Is There Any Hope for Oliver Perez?
On February 28, 2005, we did a Young Pitcher Symposium for Oliver Perez. We pointed out several comparable pitchers to Perez based on his 2004 season. If you'll remember, Perez was one of the best young pitchers in the game in '04, going 12-10, 2.98, with 239 strikeouts in 196 innings and just 145 hits allowed. He walked 81, and there were concerns about his durability and workload. But his talent was undeniable.
Fast forward a year and a half, and what do we find? Perez was erratic in '05, and has been downright terrible this year. Even after getting sent back to Triple-A, he's had problems. Right-handed hitters are slugging .537 against him in the minors this season. Although he doesn't throw quite as hard as he did a couple of years ago, his velocity is still above average. However, mechanical problems have hurt his command, and his confidence seems to have taken a major step backwards.
Getting out of Pittsburgh and to a new organization may help. . .the Mets are certainly better-equipped to provide him with offensive and defensive support, although the Big Apple isn't the easiest place to mount a career comeback. He doesn't turn 25 until August 15, and given his performance in '04 it is certainly too early to give up on him. But I do want to sound a note of caution here.
I mentioned the list of comparable pitchers that was generated early in '05 based on his '04 numbers. Note that while Sandy Koufax shows up on the list, so did Baylor Moore, Pete Falcone, and Juan Nieves, young lefties with power arms who never lived up to their potential. And this was evident even before his struggles last year and this year.
In short, the answer is, Yes, there is Hope for Oliver Perez. But it is not a sure thing by any means. Perhaps that's not a surprising or insightful answer, but it is an honest one. What do you guys think?