Could Pérez be Rangers' next resurgent All-Star?

July 7th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry's Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There almost aren’t any more words to describe what Martín Pérez has done this year -- both for himself as a pitcher and for the Rangers as a whole. 

Pérez is having a career season, only close to being matched by his rookie year in 2013. During that campaign, he posted a 3.62 ERA over 124 1/3 innings en route to a sixth-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting. This season, Pérez ranks fourth in ERA and second in WAR, per Baseball-Reference, among all AL pitchers. His 165 ERA+ far surpasses his previous high of 114 from that ‘13 season.  

The Rangers have done this before in recent seasons. They’ve turned older, and possibly declining, pitchers into All-Stars -- Mike Minor in 2019, Lance Lynn in ‘20 and Kyle Gibson in ‘21. Pérez may be just the newest turnaround success story, but his value to Texas’ rotation has been so much more than that. 

“I don't even want to think about where we'd be without him, honestly,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Honestly, he's such a stabilizer for us any time we need him. He comes out and gives us a quality start every time. It’s something he's been doing all year. I think it’s just the consistency and the dependability that we have every time he goes out. I can't even begin to think about not having him right now.” 

And above all, come Sunday, Pérez may very well secure his first All-Star Game appearance at 31 years old.

There are a number of reasons for Pérez’s resurgence, including his increased command -- which Woodward has compared to both playing “MLB: The Show” and the film “The Matrix” -- and excelling with his changeup and offspeed pitches on the edges of the zone.

While those are all important parts of his successful season, Pérez thinks maturity is the biggest reason he has been able to thrive this season. It’s been a topic of conversation since the Rangers signed the lefty to a one-year deal during the offseason.

Texas originally signed Pérez out of Venezuela in 2007, the left-hander was the club’s top prospect in ’12, and he made his MLB debut soon thereafter. His first stint with the Rangers was defined by very high highs that sometimes spiraled into lower lows. He would lose focus midgame, let one run turn into three or four or five, and ultimately failed to reach the potential the front office had for him, or that he had for himself.

Now four years removed from that initial run with the club, it’s all finally coming together for Pérez.

“I think it’s just experience, you know?” he said. “I'm older, I've been in the league for a long time, and I’m going to go out there and do my job. Every time you go out there, you're trying to have fun, but I'm always trying to get my work in. If you have fun, you’re going to be good, because you enjoy what you're doing. It's a game, but I’m also trying to do my best for my team and trying to get that win every time.”

And if you ask Woodward, Pérez’s All-Star campaign is inevitable.

“I’m very, very biased,” the skipper said. “I mean, anybody who looks at his numbers can obviously make a simple argument for [an All-Star nod]. He definitely deserves it.”