If Perez cannot improve on the inconsistent numbers that he produced over the past two and a half seasons with the Mets — that is, if he can’t ditch his maddening Jekyll and Hyde act — then the Mets may come to regret their investment. – Mets.com, February 3, 2009

If anyone, and by anyone I mean Mets fan, beat writer, New York columnist, sports talk show host, chief operating officer (Jeff Wilpon), general manager (Omar Minaya), manager (Jerry Manuel), can say without hesitation they honestly had no idea Oliver Perez was capable of this, you’re lying.

In five starts this season Perez has pitched 21 2/3 innings, allowed 24 earned runs, 28 hits and 24 walks. Perez has given up more earned runs and more walks than any other National League starter. Elias Sports Bureau added this historical note:

Perez’s ERA is now at 9.97, third-highest ever by a pitcher in his first five starts of a season for the Mets. Only Roger Craig, who had a whopping 14.59 ERA in his first five starts for the hapless 1962 Mets, and Jason Jacome, who posted a 10.29 ERA in the only five starts he made for the team in 1995.

In 75 starts as a New York Met (2006-2009), Oliver Perez is 27-22 with a 4.43 ERA (429 1/3 IP, 211 ER, 289 hits).

At what point during his employment with the Mets, even before with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres, have we seen consistency over a long stretch of starts? Never. Perez is an enigma. He’s been called the “Rubik’s Cube of pitching” by Mets TV analyst Ron Darling. The numbers back it up.

In seven seasons in the majors, three times Perez has finished with an ERA no lower than 5.47 (2003). In 2005, one year removed from his wildly successful year finishing 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA, Perez was 7-5 with a 5.85 ERA. In 2006, between New York and Pittsburgh his ERA was 6.55. In 2007 and 2008 he was a much better pitcher, but still inconsistent from month-to-month, start-to-start, inning-to-inning and batter-to-batter.

When Perez decided to test the free agent market after 2008, hoping to score a five-year, $75 million deal, general managers laughed when agent Scott Boras published his eight-chapter sales pitch, claiming Perez “Is One of Baseball’s Top 5 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers,” the equivalent of left-handed peers Johan Santana, Cole Hamels, Ted Lilly and C.C. Sabathia. And, of course, the glaring statement of the entire pitch:

In the chapter “Perez Turns Corner in 2006,” charts are used to argue that the pitching statistics for Perez, who is now 27, are similar to those of Randy Johnson and the Hall-of-Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax at the same age. What’s more, the charts argue that Perez’s control problems will improve, just like they did for Koufax and Johnson as they got older.

Spin the numbers and produce all the colorful pie charts your heart desires, Perez’ reputation preceded him. He is already branded by the label “inconsistent.”

But not Omar …

“I can tell you that some of our people liked Perez more than Derek Lowe,” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said the day the Mets signed Perez. “We wanted to come away with one of those guys. And to be able to do that, we really accomplished everything we set out to do this winter.”

… not Manuel …

“I like Oliver Perez. I think Oliver Perez has matured in our presence,” said Manuel last December. “I think he showed some consistency and I like the fact that when things got tough, big games, he was very good for us. From a manager’s point of view, I’d love to have Oliver Perez back. That’s not my department, (but) I’m hoping to see him back.”

The Mets management held out, hoping to sign Derek Lowe. When he landed in Atlanta the Mets started negotiating a deal to re-sign Perez. On February 2, the Mets announced the deal: three years, $36 million. Perez nearly doubled his annual salary, jumping from $6.5 million in 2008 to $12 million per season through 2011.

One month into the first year of his contract and Perez is being called “the worst pitcher money could buy ….” Kevin Kernan (New York Post), “The $36 million Titanic” (Amazing Avenue) and John Harper (New York Daily News) wrote, ” … Perez was so stunningly bad that the Mets have no choice but to put him on the Chien-Ming Wang program in search of dominance lost.”

“His confidence is shot,” Manuel said. “Seldom have I seen him in that form and fashion. He has thrown up a few flags. That’s a warning. I don’t see how he can’t be discouraged.”

How did this happen? Ask Omar Minaya.

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