Pittsburgh Pirates: Setting 2024 Expectations for Martín Pérez

What should Pirate fans expect from the veteran lefty this season?
Oct 28, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez (54) reacts after
Oct 28, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez (54) reacts after / Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Martín Pérez, as he has for most of his career, struggled mightily as a starting pitcher in 2023. Should Pittsburgh Pirates fans expect anything different this season?

Last week, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their one-year, $8 million agreement with Martín Pérez official. With this, the veteran lefty is now set to join the team's starting rotation. What should be the expectations for Pérez this season?

Pérez is coming off a poor season with the World Series Champion Texas Rangers. Last season, Pérez started the season in the Texas starting rotation. However, due to struggling, the lefty would be removed from the team's starting rotation.

The 32-year-old pitched in a total of 35 games last season with 20 being starts. Pérez pitched 141.2 innings in his 35 outings, posting a 4.45 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 8.1% walk rate, and a porous 15.3% strikeout rate.

He also pitched 4.2 postseason innings for the Rangers. In the postseason, Pérez allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, 3 walks, and a pair of strikeouts. This just continued the season long struggles for the veteran lefty.

Pérez especially struggled as a starting pitcher. In his 20 starts, Pérez posted a 4.98 ERA, 5.33 FIP, 8.6% walk rate, and a 14.4% strikeout rate. Opposing batters hit .288 off of Péez in his starts, to go with a .460 slugging percentage and a 1.50 HR/9.

In 12 MLB seasons, Pérez owns a 4.44 ERA and a 4.41 FIP in 1440.2 innings across 288 appearances, 243 of which have been starts. In his career, Pérez owns a 4.47 ERA, 4.42 FIP, .279 batting average against, 8.3% walk rate, and just a 15.9% strikeout rate as a starting pitcher.

Outside of 2013 and 2022, Pérez has never posted an ERA below 4.38 in his career. This includes six seasons with an ERA above 4.50, three seasons with an ERA above 5.00, and one season with an ERA north of 6.00.

Throughout his career Pérez has really struggled to miss bats. Issues with swing-and-miss is a big reason why Pérez has battled his struggles. His lifetime 16.0% strikeout rate and 8.2% swinging strike rate are both well below league average. Additionally, opposing batters have an 82.2% contact rate off Pérez's pitches in his career, which is well above league average.

So, what should the expectations be for Pérez in 2024?

To be honest, if Pérez can take the ball every 5th day and consistently eat innings, that's a victory for the Pirates. Expecting Pérez to pitch above his career norms or take a step forward seems unlikely to happen. Although, pitching at PNC Park could work in his favor as it is a great park for left-handed pitchers.

Ultimately, if Pérez can eat innings for the Pirates while consistently making starts that's about what should be expected. Especially with the team's dire need for starting pitching help and innings to be covered. If he can pitch well enough to net a noteworthy return in a possible trade in July if the Pirates are out of contention, that would just be a bonus.

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