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Odalis Out of the Park
2003-11-25 09:10
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Farewell, Warren Spahn - a pitcher truly underappreciated in this era ...

As for another lefty ...

In 2003, compared to the previous season, Odalis Perez improved his strikeouts per nine innings by almost 10 percent.

In 2003, Perez improved his ratio of groundouts to flyouts by 46 percent, to 1.99 - seventh-best in the league.

And yet, Perez' ERA did not go down in 2003. It rose 51 percent, from 3.00 to 4.52.

What happened?

Perez walked a few more batters, but not many more. His walks per nine innings increased 45 percent in 2003, from 1.54 to 2.23, but that only amounts to an extra walk every other start.

Despite striking out more batters, and keeping the ball on the ground more often, Perez simply got hit harder. The batting average of opponents against Perez rose from .226 to .267 in 2003. Moreover, the slugging percentage of opponents rose from .347 to .442.

Some of that rise may be attributed to luck - balls eluding even the splendid Dodger infield. But you can't ignore the balls that only the fans in the outfield bleachers could catch.

Perez allowed a home run every 6 2/3 innings in 2003, compared to one every 10 2/3 innings in 2002. That's not just a flesh wound.

Perez's ERA on home runs allowed, on just the guys who hit the ball out of the park, was 1.35 in 2003. In 2002, it was 0.84. In other words, the increased home runs allowed account for more than half a run per game by themselves.

Further, with runners on base, Perez' home runs allowed nearly doubled - from eight in 2002 (283 at-bats plus walks) to 15 in 2003 (290 at-bats plus walks).

Perez is in his prime - he turns 27 in June. He may not be as good as he was in 2002, and the Dodgers may need to trade him to get some hitting help, but he should not be undervalued. He actually improved as a pitcher in some ways in 2003 from his All-Star season in 2002. If he can maintain or continue that improvement, and solve the home run crisis, you're once again looking at a potential All-Star.

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