Oliver Perez has been a staple of the Washington Nationals bullpen for two years, through apparent mediocrity. What has kept him there?
The Washington Nationals bullpen, due to its inconstancy, has been a constant topic of conversation, one that relief pitcher Oliver Perez has mostly been left out of. He’s a 15-year veteran whose career has bounced from team to team and league to league.
Before coming to the Nats, Perez spent time with the Padres, Pirates, Mets, Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Astros. He came into the majors as a starter, an experiment which failed, save the 2004 and 2007 seasons.
Over the course of his career, the Mets became the team that placed the most faith in Perez, keeping him under contract for a total of six years while placing him everywhere from low-A ball to the majors, another experiment that overall seemed to fail.
If you’re a Nats fan who frequents the comment sections of Twitter or Facebook, you’ll likely have seen your Mets counterparts expressing their disbelief in the fact Perez is still anywhere around the sport.
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During his two-year contract with the Nats, Perez has become, to many people, an afterthought. He’s a pitcher always assumed to be there, to be a constant in a shifting bullpen. However, based on statistics, he has not been very good. He has appeared in 114 games with the Nationals, accumulating a 4.70 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP.
As a result of the bullpen’s rotating door roster, Perez has bounced around roles, being used to do everything from mopping up a lost game to coming in to hold a one run lead in the late innings. The Nationals have seemed to struggle with finding a steady role for the veteran pitcher, yet, he’s always there. Assumed a spot, even on the postseason roster.
Perez possesses a delivery that changes with every pitch. It’s jerky and he often pauses at odd times, but it makes up for his lack of outstanding pitches. For the most part he relies on a slider, sinker and four seam.
While the slider has good cross-plate movement and the sinker sits at 93, a higher than average velocity, the pitches are nothing special. For context, Koda Glover’s slider sits around the mid 90’s; Perez’s averages about 80 mph.
Perez is also left-handed. Yes, the Nationals seem to have more left-handers in their pen than most teams but, take Sean Doolittle as an example. He is currently locked into the closer role, which leaves him unavailable to get a big left-handed hitter out in any other inning.
In no way is Perez an all-time great, or even an all-time decent, but the Nationals have found his calling. In the second-half of last season, thanks to a bullpen remodel, he was able to become their left-handed specialist. He likely won’t be back, but he will be remembered as a pitcher who showed up everyday and did pretty well.
As an aging free agent, he may or may not find a job next season. If he does, it’ll be due to his unorthodox delivery.