Here's a Thought: Minnesota Twins' Glen Perkins Is Better Than He Looks

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJanuary 7, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 17:  Pitcher Glen Perkins #15 of the Minnesota Twins throws against the Texas Rangers on July 17, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

You'd think I was a Twins fan if you'd only read my last four articles: Three of them have been about Minnesota's baseball franchise.

But hey, that's why my columns are called "Here's a Thought:" I just write about things that happen to strike my interest, and this week, minor league slugger Josmil Pinto , lefty reliever Jose Mijares , and lefty starter Glen Perkins have intrigued me.

Perkins' 2009 season sure doesn't look intriguing on face value with a 5.89 ERA and a pitiful strikeout rate of 4.15 K/9. He also struggled with homers, allowing 13 in less than 100 innings.

No, Twins fans, there's no statistical rabbit in my hat that says Perkins is going to be some sort of ace in 2010. But writing him off completely is a mistake.

First of all, FIP and tRA both show Perkins' 2009 performance to be far better than his lucky 2008, in which he went 12-4 with a 4.41 ERA. The jump in ERA is luck-driven and overshadows a K/BB ratio which improved slightly, a homer rate that went from terrible to below average, and a line drive rate that dropped from very poor to excellent.

That last statistic, the line drive rate, is especially important with Perkins. I mentioned his inability to strike batters out, and if you're going to pitch to contact in such an extreme manner, you have to minimize hard contact.

I mentioned in the Mijares article (and many others that I've written) that line drives fall in for hits about 70 percent of the time so minimizing them is a must.

In 2008, Perkins' pitches got pounded, and 22.3% of batted balls off him were liners, a well below average rate. One would expect his BABIP to be about .340, which is very poor, because of this.

However, it was only .310, and combined with a bit of runners-stranded luck (Perkins stranded 76 percent of runners; pitchers regress to about 70-72 percent typically), Perkins had a 2008 ERA about a run better than it should have been.

In 2009, however, Perkins found a way to cut the liners dramatically, to 14.3 percent, tied for 18th (out of 340) in the majors. He also matured into a groundball-heavy pitcher, getting 47 percent grounders, up from 38 percent in 2008.

Perkins essentially changed nearly 10 percent of his batted balls from the worst kind (liners) to the best (grounders).

And his 2009 BABIP was...321.

My numbers say that it should've been around .283 last year. Essentially, Perkins' 2009 luck was as bad as his 2008 luck was good. He also had a strand rate of 63.6 percent, well below the normal 70-72 percent range I outlined earlier. Both luck indicators swung from lucky to unlucky in 2009.

Add it all up, and Glen Perkins deserved to be a 4.37 ERA pitcher in 2009, according to my True ERA numbers with tRA popping up even more favorably at a 4.21 mark.

Will Perkins be able to sustain his liner luck? It's anyone's guess, but I wouldn't be too surprised if he stayed at least above-average there due to his thick build (for more on what on earth a thick build might have to do with liner rate, take a look at the Mijares article ).

Perkins isn't some sort of walking disaster. He's actually pretty much the pitcher everyone though he was in 2008— solid fourth or fifth guy. Don't get deceived by some of the numbers; he's a useful pitcher.