What has gotten into Martin Perez this season?

He's been one of the best stories in baseball this season.
Author:
Publish date:

Of all the surprises the 2019 Twins have provided the baseball world, the success of left-handed pitcher Martin Perez is probably at the top of the list.

He was bought out by the Rangers – yeah, they're paying him to not to play for them – in the offseason after he posted a 6.22 ERA in 22 appearances and a WHIP of 1.781 last season.

He somehow landed a one-year contract worth up to $4 with a team option for 2020 with the Twins, and all of a sudden he's pitching like one of the best bargains in baseball.

In 10 games (7 starts), Perez has an ERA of 2.89 while striking out 52 batters in 52 innings, with opponents hitting just .228 against him.

Granted, it's a smaller sample size, but here's some split statistics from last year to this year that show how much Perez has improved.

2018

  • 13.1 strikeout percentage 
  • .323 opponent batting average

2019

  • 24.1 strikeout percentage 
  • .228 opponent batting average

So what gives? How does a guy go from giving up a ton of hits with next to no swing-and-miss ability to one of the stingiest pitchers in the game?

The answer: He added what's been a dominating cutter. 

According to FanGraphs, Perez is throwing his cutter 30 percent of the time – the most of all his pitches, which includes a four-seam fastball, slider, change-up and curveball.

With Perez attacking hitters (mostly right handers) with his cutter, he's only throwing his four-seamer 16 percent of the time and has upped his velocity from 93 mph to 95 mph; which the hardest average velocity in his career. 

He also cut his slider usage in half.

  • Slider usage in 2018: 50.7 percent 
  • Slider usage in 2019: 25.5 percent

This change in philosophy has made Perez a tougher pitcher to make contact against. Last season, his slider only resulted in 23 percent of his strikeouts, where this season, 45 percent of his strikeouts have come via his slider.

FanGraphs says opponents have a miserable .104 batting average against Perez's cutter, so that's where he's getting ahead of hitters and then finishing them with his a devastating slider.

New pitching coach Wes Johnson also deserves a ton of credit for helping Perez find his groove. In fact, nobody would be shocked if Johnson starts getting managerial calls this winter given his success with the entire Twins starting staff.

While Perez has mowed down lousy lineups from Baltimore, Toronto and Detroit, he also shut down the Astros – a World Series favorite – for eight innings in the Twins' 6-2 win on May 1. 

Now, I'm not sure if what he's doing is sustainable over the course of a full season, but clearly he's keeping hitters off-balance and it's working for him. 

Next Up

Michael Pineda

Twins' trade targets raise their value in win over Tigers

Michael Pineda pitched well but Taylor Rogers left the game with an injury.

Flickr - state capitol minneosta - Ken Lund

Criminal charges possible for woman who drove on State Capitol grounds

She drove on the sidewalk and lawn, and at one point waved a large "Trump 2020" flag out the window.

training camp

10 things fans should know before going to Vikings training camp

Masks are not required, but strongly encouraged for the unvaccinated.

4852014184_b86eb6b123_k

Cases of COVID-19 linked to Provincetown outbreak found in Minnesota

There have been more than 550 cases linked to the Massachusetts tourist destination since the 4th of July weekend.

Aaron Rodgers

Reports: Aaron Rodgers set for at least one more year with the Packers

Both sides showing signs of optimism just before training camp begins.

Twitter - KARE 11 jeopardy screengrab

KARE 11 crew teases upcoming 'Jeopardy!' cameo

Some familiar local faces will be providing contestants with "Minneapolis News" clues.

Screen Shot 2021-07-26 at 1.41.24 PM

Second victim of deadly crash in Orono is identified

The crash also was fatal for the son of Gophers hockey coach Bob Motzko.

Witzmann and Coleman

Ex-Viking and ex-Gopher could be contestants for Edina's 'Bachelorette'

Michelle Young, a teacher from Edina, is the show's Season 18 star.

Mayo clinic

Mayo Clinic will require COVID-19 vaccines for all its staff

Those who decline will be required to wear masks and socially distance while on campus.

Related

Jhoulys Chacin

Can Jhoulys Chacin be this year's Martin Perez for the Twins?

The veteran left-hander signed a minor league deal with the Twins on Saturday.

Byron Buxton

What's different about Byron Buxton in 2019?

A bulked up Buxton is off to a great start at the plate.

Jose Berrios

The alarming statistics of the Twins starting rotation

Recently speaking, the Twins rotation is starting to implode.

Miguel Sano

Is Miguel Sano finally turning a corner for good?

This is the best he's looked all season.