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Oliver Perez's New Twist

Oliver Perez has gone from broken starter to decent reliever in the span of three years. Has Perez found his niche?

Home plate's thataway.
Home plate's thataway.
Hi. I'm Adam.

I never really understood why "I enjoy long walks on the beach" became a popular phrase when introducing oneself to another, particularly in cliche romantic situations. Have you ever walked on a beach for an extended period of time? It's not the easiest thing.

Your feet sink into the sand as you walk along the oceanside, the sand sticks to your feet as the sea pummels them, there are kids yelling and screaming and sometimes you just want to relax without having to worry about tracking mud into your hotel room. Long walks on the beach can be soothing and serene, but they can be awkward and messy, too.

When Oliver Perez signed with the Mariners, I was worried about his track record and how it could ultimately turn out be a bust. I didn't see how the situation could be anything but messy. He battled injuries as a member of the Mets, he refused assignment to the minors and it just seemed like Seattle was reaching.

But so far I've been proven wrong.

I wouldn't call Perez a stalwart from the bullpen, but he hasn't been a disaster, either. At the time of this writing, relievers around the league, on average, own a strikeout-per-nine rate of 8.27, a walk-per-nine rate of 3.41 and a BABIP of .289. Last year, Perez put up a 7.28 K/9, 3.03 BB/9 and had a .295 BABIP.

This year, his numbers have jumped to a 12.34 K/9, 4.63 BB/9 with a .333 BABIP. Basically, he turned into what people think Brandon League is, but with better strikeout numbers and he's not completely horrible.

His LD% is down to about a league average 20.8%, from 23.0% last year, while his groundball rate is slightly down and his IFFB% is way down. On the other side of the batted-ball-profile coin, his flyball rate is up, as well as his homerun rate. That is to say, however, that Perez is still pretty good at suppressing the long ball. Perez only gave up one dinger last year, and he's given up two so far in 2013. Aroldis Chapman is widely considered the best reliever in baseball, and has given up seven home runs within the last two years. Context.

So when did Perez become a strikeout machine? According to Fangraphs, his fastball velocity is down, and he's using it more.

The types of swings he's inducing have improved as well.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
2012 32.0% 66.0% 51.0% 56.3% 87.4% 78.8% 55.9% 63.4% 10.6%
2013 29.6% 62.2% 45.8% 41.7% 84.0% 70.3% 49.8% 67.0% 13.2%

Swinging Strike percentage is one of the more important plate discipline numbers we can look at -- it gives us a glimpse into how well a pitcher can generally fool batters. I think I gravitate towards the stat because whenever I look at it all is see is "Str", and you always want a high Str when you roll a new D&D character, am I right?

This season, Perez has added deception into his delivery, as his SwStr% of 13.2% is well above the league average of 10.3%. Chapman's swinging strike rate is 14.2%, and Jason Grilli's is 14.4%.

Perez has varied his delivery enough this season that it's creating added deception. For reference, here's his delivery last season.


Pretty average reliever delivery. Leg comes straight up from the set, good use of the lower body, attains maximum external rotation, then results may vary.

I scanned a handful of games to see if I could find anything with Perez's new intermittent delivery. For most of 2012, Perez was pretty consistent with his delivery. That is, until foot strike, when his body becomes a football and you just can't tell which way he's going to fall once his foot hits the ground.

While I was perusing archived games, I saw this.


Remember Dustin Ackley? He was pretty cool. He's not around right now but you'll see him again soon.

Anyways, I'm sure you've seen it -- here is Perez with a Felix-twist in his delivery.


Every once in a while, against either lefties or righties, Perez will go all Luis Tiant. But here's the thing -- he's crafty with it. It's not every pitch. He still utilizes his normal delivery from the stretch and with no runners on, and he incorporates a slidestep, too.



This isn't anything new. Pitchers will use the slidestep to disrupt the batter's timing. It gives the hitters something different to look at and for the pitcher, hopefully, it's enough to cause the batter some hesitation. It seems that Perez has figured out how to use that to his advantage.

The Mariners need some help. Tom Wilhelmsen is imploding, Dustin Ackley is playing the outfield with Tacoma and Mike Zunino was rushed to the majors. It's a messy situation in Seattle, and it doesn't look like it's going to get any easier down the home stretch of the season.

But there are a few bright spots. Raul Ibanez is hitting dingers. Hisashi Iwakuma will probably get snubbed and miss the All-Star roster cut. And Oliver Perez is a solid major league reliever.

It's not the easiest thing being a Mariners fan. If you're a Mariners fan you probably get a lot of crap. Oh your team will never be good, they trade away all their good players, the Sounders score more than the Mariners, yada yada yada.

But the baseball season is a long walk on the beach. You sink into your seat at the stadium, your stomach is pummeled with food and beer, there are kids yelling and screaming and sometimes you just want to relax without having to worry about your bullpen blowing the lead.

And now I leave you with Michael Saunders telling Ackley that he always has his back.