Jun/08/12 08:27 AM Filed in: Chris Perez
QUESTION: The Indians head to town tomorrow night and bring along Chris Perez, who leads the American League in saves with 19. Back in 2009 when the Cardinals traded Perez to Cleveland for Mark DeRosa, did you envision him eventually having the kind of success he is now?JOE STRAUSS
Perez was an All-Star last season but was better in 2010, his first full season in Cleveland. The Cardinals opted to move Perez rather than Jason Motte for Mark DeRosa partly because of uncertainty about Perez’ ability to handle the pressure of closing. Perez has answered forcefully, albeit not yet in a pennant race. Perez has saved 78 games the last three seasons. He was the first draftee of the Luhnow Era to reach the majors and the only Cardinals pick in that time to become an All-Star.
Did I see this coming? Not in STL because I questioned whether he would get the chance. Not yet 27, Perez has a chance for some prolific career numbers because of his early exposure to the role. A marginal walk-strikeout role seems his most obvious blemish but that, too, has improved this season. Right now he appears to be “the one that got away.”DERRICK GOOLD
Sure. Of all the players the Cardinals drafted back then, Chris Perez was perhaps the easiest to project into a role. A closer in college, Perez was a closer throughout the minors, and when he reached the majors it was clear he had a closer’s repertoire, a closer’s power, and that less tangible closer’s mentality. The gravitational pull between him and the ninth was obvious. The only question was where. The answer came when the Cardinals decided to keep Jason Motte, trade Perez, and let him find the saves he was bound to collect in Cleveland.RICK HUMMEL
At the time, both Perez and Motte suggested they might have futures as closers because they threw hard and threw strikes. The rub was whether one or both would develop a secondary pitch and it appears that both have. The downside of making the trade with Cleveland was not so much that Perez got away but that DeRosa was hampered physically, almost from the moment he got here.JEFF GORDON
Chris Perez was clearly destined to become a major league closer. At the time the Cards had a closer and apparent closers-in-waiting, so the deal for Mark DeRosa made sense. Had DeRosa stayed healthy and re-signed in St. Louis, it might still make sense. But DeRosa broke down, Perez developed as expected and Cardinal Nation came to greatly regret his departure.KEVIN WHEELER (Host of “Sports Open Line” on KMOX)
Absolutely. He’s always had two swing and miss pitches, an fearless attitude and experience at the position going back to college. The one thing he was missing in his early days with the Cardinals was command, but that has really come along. In fact, his walk rate has gone down every season since he debuted with the Cardinals during the 2008 season and that is directly linked to the success he’s having now.
I spoke to him on Wednesday as a preview for the Cardinals-Indians series this weekend and he said the very same thing, acknowledging that his command needed improvement when he broke in with the Cards. Perez also said that he’s refined his approach to attacking hitters. He remains aggressive but also says he’s more conscious of which hitters can do more damage than others. That maturity has given him the ability to turn “stuff” into results.LARRY BOROWSKY (Editor of the “Viva El Birdos 2012 Baseball Annual&rdquo
Yes, I did. Perez has always had the repertoire of a prototypical closer – explosive fastball, hard slider – and the hyperaggressive attitude to match. He has never been any fun to hit against. He held minor-league batters to an average of about .180, while recording more than twice as many strikeouts (151) as hits allowed (61). As a Cardinal he held big-league opponents to a .215 average and fanned over a batter an inning. Perez hadn’t fully transitioned from thrower to pitcher at the time the Cards dealt him, but the markers of potential dominance were always there.
I was sorry to see Perez go but thought (and still think) it was a defensible trade because the Cardinals were dealing from a position of strength. Despite losing Perez, they had Jason Motte, Eduardo Sanchez, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, and others in the majors or the high minors in mid-2009. They felt the makings of a good bullpen were in place even without Perez. Although that assessment looks a little shaky at the moment, it may yet prove accurate.