Likely Opening Day Closer – Chris Perez
Perez should be considered one of the riskiest closing options for fantasy owners in my mind. I know the overall numbers in 2011 were fine (3.32 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 36 SV), but the underlying numbers are eye opening.
Granted, we don’t look at luck as much with relief pitchers due to the small sample sizes but are we really to believe his .234 BABIP? If everything else remains equal, a decrease in the luck department will cause his other numbers to implode.
You then look at his control, which is borderline at best. He posted a 3.92 BB/9 last season, but over his minor league career he posted a 5.96 mark. I’m not about to say that he is going to regress back to his awful control, but he easily could regress in this regard and at a huge expense to his value.
Over his minor league career Perez posted an 11.99 K/9 yet in 2011 he was at a miniscule 5.88. His fastball, which had been sitting around 94.5 to 95.0 mph in prior seasons, was down to 93.4 mph last season. Is that enough to represent such a dramatic drop in his strikeout rate? It is debatable, but the numbers cannot be ignored. The fact of the matter is that there was only one month that he posted a K/9 higher than 6.75 and that was just 7.45 in June.
If the strikeout rate does not improve and the luck and control goes south, the numbers are going to suffer and Perez could find himself out of a job.
Likely Replacement – Rafael Perez
He is not an ideal option at the backend of a bullpen thanks to his lack of strikeout potential (K/9 of 6.00 or worse the past three seasons, including a 4.71 mark in ’11). However, in the four years that he has pitched at least 60 innings he’s posted the following numbers:
- 2007 – 1.78 ERA/0.92 WHIP
- 2008 – 3.54 ERA/1.18 WHIP
- 2010 – 3.23 ERA/1.59 WHIP
- 2011 – 3.00 ERA/1.24 WHIP
What he does is bring good control (BB/9 of 2.71 or better three times) and a good groundball rate (54.8% for his career), which allows him to excel. Time will tell if, once Chris Peres struggles, Rafael Perez can get the job done.
Another Option To Watch – Tony Sipp
While Rafael Perez may be the likely short-term replacement to Chris Perez, I find Tony Sipp to be the far more intriguing option. Over his minor league career he posted an 11.73 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9. In 2011 he started to put those number to work in the Major Leagues, with an 8.23 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9, helping him to a 3.03 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
Granted, there was a lot of luck at play in his success (.219 BABIP, 85.5% strand rate), but there is also hope that he can significantly raise his strikeout rate. In three of the four final months of the season (7.11 K/9 in August), he posted K/9s of 9.58 or better. You couple that potential with solid control and the sky could be the limit, as long as he can keep the ball in the ballpark (1.44 HR/9 in ’11).
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Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: