Strikeouts key to Chris Perez's rise among closer ranks

The trading deadline caused a flurry of action among closers across the league. The Pirates and Nationals sent their closers packing, leaving two widely publicized voids. However, the Indians' trade of Kerry Wood should not go unnoticed, as the closer of the present/future, Chris Perez, now earns the title of closer. Period.

Before we put Perez among the elite closers in the game, there are a few red flags. He often struggles with his control, posting a BB/9 of 4.6 in '10. That has been a problem throughout his major league (4.5 BB/9 over 98 2/3 innings prior to '09) and minor league (6.0 BB/9 in 113 1/3 innings) careers.

He has also benefited from luck, though relief pitchers tend to be capable of maintaining above average marks. While there is a chance that his .250 BABIP and 86.1% strand rate regress, there's no real cause for concern.

There is, however, reason to be concerned about his strikeouts, which are down significantly. This season he has a K/9 rate of 7.9, compared to 10.0 prior to '10 and 12.0 in the minor leagues. He hasn't lost any speed on his fastball, averaging 94.4 mph, so it is a little curious. Could the rest of the league have solved him?

Control is his biggest issue, but it's not enough to avoid him. While the luck may turn, a return to his days of blowing batters away would help to offset that.

There's a theory among fantasy owners that having the closer on a bad team is beneficial. Every team is going to win at least 55 games, and how many games will bad teams win by a lot of runs?

That's just one of many positives for Perez, who is a solid No. 2 closer in all formats, both this season and beyond, with the potential to be even more if the strikeouts return.

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