Pittsburgh Pirates: Four Forgotten Opening Day Starters
By Noah Wright
2005 and 2006: Oliver Perez
In 2021 Oliver Perez is entering his 19th MLB season with the Cleveland Indians as a relief pitcher, but in the mid-2000s he was the Pirates’ Opening Day starter twice. His first Opening Day start was in 2005. Perez was coming off a career best season where he had a 2.98 ERA, 3.45 FIP and 1.15 WHIP through 196 innings while leading the league in K/9 (11.7) and ranking second in strikeout rate (29.7%).
Perez’s first Opening Day start was rough. He pitched 5 innings, allowed 6 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks and he hit a batter. He did have 6 strikeouts, which was the only bright spot of his day. Perez got the nod a year later where he pitched much better. This time around, he tossed 5.1 innings, allowed just a single run while striking out 9 batters.
Perez was at his worst in these two seasons. He pitched a total of 215 innings with a 6.22 ERA, 5.92 FIP and 1.71 WHIP. His strikeout rate plummeted, his walk rate skyrocketed and he had trouble with home runs. However, he got a second lease on his career in 2012 when he transitioned to the bullpen full time. Since then, he’s had a 3.46 ERA, 3.28 FIP and 1.25 WHIP in his last 346.1 innings of work.
By the end of 2021, he’ll be 40, but based on his 2020 numbers, he still has some stuff left in the tank as a reliever.