From 2012-2018, Martín Pérez showed flashes of brilliance for the Rangers. The only problem was that those short bursts of dominance were often overshadowed by longer periods of struggles, as Pérez recorded a 4.63 ERA in 761 1/3 innings over that seven-season stretch.
After three years away from Texas, Pérez re-signed with the team that drafted him last offseason. He rewarded that loyalty by twirling gem after gem on the mound en route to the lowest ERA of his career.
With Pérez set to hit free agency off the back of that breakout season, here’s what you need to know about him:
Birthdate: April 4, 1991 (Age 31 in 2023)
Primary position: SP
Height/weight: 6-foot, 200 lbs.
Place of birth: Guanare, Venezuela
Signed: July 7, 2007 by Rangers
MLB debut: June 27, 2012
Qualifying offer: Received one
STAT TO KNOW
While Pérez’s resurgence didn’t come with the addition of a new pitch, a good portion of his success can be traced back to his changeup usage. After allowing a .314 batting average on his changeup in 2021, batters averaged .233 against the pitch in 2022 despite Pérez throwing the pitch nearly double the amount of time he did in '21.
Even with Pérez’s dominance in 2022, his middling track record in years prior could end up giving some teams pause. Prior to last year’s breakout season, Pérez had only one season where he finished with an ERA below four.
He was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year
It’s hard to overstate how dominant Pérez’s 2022 was. After looking like an end-of-the-rotation guy for most of the first 10 years of his career, Pérez finally put together his breakout season. While he doesn’t have huge swing-and-miss stuff, he was among the league’s best at limiting hard contact, as he finished the year in the 92nd percentile in barrel rate and the 73rd percentile in hard-hit rate. Additionally, Pérez finished last season with an edge percentage of 49.4%, which is the highest mark for a qualified pitcher during the Statcast era.
His changeup reached new levels of dominance
As mentioned earlier, Pérez’s changeup reached new levels of success in 2022 thanks in large part to the pitch's location. Coming into this season, 17.6% of Pérez’s changeups caught the “heart” zone, which is the middle part of the strike zone. In 2022, Pérez threw his changeup in the heart of the zone just 10.4% of the time -- the ninth-lowest rate in baseball among qualified pitchers.
He can throw four pitches for strikes consistently
After leaning heavily on his cutter for the past three years, Pérez remade his pitch usage last season by leaning heavily on his sinker, which he threw 1,048 times, the most he'd used the pitch since 2017. That change translated into success, as batters hit .249 off the pitch. Pérez complimented that pitch with a strong season from his aforementioned changeup, along with success from his cutter (.232 batting average against) and fastball (.194 average against).
He spent the year helping the Rangers’ younger pitchers
During the final week of the regular season, Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley said that rookie starter Cole Ragans "follows Pérez around a lot." Ragans told MLB.com’s Kennedi Landry that Pérez is “awesome… I’ve picked his brain about pitching, especially with backdooring the cutter and just pitching in general.”