New York Mets: Why They Must Keep Oliver Perez

Harold FriendChief Writer IMarch 20, 2011

New York's Best Lefty?
New York's Best Lefty?Marc Serota/Getty Images

Oliver Perez is 29 years old. In 2004, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Perez struck out 239 hitters in 196 innings. He had an ERA-plus of 145 and a WHIP of 1.153.

Much-maligned Omar Minaya, the former general manager of sports' most beloved team, the New York Mets, sent Xavier Nady to the Pirates at the trading deadline in 2006 in exchange for Perez and ancient relief pitcher Roberto Hernandez.

Perez pitched poorly in August and September, but the second round of the playoffs were a different story.

Facing a powerful team that would go on to become world champions, the Mets manager sent Perez to the mound to win the pennant in the seventh game. He almost did, hurling six magnificent innings and allowing a single tally.

The problem was the Mets' lack of offense. The Cardinals won the game, 3-1, when Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run off Aaron Heilman.

In 2007, Perez excelled. He won 15 games with a 121 ERA-plus and a 1.311 WHIP. Working 177 innings, Perez struck out 174 hitters in the tough National League.

Many New York fans believe that the Yankees' primary rival are the Boston Red Sox, but the late Mr. George Steinbrenner, one of the most sagacious of all team owners, always felt that his team's main rival was the Mets. Of course, he was correct.

In 2008, Perez rewarded Minaya and the greatest fans in the world, when he faced New York's other team in a crucial game on June 29 at Shea Stadium. Perez allowed only three hits over seven innings, struck out eight Yankees and won the game, 3-1. Perez can be dominating.

Perez had a bad season in 2010, which can be partially explained by the fact that he had an injured knee that put him on the disabled list. He pitched only 46.1 innings, but still managed to strike out 37 hitters.

Left-handed starting pitchers are an extremely valuable commodity, especially those under 30 years of age. Oliver Perez has supposedly lost something off his fastball, but that judgment was made in spring training of this year.

There is no reason to believe that Perez will not pick up a few miles an hour on his fastball. If he were six or seven years older, it might be a different story, but at the age of 29, most pitchers are just reaching their peak.

Jerry Koosman, one of the greatest lefties in the Mets' illustrious history, had a terrible season in 1971 at the age of 28. Kooz went 6-11, but he suffered from arm problems that season. The Mets never gave up on him.

After pitching well, but not spectacularly, the next few years, Koosman won 21 games for the 1976 Mets while striking out 200 hitters.

Another fine Mets' lefty, Sid Fernandez, won only one game when he was 28 years old, but the Mets didn't release him. The following season, 1992, El Sid won 14 and lost 11, had a magnificent 1.067 WHIP and struck out 193.

Al Leiter, one of the better lefties to wear a Mets uniform, was only 6-7 with the Toronto Blue Jays when he was 28. When he became a Met, he had some great years.

Finally, the great Steve Carlton lost 20 games when he was 28 years old. Did the Philadelphia Phillies give up on him? They certainly did not, and he went on to win more than 20 games in each of three seasons while with the Phillies.

The "experts" have concluded that Oliver Perez is finished. They are wrong.

If the Mets send Perez away, they will regret the move for many seasons to come.


Baseball Reference


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