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April 9, 2009
  
Oliver Perez vs. Derek Lowe: It’s On.
by: Tino Evangelou on Apr 9, 2009 1:39 AM | Filed under: News

During the offseason, one of the critical decisions Omar Minaya and the Mets front office made was the one to bring Oliver Perez back to the Mets for 3 years and 36 million dollars. The two parties, by that point, essentially had no choice but to come back to each other. Before signing Perez, the Mets had flirted with signing Derek Lowe until the Braves’ desperation led to a 4 year contract offer, one the Mets were unwilling to match.

With Lowe’s sterling Opening Day performance against the Phillies and Perez’s very, very suspect spring training (and questions being openly raised about his fitness for the upcoming season), you can almost begin to hear the rumblings of analysts with 20/20 hindsight already. Lowe and Perez will probably be compared by Mets fans for the length of Perez’s contract, and his end of the discussion will begin Thursday night in Cincinnati. First impressions are that he’s behind, but three years is a long time.

Patrick Sullivan at Baseball Analyists did an excellent breakdown of just how consistently good Lowe has been since becoming a full time starting pitcher:

Since Lowe became a full-time starter in 2002, of all pitchers with at least 1,100 innings pitched, he ranks 9th in innings and 13th in ERA+. Over the last 25 seasons, of all pitchers to have notched at least 1,700 innings, Lowe ranks 14th in ERA+. Barring an unrealistically spectacular close to his career, Lowe’s numbers will never rise to a level that garners him Hall of Fame consideration. He will end up more Jimmy Key, Kevin Appier or Bret Saberhagen than Curt Schilling,Kevin Brown or Mike Mussina. But nonetheless he has comfortably reached that next level down – the Hall of Very Good some call it – and as his record comes more into focus and some of his ancillary traits less so, time figures to treat Lowe’s legacy well.

Oliver Perez, as any Mets fan can tell you, has certainly been anything but a model of consistency in his career. If you don’t have the pleasure of watching the Oliver Perez Lottery every fifth day, it doesn’t take more than a brief look at his BR page to make it abundantly clear that he’s been somewhat bipolar. His career ERA+ is 96, and dropped from 120 in 2007 to 100 in 2008. It also remains to be seen how Citi Field will affect his rather extreme fly ball tendencies.

The Mets clearly banked on Oliver Perez’s age (he isn’t 28 until August) and flashes of brilliance making him a better investment at 3/36 than Derek Lowe at 4/60. The difference in years and money is significant, and Lowe will be 39 at the end of his contract. Lowe’s durability, the ability of Perez to finally harness his potential on a consistent basis, and the fortunes of the Mets and Braves as franchises the next three year will all be the main factors in determining whether the Mets were correct in taking the more frugal approach. In the meantime, the question will linger in the background anytime Oliver Perez takes the hill between now and the end of the 2011 season. We’ll begin to get our answer on Thursday night in the Great American Ballpark.


4 Responses to “Oliver Perez vs. Derek Lowe: It’s On.”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on April 9, 2009 at 1:49 am (#948693)

    When Notlanta’s paying Lowe 22.5 million to sit on the DL for the last season and a half of his career, people will be laughing at the idea that people will have ever debated this.

    No, Ollie will never be the most consistent pitcher on Earth but when he’s good, he’s really good and he’s okay more often than people’s memories serve to admit.

    Yeah. Every once in a while, he’s spectacularly awful.

    But this is the post-steroids era. Above-average-but-not-perennial-All-Star-types like Lowe just don’t hold up to being worth 15 million when Old Man Forty is knocking on the door anymore.

    That was an artifact of chemical living, nothing more, nothing less.

    In three years, when those 15 million are going toward getting a legitimate second baseman or catcher instead of paying for Lowe to linger around in extended spring training never quite getting past long-tossing, you’ll thank Ollie, warts and all, for signing with the Mets.

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  3. Comment posted by Tino Evangelou on April 9, 2009 at 3:27 am (#948694)

    But this is the post-steroids era. Above-average-but-not-perennial-All-Star-types like Lowe just don’t hold up to being worth 15 million when Old Man Forty is knocking on the door anymore.

    That remains to be seen, but it’s not impossible (Moyer, Maddux). Lowe has been pretty durable and, for what it’s worth, his years as a closer mean he doesn’t have the same mileage on his arm.

    In three years, when those 15 million are going toward getting a legitimate second baseman or catcher instead of paying for Lowe to linger around in extended spring training never quite getting past long-tossing, you’ll thank Ollie, warts and all, for signing with the Mets.

    The thing is, that won’t be 15 million free dollars, because 12 million of it is going to Perez.

    Look, I’m not defending a 4 year contract to a 36 year old pitcher, but in the case of Perez, isn’t there is a not-insignificant chance that he regresses to something that not worth nearly $12 million a season in the next three seasons, essentially being a sunk cost himself?

    Considering the Mets supposedly vast resources and proximity to being a World Series contender, the increased risk of a longer contract may have been something they’d have been able to absorb in exchange for a couple of seasons of superior pitching, for what amounts to a $3 million difference in those seasons.

    I like Perez, my point is that the debate has merits, and I think it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I don’t think Atlanta is great shakes by any stretch.

  4. Comment posted by Athena on April 9, 2009 at 7:03 am (#948695)

    Really nice article, Tino! Balanced and thoughtful. You did a great job of introducing the parameters of the debate on this subject with a minimum of emotion and vitriol. Now on to the comments, which should have plenty of both! ;-)

    For what it’s worth, I wish that Omar had gone a different way with this decision. I’m not a huge Ollie fan. But, as you point out, the situation is more nuanced than some of the angriest fans are appreciating and will take longer to evaluate than a spring training season. In any case, I’m trying to keep some judgment in reserve until we can see how Ollie performs over the year. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised when he earns his pay. Ollie is unpredictable, after all!

  5. Comment posted by sheadenizen on April 9, 2009 at 9:03 am (#948697)

    I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised as well,( who isn’t?)but I have this feeling in my solar plexus ( I leave gut feelings to Willie) that Omar made the wrong decision. I know I’m a bit prejudice because I don’t like Ollie at all, but at this point there’s nothing to do but let it play out. Of course, by then I will have ripped most of my hair out!

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