Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rangers Pepper 7/10: Free Perez; Trade Bait Shortage

by Dustin Copening

#RangersThoughts” on Twitter can be seen by following me @dfwfanconnect, but those thoughts evolve every few days from 140 characters into what I have dubbed as  “Rangers Pepper”.

Since taking 3 of 4 from the Athletics in mid-June, the Rangers have gone 12-5 and their win last night over the O’s mean they will have won or split 5 of the last 6 series played. Sadly for Texas, Oakland has gone 11-4 since June 20th, and still maintain a .5 game lead in the AL West. And those resurgent Angels in the midst of saving their season? They’ve gone from 9 to 10 games back over the same period of time...

Perez Pitch Count - Martin Perez may be the only thing preventing the Rangers rotation, and by proxy the bullpen, from falling apart under the strain of six pitchers currently on the DL.

In 6 starts in 2012, Perez struggled to find himself. He got hit regularly (.314 BAA, .371 OBP, and 1.731 WHIP), hard (14 XBH of 35 total hits allowed), and was equally unlucky on balls put in play (.354 BABIP) each time he took to the mound in his first swim through Arlington. He also routinely left the pen with a lot of work to do to reach the game’s final out, averaging only 4.1 innings per start.

Through 5 starts in 2013, Perez is a different guy. Opposing players aren’t reaching with nearly the same regularity (.279 BAA, .321 OBP, and 1.352 WHIP), aren’t hammering the mistakes (5 XBH of 34 total hits allowed), and he’s getting the balls put in play to bounce his way (.305 BABIP). His average of 6 innings pitched per start has also been a nice improvement.

Maybe the most remarkable feet is that Perez has averaged that extra 1.2 innings thrown in 2013 on just 8 more pitches per start when compared to 2012. Perez averaged 80 pitches thrown in his 6 starts last season, and if you factor out one 24 pitch outing that lasted only .2 innings in his next to last start, that number jumps to just shy of 91.5. Broken down by inning, Perez has gone from an 18.5 pitch per inning ratio down to 14.5, yet Ron Washington has yet to allow him to break the 100 pitch count barrier in 2013.

I’ve been openly asking the likes of Evan Grant and Jamey Newberg on Twitter the last week if they’ve heard from the organization if Perez is specifically on any pitch count limit; however, with no response and having read nothing specific on the subject in the media, I am left to speculate.

Is it because Wash and Maddux are worried of Perez struggling the third time through the order like Nick Tepesch has so infamously done? The data doesn’t appear to back this up, as Perez has his lowest opposing batter splits (.222/.282/.306) the third time around.

Are there concerns in the organization that they could overwork his arm and be left with yet another hole in the rotation come September? Not likely when you take into account that he threw just shy of 160 innings (minors and majors) last year and it’s highly doubtful he exceeds that number in 2013 even if he makes every scheduled start the rest of the way.

Which brings me to the answer I’ve settled on. Martin Perez has been just too darn efficient this year to get his pitch count stretched out. He didn’t truly get his season underway until May, and in his 6 AAA starts he averaged 13.5 pitches per inning at 6 innings pitched per start (including a 5 inning start on May 16th where he threw just 65 pitches).

It was slightly shocking to see Perez go back to the mound last night to start to bottom 7th after throwing 95 pitches through 6, but the situation called for it with the bullpen desperately needing rest. His night ended at 99 pitches after a four pitch walk to Nick Markakis, but look for Wash to ask Perez to push over that 100 pitch mark soon as the summer stretches on and the Rangers wait for reinforcements to come.

Price of Prospects In Trade - Speaking of reinforcements, trade deadline talk is increasing with each passing day, but mentions of the Rangers in any imminent moves are non-existent.

Sure, they were the only team with two scouts at Matt Garza’s last start, but Jon Daniels isn’t expected to empty the farm system for a 3 or 4 month rental. The offense could use a righty power bat, especially if Cruz receives a 50 game suspension for his Biogenesis affiliation, but
no specific name has surfaced that they’re chasing.

One thing that might possibly be complicating things for the Texas front office is that two of their most attractive trade chips may have moved themselves firmly into untouchable status, especially considering David Price and Cliff Lee look to be staying put.

Martin Perez’s contributions to the rotation were mentioned above, and the team has dedicated a lot of time teaching Jurickson Profar the art of playing left field. Those two names should be the first uttered by any GM that JD and company speak to, and if the Rangers have decided those two are too important to move that creates an instant hurdle that takes time and more conversations to overcome.

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