Rangers 12, White Sox 0
- When you follow the minor leagues as closely as most of us here do, you get used to disappointment. A player is drafted or signed as a free agent or traded for, and you get all enthusiastic about him, and then he struggles or gets hurt or doesn't pan out. And even when he makes it, he ends up not being quite as good as you would have hoped. There are exceptions, of course...Elvis Andrus is an exception for me, but then, he hardly counts, since he was only in the Rangers' system for less than two years before he debuted in the majors. Ian Kinsler was an exception, as well, but again, he didn't spend all that much time in the minor leagues before became a major leaguer.
- Martin Perez, on the other hand...Perez was signed in 2007. He pitched in the Northwest League as a 17 year old in 2008, and held his own. He cracked Baseball America's top 100 list after that season, and was on the list every year thereafter until he was no longer eligible. He was the Rangers' untouchable pitching prospect, the guy compared to Johan Santana, the guy the Rangers refused to discuss when negotiating to acquire Cliff Lee. And for a while, it looked like he was going to be another one of those disappointments we talked about. He struggled in the upper levels, and while he was young for where he was -- he first pitched in AA at age 18 -- the numbers were discouraging. 48 games at AA with a 4.95 ERA. 38 games at AAA with a 4.33 ERA. After being ranked the #17 prospect in baseball by BA heading into the 2010 season, Perez's status slowly slid, dropping to #24 the next year, #31 before 2012, and then all the way down to #81 before the 2013 season. Prior to 2013, even the Rangers seemed to have, if not given up on him, at least viewed him in a much different light. He was offered up to Arizona as part of a package -- and arguably, not even the best piece of the package -- in a deal for Justin Upton, and heading into spring training, 2013, with the #5 starter spot up for grabs, the talk was that Justin Grimm, rather than Perez, was the favorite for that position.
- Spring training 2013 seemed to be the turning point. Perez was having an impressive spring before suffering a broken bone on a comebacker that put him on the disabled list. But he handled his business, and other than one bad rehab start in Frisco where he gave up 8 runs, he pitched like the guy who was a top 20 prospect in the BA rankings a few years earlier. And when he pitched in the majors, he kept doing work, ultimately putting up a 3.62 ERA in 124.1 innings, stabilizing a rotation in the second half that was constantly in flux, and looking like one of the most reliable starters on the team down the stretch. Texas rewarded him in the offseason with a contract extension that could keep him in Texas through 2020, and right now, that contract looks like a steal.
- And so, for me, the offense tonight is an afterthought, despite putting up 12 runs. Tonight is about Martin Perez, age 23 years and 14 days, rewarding the Rangers for their patience. His first complete game shutout on a 3 hitter, with 8 Ks and a lone walk allowed. Tonight was the type of performance all of us who followed Perez's every outing the past five-plus years, who hoped that he'd figure it out and feared he never would, were hoping to see from him in a Ranger uniform. Tonight reminded us why the Rangers invest in their farm systems, and why we, as fans, follow these guys as they struggle to the majors. Because if you've been following Martin Perez since he came to the U.S., it makes tonight's game so much more special. And that's for someone like me...I can't imagine what this is like for someone like Scott Lucas. As he tweeted tonight:
@lonestarball Favorite guy in my years of doing this. Faintly like watching your kid grow up. Seen him at his worst & then reach potential.— Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas) April 19, 2014
- Perez now has a 1.86 ERA on the year, and is 4th among major league pitchers in fWAR. He's really good.
- As for the offense, they got up on the ChiSox early, and never let up. First and foremost, the Rangers got a big game from Prince Fielder. He was walked intentionally in the first, and then was hit by a pitch his next time up, but then had a double, a single and a walk in his final three plate appearances. As I've pointed out quite frequently, Fielder has been brutally bad so far this year, and the Rangers really need him to be good. This was a quality performance from him tonight, and hopefully, its an indication he's getting back on track.
- Alex Rios, Robinson Chirinos, Leonys Martin and Jim Adduci all had three hit nights, with Leonys coming up a double short of the cycle. Kevin Kouzmanoff joined Prince Fielder in the two-hit club, while Elvis Andrus went 1 for 2 with a pair of walks before being lifted late in the game for Josh Wilson.
- Texas is now 10-7, and has the third best record in the A.L. And still has one-third of its anticipated starting lineup, and 40% of its anticipated starting rotation, on the disabled list. Feel good about where we are right now...