Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 9/25/13
Shortly after last night’s incredible ninth-inning comeback, former WFNY weekend man Brendan Porath nudged the WFNY staff: Let’s do a roundtable about Chris Perez. So here we are, again, talking about the controversial closer’s role for the rest of 2013. Share your takes in the comments. Brendan: So, Jason Giambi delivered one of the most dramatic and enjoyable wins in Indians franchise history. But it promptly overshadowed the continuing troubles with Chris Perez — the Tribe’s shaky (is what we’ll call it) closer. Next time, the stakes may be higher and we can’t repeatedly count on old Jacobs Field magic when there may be other options. The Indians have five, and hopefully more, very important games left in their season. Giambi said Perez can “wipe the slate clean and start fresh” today, and Francona indicated they weren’t planning on “shifting gears” so late in the season. But should the Indians proceed without Perez as their closer, starting tonight if there’s a save situation and then through whatever is left ahead, which may include some exceedingly tense postseason situations? If you were to shuffle it up, how would you change things? Who’s the new closer, and then who fills the role vacated by that arm? And how would you use Perez, if at all, going forward if he were no longer the go-to arm at the end of games? Kirk: I’ve been on the “Chris Perez is overrated, he’s not that good” bus for about three years now. Truth be told, if Vinnie Pestano was in 2011-2012 form, this would be a no brainer and Tito may have already made the move. CP has an ERA of 5.95 in August and September combined!!!! He’s blown two of the biggest home games all year (Detroit series opener and this one). He’s just too inconsistent to rely upon for key outs. As it stands, I’d choose between Justin Masterson and Bryan Shaw for my closer. Shaw has been tough as nails since mid-August, allowing just 3 earned runs and 11 hits, walking 6 and striking out 19 in 21 innings of work. Masterson or Salazar, whoever would have the lower pitch count threshold, should be in the mix as well. Masterson is the all star, and there are few that Tito would trust more with the game on the line. He also has postseason experience in the pen. Salazar’s stuff is phenomenal, but if he can throw north of 90 pitches, I keep him in the rotation. TD: I think two ways – if a save situation comes up tonight and Francona doesn’t go to Perez, you may lose him the rest of the way. As much as I want to replace him as closer, doing so now would move things around in roles that have been defined with just five games remaining. This would be a seriously dicey proposition. You could send Allen into the closer’s role with Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepcynski, and Joe Smith handling the seventh and eighth innings. Or you could go radical and keep everyone where they are and have Justin Masterson come on to close these last five games, since he will be pitching out of the pen. Then there is this – Danny Salazar. The Indians probably won’t use him in the rotation should they make it to the playoffs (then again should they make the Wild Card, it will be his turn in the rotation). He has that power arm and could be a serious option to close out games in October, ala David Price during his rookie season of 2008. How would I use Perez? Honestly, I don’t know if I would. But I think Terry Francona is going to send him right back out there tonight if the situation arises. Jacob: Shocker: I don’t really mind. I’ve written before about the folly of Chris Perez’s future. Yes, he’s overpaid. Yes, he’s not really an “elite” closer in MLB. Sure, he’s probably not gonna be here in 2014. But yes, he’s still probably the most experienced and reliable *gulp* guy that we’ve got. This is Perez’s sixth year in the big leagues. He has 332.1 innings, 132 saves and countless high-pressure moments under his belt. Before the Detroit dilemma, he had a 0.95 ERA in an 18-game stretch. This has been one of his worst MLB seasons and he’s still OK overall. Look at Bryan Shaw: 25 years old and 160 career innings. Cody Allen is 24 with 97.1 innings. Justin Masterson won’t be the closer; that just ain’t happening. These options are inexperienced and late September isn’t the time for an audition or tryout. Moving away from Perez as the closer would be a peculiar call by Francona, even if it irates some fans. Yes, CP has blown some of the biggest games of the year, but he’s still the guy you stick with to show faith in the rest of your roster that you’ve got their back. Scott: As the resident “apologist” who now gets tweeted at every time Perez slips up—you know, as if I have anything to do with it—I think you really need to consider a switch. I completely agree with the “too late to change” mentality. Upsetting the apple cart now could prove toxic. But I really don’t know how Terry could go to him in the event of a tie game or one-run lead. With the expanded rosters, the Tribe opted to double the bullpen. There are options there. I think the main goal should be to do what’s best to win these games—chemistry is ancillary at this point. If not throwing him out there ruins him forever, maybe he shouldn’t have been out there to begin with, closer’s mentality being what it is. Jon: My bona fides in wishing Chris Perez would go away are fairly well-established, but in this case, I probably agree with Francona, albeit not with a great deal of confidence. As much as I think Chris Perez is an entirely flawed pitcher who needs to miss more bats OR keep the ball on the ground, I don’t necessarily think our other options are all that tantalizing. Cody Allen would be the obvious choice, but that fastball is straight as an arrow, and players are starting to line it up. Couple that with his age and inexperience and I sure don’t think it’s a slam dunk, not to mention the gap it would leave in the 7th inning. I suppose you could try Salazar or Carrasco, but that seems a bit unfair to ask of guys who’ve never pitched out of the bullpen before–images of 2006 Fausto Carmona are dancing through my head. I’d take the LOOGY’s off the table, as they’re situational guys. And even if you trust Joe Smith (I don’t, but it’s up for debate), you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul here: someone has to pitch the eighth if Smitty’s in the ninth. And then, if you remove Perez from the closer spot, do you leave him off the post-season roster altogether, as he’ll likely be an unbearable drag on the other guys? That seems silly, as he’s quite certainly one of the 7 best arms we have out there (at least it’s clear to me, though you might argue otherwise). The bigger issue is that current ideas about bullpen usage are just broken. The ninth inning isn’t always the highest leverage situation, deserving of your best pitcher. Sometimes that make-it-or-break-it moment comes in the 6th or 7th inning, and I’d love to have a manager that recognized when to deploy your best reliever, regardless of a silly statistic that doesn’t mean all that much. That’s never going to happen though–not with entrenched valuation of the save that comes along with arbitration and free agency. In many ways, we’re stuck with an imperfect system. And we’re similarly stuck with an imperfect closer. I think I still have to dance with who brung me, while keeping the blood pressure medication within reach.
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