2010 Mets Player Outlook: Oliver Perez

Mets ParadiseCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2010

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Pitcher Oliver Perez #46 of the New York Mets poses during photo day at Tradition Field on February 27, 2010 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

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He could be the most important player on the Mets for the 2010 year.

This statement scares many Mets fans. It’s not the idea of one player being responsible for the success of the season—it’s who that player is. Oliver Perez.

When fans hear the name Oliver Perez, they may feel many emotions, and they’re usually bad ones. Most Mets fans know the potential that Ollie Perez has. He could be that number two starter for whom the Mets have desperately been searching. Perez could also be the worst pitcher in baseball, an accusation made by many people last season.

We’ve all seen how good Perez can be, especially in the playoff run of 2006 and his performance in 2007. Likewise, we’ve also seen how bad he can be, which, if you watched him pitch at all last season, it’s something you’ve undoubtedly been witness to.

Perez’s best season was 2007, when he went 15-10 with a 3.56 ERA. This is the Perez we look for and hope to return to in 2010.

Perez’s main problem is control and consistency. He can’t control his pitches, which leads to him throwing balls and being wild in the strike zone. Throwing balls isn’t the worst thing to do. It can keep the hitters guessing. In fact, Greg Maddux used to intentionally throw balls to batters when he felt them getting too comfortable. The difference is, Maddux can throw a strike whenever he wants; Perez can’t.

So I can deal with Perez giving up three or four walks a game—he’s just that kind of pitcher. What is bad is that he is wild in the strike zone. This means that in an instance where the catcher might call for a low outside corner pitch, Perez may instead throw it high and inside. The pitch could have been a strike, but it just so happens that this batter loves to hit high and inside pitches. The next thing you know, the guy just hits the ball three miles.

Perez is a wild pitcher, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s bad. In 2001, A.J. Burnett threw a no-hitter while allowing nine walks. Of course, this is an extreme example, but it just shows a pitcher can be effective while also being wild. Mets’ coaches shouldn’t just force Perez to throw all strikes—he’s not that kind of pitcher. They need to work with him to just get a consistent arm slot and release, and to get him feeling comfortable on the mound.

When the front office decided not to sign any starting pitchers this offseason, they put all their faith into who they had. Perez has the talent to be that number two starter that many Mets fan were crying out for in the offseason. To help him achieve this, the team brought in pitching legend Sandy Koufax to coach the pitchers. He told Perez, “You can’t control the ball unless you can control your body…I think people need to have some sort of delivery, but delivery shouldn’t interfere with your ability to throw.” Perez also spent the winter in Arizona at, what some called, “baseball boot camp.” This just indicates that Perez was embarrassed by his performance last season, and that he wants to be better—no matter how hard he may need to work to do so.

Bill James predicts Perez will go 8-11 with a 4.73 ERA in 173 IP in 2010. I think these numbers are fair based on last season. But this is not the same Ollie Perez from last season. He’s come to camp in great shape and is throwing the best the coaches have seen from him. I’d put Perez’s numbers at 13-9 with a 4.12 ERA and 192 IP for 2010—so long as he can stay healthy.

Although a lot is riding on Perez to be good this season, he doesn’t have to be an All-Star. An ERA in the high 3’s or low 4’s would be fine for the Mets, as long as Mike Pelfrey and John Maine are able to perform at adequate levels and the rotation can stay healthy. However, if Perez has a repeat performance of 2009, I don’t think there is much hope for the Mets in 2010.