In 2010, the Cleveland Indians were in a hurry to get rid of veteran closer Kerry Wood to pave way for youngster Chris Perez. Their urgency was justified, as Perez posted a sensational 1.71 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 2.18 K/BB. However, Perez’s success was based on an incredibly unsustainable .222 BABIP and alarming 4.13 xFIP. In 2011, Perez has regressed mightily.
Despite a 2.96 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, the young righty’s ability to strikeout batters has completely soured (from 8.7 K/9 to 5.5 K/9), and his already mediocre control (4.0 BB/9 last season) has spiked a few ticks (4.4 BB/9). Even more troubling is his unsustainable luck (.225 BABIP) and eye-popping 5.10 xFIP. Unless Perez can do the impossible and defy all peripherals for a career, his bubble will explode. And when it does, Vinnie Pestano should be the Indians closer.
Pestano was picked in the 20th round of the 2006 draft, and immediately made an impression in the Minor Leagues. The reliever mowed down hitters at every level, collected double-digit saves in three consecutive seasons, and owned a combined 2.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 3.08 K/BB in his career (173 innings). His finest Minor League season came in 2010, when he posted a dominant 1.81 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 4.81 K/BB. Obviously, his success earned him a spot on the active roster.
The right-hander’s full-time promotion to the Major Leagues before the 2011 season has paid off mightily for the Indians. Pestano has hurled a terrific 2.54 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 3.48 K/BB. Even though his control is league-average (3.4 BB/9), his 12.32 K/9 ranks within the top five among all relievers–only trailing Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, and Sergio Santos.
Pestano’s successes can be attributed to his array of three above average pitches. The bullpen stud’s fastball averages 92.9 MPH, and has been worth 7.6 runs above average. In addition, his slider (80.8 MPH) has been worth 3.3 runs above average, and his cutter (92.3 MPH) 1.4 runs above average. Pestano’s repertoire is obviously extremely effective, as opposing hitters simply cannot touch his stuff. The righty leads the Major Leagues in wiff rate (16.7%), is top four in contract% (66.4%), and top fifteen in non-strike swings (36.5% clip).
The best part about Pestano’s consistent dominance in 2011 is that all his peripherals completely support his surface statistics. Pestano’s 2.54 ERA is in-line with his 2.59 xFIP, and his base-runner stinginess (6.3 Hits/9) holds up with his sustainable .284 BABIP. The guy even owns a rock solid 41.4 GB%.
It would take a lot of Chris Perez meltdowns to clear way for Pestano to close, but if given the opportunity, it’s almost impossible that he wouldn’t succeed.