Pittsburgh Pirates: What Martin Perez Can Do In 2024 To Improve

These changes could potentially help Martin Perez improve in 2024.

Oct 19, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Martin Perez (54) throws during the
Oct 19, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Martin Perez (54) throws during the / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping for Martin Perez to rebound in 2024, but these changes could help him improve next season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed veteran left-handed pitcher Martin Perez to a one-year deal this off-season. Perez is coming off a fairly rough season, one in which he had a 4.98 ERA, 5.30 FIP, and 1.52 WHIP in 20 starts.

He did pitch significantly better out of the bullpen with a 2.70 ERA, 3.98 FIP, and 1.02 WHIP as a reliever. But he is just one year removed from pitching nearly 200 innings with a 2.89 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP and making the 2022 All-Star Game.

Not many predicted Perez would repeat a sub-3.00 ERA season. But he still had solid ERA estimators. He clocked in with a 3.59 xERA, 3.80 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA, and 106 DRA-. Again, these don’t set up the expectation of an ace-like season but still have solid, above-average results. Of course, he didn’t meet either expectation, but what can he do to at least improve next year?

The first thing Perez needs to do is use the fastball more often. The pitch has held batters at bay for two years now. He’s tossed it a total of 323 times since the outset of the 2022 season, allowing just nine hits, two doubles, and no home runs.

The second thing he needs to do is go back to using the cutter the same way he was in 2022. His active spin rate from 2022 to 2023 rose by 5%. That might not seem like a massive difference, but it added about an inch and a half of horizontal break to it. It also went from over 2200 RPM on average in 2021-2022 to under 2200 in 2023. Also, don’t be afraid to go inside to LHB/outside to RHB with the cutter. He did that less frequently in 2023 compared to 2022.

Another thing Perez can do with his cutter that may make it more effective is work more inside to left-handed batters/outside to right-handed batters like he did in 2022. He worked much more heavily inside on right-handed hitters/outside on left-handed hitters. Left-handed hitters had a .581 wOBA against his cutter in 2023 compared to .274 the previous season.

Those are things that he can change in his game to improve next year, but what are some other things he can keep doing from last year? The first thing is to keep throwing the sinker a lot. The pitch racked up +8 run value in 2023 and +9 in 2022. After getting moved to the bullpen, his sinker was far and away the most used pitch. He used his change-up less frequently, which seemed to help its effectiveness.

A small tweak here and there and a difference in pitch usage could help Perez rebound in 2024. The Pirates have done well in the past with rebound left-handed starting pitcher candidates, and I feel they’ll do the same with Perez. There is some stuff here for the Pirates to work with, and I think these changes are ones the Pirates should keep in mind.