Friday, October 21, 2011

Perkins is worthy of Twins top pitching honor

Twins relief pitcher Glen Perkins let the cat out of the bag through his Twitter account, telling the world before the organization could announce it that he was the recipient of the team’s Pitcher of the Year Award in addition to winning the Most Improved Award.

Perkins put together a phenomenal if unexpected season in the bullpen. After injuries eroded his velocity which was hitting 97 miles per hour in 2007 yet had dropped to 89.7 as of 2009, he was suddenly able to dial it back up again – averaging 94 miles per hour on his fastball. With that solid foundation, he expanded the strike zone with his slider leading to one of the best out-of-zone chase rates of the year (37.8%). He posted solid conventional numbers – a 2.48 ERA and 65-to-21 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 61.2 innings – and according to, Perkins finished the year with the 11th-highest Wins Above Replacement among all relievers.  
Without question, his newfound velocity played a significant role in his rebound but it is his slider that was the real weapon. As noted above, Perkins was able to throw his slider out of the strike zone and incite plenty of swings. What’s more is that the majority of those swings on his slider proved fruitless as he held a 40% swing-and-miss rate on the pitch says Inside Edge’s data. All in all, Perkins’s slider was 9.9 runs above average by’s measurement. That was the fifth-best among all sliders.
Interestingly enough, it is a pitch that he did not incorporate into his repertoire until he came up to the majors. In 2009, Perkins told Seth Stohs that he was spending time refining the pitch, one that he developed midway through the 2008 season:
I ramped up my offseason workouts and also spent much time talking to people and also practicing throwing my slider.  It is a pitch I started throwing midseason and I am committed to making that a reliable pitch for me.
But it is clear that his success with the pitch goes beyond just being dirty. Perkins simply knows how to use his arsenal. In a sit-down with Upper Deck Report’s Brandon Warne this summer, Perkins outlined a scenario which explains why he has been so dominating against hitters, particularly when using his slider:
“I find that I’ll throw a fastball or two, and if they’re late, I know that I can throw a slider and that they’re going to have to cheat to try to hit the fastball, and before they can stop themselves, they see it’s a slider. That’s been the thing for me, mixing the fastball and the slider, and throwing them at the right time, whether it’s starting with the slider or finishing with the slider. Throwing those pitches at the right time and recognizing what the hitter is trying to do, and using that to my advantage has gone really well for me.

The other day, McGehee was late on two sliders, and I threw three more. Two were bad, and then the third one was down-and-in where I wanted to put it, and he swung over it. He was probably cheating on the fastball, and had to get his hands ready. It was a situation where I recognized what he was trying to do, and went the other way. I think that’s as much as anything like command, velocity and movement, is trying to realize what a hitter’s trying to do to you, and adjusting from there. But obviously, the harder you throw, the easier those things are to do.”
Here we see that aforementioned slider he threw to the Brewers’ Casey McGehee:
What we see is excellent location of his slider, placed in a spot where a hitter can do nothing but flail over the top of it. Because McGehee is cheating fastball, he is expecting the pitch to be a knee-high fastball and commits to swinging. Halfway home, the bottom drops out on the ball and it darts towards the ground, leaving McGehee unable to hold up his swing.  The Brewers’ infielder is not the only one to fall victim to this approach as Perkins had K’d nearly 30% of right-handed opponents faced – a remarkable rate for a left-handed pitcher.
As analyst try to make sense to Perkins’ meteoric rise in the pen, some wanting to believe it was a fluke or the product of a small sample size, being healthy, developing a deadly slider and having keen understanding of his opponents has propelled his 2011 season. He has become a pitcher, not just a thrower.
Perkins is one player the Twins will need to make a decision on this winter but the decision shouldn’t be too difficult. He is arbitration eligible and his salary figures to double however the $1.8 million we have estimated in the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook is a very reasonable cost for a dominating relief pitcher. On the free agent market, his service may have been twice that over three years. So, while the rest of the bullpen personnel remain a mystery, Perkins will be a fixture in the ‘pen come spring.