Game 163: The Process Versus Martin Perez
It has come down to this. In game 163, the Rays will take on the Rangers in Arlington to determine who is the American League’s second Wildcard. The winner will then face the Indians in Cleveland on Wednesday in another single elimination contest. To get there, however, Tampa Bay will need to defeat Texas and their starter Martin Perez.
The Venezuelan native has made 19 starts for the Rangers in 2013, collecting a 3.55 ERA in 119 innings. Using a mid-90s fastball, a changeup, and a pair of breaking balls (more sliders than curves), he posted favorable walk rates, but unpromising strikeout and home runs marks. In terms of batted balls, he does most of his work close to the earth with a groundball rate near 50 percent.
Despite being a lefty himself, Perez has not fared well against fellow southpaws. The presence of a potent changeup has given him reverse splits this season. He uses the pitch around 30 percent of the time against right-handed batters – traditionally thrown glove-side and down – holding them to a .214/.254/.366 line against the pitch.
On the other hand, Perez uses the off-speed pitch just under 13 percent against lefties. When facing like-handed hitters, he is fastball first (63 percent) and backs that with a slider. Both pitches are generally thrown away from the better. Left-handed hitters have crushed the heater to the tune of .349/.438/.508 while maintaining a .280 average against the slide piece.
In a do-or-die situation, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon will have to put forth the best lineup possible both offensively and defensively. This means starting right-handers: Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, Yunel Escobar, Delmon Young, switch-hitting Ben Zobrist, and a catcher named Jose. Meanwhile, Perez’s splits leave room to start James Loney, perhaps one or two left-handed outfielders; especially in the absence of Desmond Jennings.
Whatever the lineup may be, let’s hope the process behind it leads to a positive result for the Rays/