.12 FIP

If he’s still available, Perez should be picked up in all leagues. He’s going to whiff a ton of batters, though he could occasionally give owners indigestion due to the walks.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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