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Martín Pérez could be a potential surprise in the Red Sox rotation

He was very solid in the first half of 2019.

Boston Red Sox Summer Camp Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

There’s no question the Red Sox’ rotation is, to put it delicately, lacking this year. With Chris Sale opting for Tommy John and Eduardo Rodriguez starting the year on the injured list, it’s looking like the rotation to start the year will consist of:

1. Nathan Eovaldi

2. Martin Perez

3. Zack Godley

4. Ryan Weber

5. Brian Johnson

That is... not ideal. Even with a great lineup, the Red Sox will need solid stretches from a few of those starters. I’m hoping Martín Pérez can be one of those guys, just as he was for the Twins in the first half of last year. While he did not finish the year well, he had a solid 95 innings pre-All-Star break, pitching to the tune of a 3.71 FIP. In the second half however, he seemed to wear down, striking out fewer batters — his strikeout rate dropped from 20.7 percent in the first half to 15.3 percent after the break — and giving up tons of home runs.

A big part of his breakdown can be attributed to luck. For example, the average HR/FB% in the majors usually hovers around 10.5%. Perez’ first half HR/FB% was an expected 9.1%, but ballooned to an unsustainable 21.1% in the second half. In addition, his rate of contact allowed stayed virtually the same between the first and second half. The percent of hard-hit balls against him even decreased ever so slightly.

For all of 2019, Statcast has Perez’ exit velocity allowed in the top 4 percent of the league and hard-hit rate allowed in the top 7 percent. Finally, his xERA (expected ERA) was 4.05, compared to his actual ERA of 5.12. It appears that Perez had a much better year than traditional stats seem to show.

With such a short season this year, the average starter is only expected to make 11 or 12 starts. If Perez can replicate his first half from last year, it will be a major help to this Red Sox staff. The underlying numbers show he has the potential to do it, but will he regress? Or will luck get the better of him again?