Odalis Perez: Better off with the Enemy

The St. Louis Cardinals have been a member of the National League Central Division since its creation in 1994. As a result, they have not seen their yearly schedule tipped in the direction of playing the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals frequently.

In interleague play, established in 1997, the Cardinals’ “natural rival” was understandably designated as the Kansas City Royals. That means the clubs typically have home and away series scheduled each summer, or about the same number of games as one of the above three clubs play against the Cardinals each season.

Likely, if it wasn’t for the title of this article and its accompanying photo, you would probably have no idea where I am heading.

Here we go. The four aforementioned clubs are those which had employed left-handed pitcher Odalis Perez over his ten-year Major League career – Atlanta (1999, 2001), Los Angeles (2002-2006), Kansas City (2006-2007) and Washington (2008).

Other than a promising start, which led to an NL All-Star berth back in 2002, the Dominican Republic native’s career has been most undistinguished.

His aggregate won-loss record is nine games under .500 at 73-82. Perez last won double digit games in a season back in 2003. His career ERA is 4.46, but he has managed to come in under 5.50 in just one season since 2005. On a more positive note, that was last season, when his ERA with the Nats was 4.34.

Now a free agent for at least the third time in his major league career, Perez’ name has come up on some Cardinals’ fans wish lists as an inexpensive left-handed alternative for the back end of the 2009 rotation. The hope is that pitching coach Dave Duncan could work some magic on the 31-year-old, who made just $850,000 with Washington last season.

Other fans aren’t so sure, noting that the Cardinals, and especially Albert Pujols, would be better off if his countryman Perez continues to pitch for the opposition rather than don the birds on the bat.

The latter group make an excellent point.

Perez has watched Pujols tour the bases five times (AP)
Perez has watched Pujols tour the bases five times (AP)

Over their careers, Pujols’ line against Odalis is an amazing .609/.719/1.391 (BA/OBP/SLG). That makes for a super-human OPS of 2.110!

Over the Scout premium message board, I was asked to assess the statistical impact of Pujols on Perez’ career.

Perez has pitched to 5678 regular-season batters in his time as a major leaguer, allowing 1409 hits. Pujols only has 14 hits of that total, or 1%, in his 23 at-bats facing Perez.

Perez has yielded 661 earned runs in his career, of which Pujols drove in 15, or 2.3%. So one way to look at it is that Albert delivered 2.3% of the damage in 1% of the hits in 0.4% of the at-bats.

If you took away Pujols’ 15 RBI, Perez’ career ERA would drop from 4.46 to 4.36. So, that impact is one-tenth of a run per nine innings over Perez’ ten-year career.

(Of course, all this assumes no other Cardinals hitter would have collected more hits or drove in any of the runs that we took away from Albert in this analysis.)

Unfortunately the Cardinals have only faced off against Perez about once per season over the years.

In 13 career games, ten starts, against the Cardinals, Perez is 3-6 with an 8.53 ERA. He has allowed almost two baserunners per inning and the Cards are batting a collective .344 against the lefty. He’s walked more batters (25) than he’s struck out (23) in those 50 2/3 innings. 14 of the hits yielded left the ballpark, of which five came off Pujols’ bat.

After seeing this, Cardinals fans should be trying to aim Odalis over to the north side of Chicago, where he might be “fortunate” enough to face the St. Louisans four or five times each and every season!

Time to start the “Odalis to the Cubs” campaign!