From BR Bullpen
Oliver Pérez Martinez
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 160-215 lb.
- High School Cobales High School
- Debut June 16, 2002
 Biographical Information
Hard-throwing left-hander Oliver Pérez signed with the Yucatan Lions at age 16 but did not pitch for them that year. In 1999, he inked a deal with the San Diego Padres and went 1-2 with a 5.08 ERA and three saves for the AZL Padres, striking out 37 in 28 innings. Pérez split 2000 between Yucatan (3-2, 4.36, one save) and the Idaho Falls Padres (3-1, 4.07, 27 K in 24 IP).
In 2001, Ollie was 8-5 with a 3.46 ERA as a starter for the Fort Wayne Wizards, fanning 98 in 101 1/3 IP and then was 2-4, 2.72 for the Lake Elsinore Storm, K'ing another 62 in 53 frames. Baseball America rated him the #18 prospect in the Midwest League.
That winter, Oliver had a great winter for the Culiacan Tomato Growers, posting a 0.76 ERA in Mexican Pacific League play (3-1) and then allowing one run in four innings in the Caribbean Series for the champion Tomato Growers. He was 3-3, 1.85 in 9 games for Lake Elsinore (66 K in 48 2/3 IP), 1-0, 1.17 in four starts for the Mobile BayBears (34 K, 11 H in 23 iP) and 4-5, 3.50 after joining the 2002 Padres in mid-June, striking out 94 in 90 innings.
While he fanned a lot with the 2003 Padres (117 K in 103 2/3 IP), he was just 4-7 with a 5.38 ERA before he was dealt with Jason Bay and a player to be named later to the 2003 Pirates for Brian Giles in a major deal. He continued his struggles in Pittsburgh, going 0-3.
2004 was a magical season for the 22/23-year-old southpaw. His fastball averaged 93 mph, sixth in Major League Baseball and topped 95 mph 458 times, and he complemented it with a superb slider. He led MLB in strikeouts per 9 innings (10.97), making him one of the top 10 pitchers in history to that point in that category. His 239 strikeouts made him the third-highest pitcher in Pittsburgh Pirates history, trailing Cannonball Ed Morris and Bob Veale. He was sixth in the 2004 NL in ERA and fourth in Ks. The Pirates took a gentle approach with Pérez, telling him to skip winter ball that year. Perez was being compared to other hard-throwing, somewhat wild, lefties like Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson.
Things hit the skids in 2005 as Ollie's fastball dipped to 88-92 mph on average and his control, never great (206 BB in 412 2/3 IP in the majors), got worse - he issued 70 walks in 103 innings and overall was 7-5 with a 5.85 ERA. He was not allowing a significantly high number of hits and was still averaging nearly a strikeout per inning, but the control was very poor. He also lost two months after he hurt his toe kicking a team laundry cart in frustration.
Pérez was selected to play for Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and threw four scoreless innings, allowing one hit, walking four and striking out three. His effort against the USA helped eliminate that expected powerhouse from the tournament. Ollie was tabbed to be Pittsburgh's Opening Day starter. He expressed optimism that he would revert to his 2004 form as his arm felt good, saying his problem was in mechanics. He began the year by striking out 9 Brewers and allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings on opening day. His velocity had not returned but the outing was impressive. Before long, though, 2005 was looking like a pleasant memory as he was 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA, 51 BB, 61 K and 88 hits allowed in 76 innings. Pérez tried adjusting his delivery but that didn't help and he was sent down to the Indianapolis Indians in exchange for Tom Gorzelanny. He struck out 13 in his debut with the Indians but was just 1-3 with a 5.63 ERA in six starts there. He walked only 11 in 32 innings, striking out 34 and allowing 28 hits. On July 31, Pittsburgh gave up and dealt him along with Roberto Hernández to the New York Mets for Xavier Nady.
In 2006, pitching for the Mets, Pérez set the record for the highest regular season ERA (6.55) by a player who started a postseason game. The only other ERAs of 6+ were 6.17 by Dave Mlicki of the 2001 Astros, and 6.18 by Alex Ferguson of the 1925 Senators. He got the start due to injuries to Mets aces Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, but pitched surprisingly well, notching a win and giving up only 6 runs in 11 2/3 innings. One of his starts was the key Game 7 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. He kept the Mets in the game, even if the Cardinals won in the late innings.
He continued his rebirth in 2007 tying for the Mets' lead in wins with John Maine with a 15-10 record. While his ERA was excellent at 3.56 (a 120 ERA+), he only pitched 177 innings in 29 starts, putting a lot of stress on the Mets' bullpen. Still, his return to form was a major positive for him and his team.
Pérez went 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA for the 2008 Mets, giving him a 100 OPS+. He only allowed 167 hits in 194 innings but walked 105 while fanning 180. He was 6th in the 2008 NL in fewest hits per 9 innings, was 7th in strikeouts per 9 innings but led in walks (2 ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez).
Pérez was part of Mexico's rotation in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, going 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA; he gave up 13 hits (including 5 homers) and 3 walks in 6 2/3 innings, striking out 8. Oliver was the starter in Mexico's 17-7 loss to Australia but only lasted two innings, giving up 5 runs, including homers to Luke Hughes and Chris Snelling, before Francisco Campos relieved. Against the South Korean national team, the left-hander didn't last through the 5th inning before Elmer Dessens took over. He gave up homers to Bum-ho Lee, Tae-kyun Kim and Young-min Ko.
Primary Sources: 2000-2006 Baseball Almanacs, The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros, "Under the Gun" by Dejan Kovacevic in the 4/3/06 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, World Baseball Classic
 Notable Achievements
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2007)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2004)