COMMENTARY | It's been exactly a year since the Minnesota Twins' Glen Perkins started sharing closer duties, and his transition from replacement-level starter to dominant relief ace is complete. Perkins' performance out of the bullpen would make former Twins closer Joe Nathan proud.
Since getting his first save of the 2012 season on June 20, 2012, Perkins has 34 saves with a 2.21 ERA in 69 1/3 innings pitched and an 82/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His strikeout rate is 10.6 per nine innings. He's allowed only 46 hits for a WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) of 0.81.
Glen Perkins Has Been as Good as Former Closer Joe Nathan
For his career as a reliever, Nathan, who is a five-time All-Star, has a 2.40 ERA, a K/9 rate of 10.5, and a WHIP of 0.99. Over the last year, Nathan has a 2.91 ERA, a 10.1 K/9, and a WHIP of 1.05. Simply put, Perkins has been as good, if not better, than Nathan.
Since becoming a closer, Perkins has blown only four save chances, and three of those came in one-run games. He also hasn't taken the loss in any of the games he blew the save.
Perkins wasn't named the full-time closer for the Twins until the start of 2013, and he's only gotten better. Through Wednesday, June 19, Perkins has 18 saves in 20 chances with a 2.28 ERA, a 13.0 K/9, and a WHIP of 0.76. Nathan's career-bests for a full season were a 1.33 ERA in 2008, and a WHIP of 0.79 and a K/9 of 12.5 in 2006.
In his last nine outings covering nine innings, Perkins has allowed no runs on just two hits and no walks and 11 strikeouts. He's 8-for-8 in save chances in those nine outings as well.
The only downside to Perkins being the closer is that manager Ron Gardenhire refuses to use him before the ninth inning, and in a non-save situation if it is possible a save situation will still come up unless Perkins needs to get an inning in to stay fresh. This has limited Perkins' innings to the point that four Twins relievers have pitched more innings than Perkins despite him being clearly the Twins' best reliever.
Glen Perkins Was Moved to Bullpen When He Failed as a Starting Pitcher
What's amazing about Perkins is how much better he is as a reliever than he was as a starter. In his career, Perkins is 18-12 with a 5.06 ERA, a WHIP of 1.47, and a K/9 of 4.3, which is ridiculously low.
The Twins transitioned him to the bullpen in spring training of 2011 out of desperation. Perkins had an ERA near 6.00 in both Class AAA Rochester and with the Twins in 2010, and he was out of options. He had to make the major league roster or the Twins had to risk losing him by placing him on waivers to get him back to Rochester.
Perkins struggled so much as a starter, it would not have been surprising if he cleared waivers anyways. However, he was left-handed and healthy, so the Twins wanted to try him as a possible left-handed specialist out of the bullpen before trying to get him through waivers.
Perkins adapted to the role quickly and was the Twins' setup man by the end of the season. He was named the Twins' Pitcher of the Year for 2011 by the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America after going 4-4 with a 2.48 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.
Perkins' transformation actually got started in 2008. With the University of Minnesota and early in his career as a starter with the Twins, Perkins had always thrown a curveball as his breaking pitcher. However, on July 18, 2008, against the Texas Rangers, Perkins threw sliders in a game for the first time. Now he is almost exclusively a fastball and slider pitcher with both being dominant pitches.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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