Cleveland Indians: Is Chris Perez the Most Maddening Closer in Baseball?

Pat KondzellaCorrespondent IApril 18, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 17:  Closing pitcher Chris Perez #54 of the Cleveland Indians reacts after defeating the Seattle Mariners 9-8 at Safeco Field on April 17, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez slammed the door on the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night and earned his third save of the season in closing out the Tribe's 9-8 win.

Slammed the door might not be quite the right words. He slammed the door the Chris Perez way. Perez likes to make his appearances interesting. Perez's saves are interesting like Kate Upton is a little cute.

He likes to challenge the strength of Tribe fans' tickers.

Mariano Rivera comes in for the Yankees and slams the door. 1-2-3. Good morning. Good afternoon. And good night.

Chris Perez says, "Booooooring" to that.  It was typical Perez in the ninth inning on Tuesday night in Seattle. The first batter, Justin Smoak, grounded out harmlessly to Tribe first baseman Casey Kotchman. One down.

Maybe this night was going to be different. An easy, stress-free save, perhaps.

C'mon, be real. This was Chris Perez.

Next batter Kyle Seager singled to right. Here we go; cue the circus music. Jesus Montero then got a good break when his ground ball took a nasty hop and bounced off Tribe shortstop Jason Donald's face and into center, moving pinch runner Munenori Kawasaki to third. First and third, one out, tying runner at third.

Next up was Michael Saunders. Fly ball to left fielder Aaron Cunningham. Runner at third stayed put. Two down, in good shape. Only need one more out.

Did I mention this was Chris Perez?

Brendan Ryan then walked, loading the bases, pushing the winning run to second. A basehit most likely would win it.

John Jaso, who had earlier homered, stepped to the plate. Perez threw two wide to Jasoof course he did, why wouldn't he?and had to put something over the plate.

When the next pitch left Jaso's bat, it looked like it was going a long way, but it died and settled into right fielder Shin-Soo Choo's waiting glove.

Tribe wins. Save. The Chris Perez way.

Perez has not exactly started out on fire this year. He already blew saving Justin Masterson's masterpiece on Opening Day and very nearly blew this save.

It is telling to look at Perez's 2011 stats. He is by no means the worst closer in baseball, but if you are a Tribe fan, it often seems that way.

Perez did close out 36 games for the Tribe last season, according to ESPN's closer stats, which was tied for 11th among 29 regular MLB closers. Closing out games is really what matters, no matter how many base runners are given up in getting the job done.

What about the maddening, heart palpitating factor? This can be measured by the WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Only nine of the 29 regular closers had higher WHIPs than Perez's 1.21.

Another glaring stat was that Perez had the second-worst K/BB rate of any closer in MLB. Only Kevin Gregg of the Orioles (1.3) had a worse K/BB ratio than Perez's 1.5. This means he had nearly as many walks as strikeouts in his appearances.

Also, Perez had the second=lowest K/9 rate among closers. Only Francisco Cordero (5.4) of the Reds and Matt Capps (4.7) of the Twins had worse K/9 rates that Perez's 5.9.

So he walks a lot of guys, doesn't strike many out and puts a lot of men on base—he must have blown a ton of saves last year, right?

Shockingly, no.

In fact, only five closers had fewer blown saves than Perez. His four blown saves were only beaten out by John Axford, Brewers; Ryan Madson, Phillies; Andrew Bailey, A's and Javy Guerra, Dodgers, all with two each.

Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox and Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets both had three blown saves.

Bailey and Rodriguez only appeared in 42 games last year to Perez's 64, and Guerra only appeared in 47.

After Tuesday's contest against Seattle, Perez's stats are as follows: five games, three saves, 5.79 ERA, (eighth-worst in MLB), 2.14 WHIP, one blown save. His WHIP is fourth-worst in baseball ahead of only Axford (3.00), Carlos Marmol of the Cubs (2.40) and Heath Bell of the Marlins (2.75).

The maddening effect is in full bloom. Put guys on base but wiggle out of bases-loaded jams to get the save. Tribe fans, myself included, would not mind whatsoever more Mariano Rivera-esque saves. Good morning. Good afternoon. And good night.

As his save totals show, though, he does tend to get the job done. Scarily. Frustratingly. Maddeningly.

The Chris Perez way.


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