Skip to main content

What has gotten into Martin Perez this season?

He's been one of the best stories in baseball this season.

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

Willmar Police Department

Police: Suspect arrested in Willmar after firing gun at officer

The incident led to a manhunt that lasted into early Sunday morning.

Monti Ossenfort

Vikings lead off general manager interviews with Monti Ossenfort

Several candidates will interview for the job this week.

Payton Willis

Gophers' rally comes up short, lose to Iowa

The Gophers came back from a 23-point deficit but couldn't complete the comeback.

pixabay-fire-truck-side-close

Firefighters respond to smoke-filled cabin to find man asleep inside

A wood stove was determined to be the cause of the smoke.

snow plow msp airport

MSP snowplow drivers reach contract agreement after threatening strike

Teamsters Local 320 reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Airports Commission Saturday.

Kellen Moore

What you should know about the Vikings' head coach candidates

Seven candidates were revealed on Saturday morning.

20211010_Vikings_Lions_REG05_1119 (2)

What is the next Minnesota Vikings GM inheriting?

A look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Vikings' roster and situation

ambulance

Man dies after being 'punched in the head' during altercation in Duluth

A 46-year-old man is in custody and facing 1st-degree manslaughter charges.

Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders says Zimmer, Spielman hadn't spoken 'in months'

Sanders' comments revealed some of the Vikings' issues last season.

police tape, crime scene

Brooklyn Park man pleads guilty in 2020 fatal drive-by shooting

Devon Manley will be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

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.

Jose Berrios

The alarming statistics of the Twins starting rotation

Recently speaking, the Twins rotation is concerning.

Byron Buxton

What's different about Byron Buxton in 2019?

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

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 4.07.22 PM

Twins fall to Rays in longest game at Target Field

It beats the record that was set nine days ago.

Jose Berrios

How do Twins stack up in possible playoff pitching matchups?

Let's debunk one of the worst cliches in baseball.

Miguel Sano

Do the Twins really need Miguel Sano?

What should Minnesota do with the slugger?