Delusions of Grandeur

When the Giants signed Neifi Perez to a multi million-dollar deal in the offseason, I, like a lot of people, thought he was being highly overpaid. He has performed fairly well as a back-up player, and has won over a number of fans. However, there is a rising group of people among Giants fans who have been lobbying for Neifi to take a fulltime starting job, either now over the NL Player of the Week Rich Aurilia, or next season. Let's not get carried away now.

Neifi Perez comes into this weekend batting .276, which is undoubtedly a pleasant surprise to anyone who was familiar with Neifi's troubles in Kansas City last year. Baseball Prospectus, that lovable group of SabreGeeks, called Neifi Perez "the worst hitter in major league history' before the season began. Now, that's probably an exaggeration. Probably. His hitting this year in fairly limited at-bats has appeared to be good. But, a deeper look at the stats reveals just how incredibly bad Neifi Perez is.

Let's start with his ability to get on base. Neifi has never been a pure power hitter (more on that later), so one thing a guy like Perez needs is to be able to get on. Now, Neifi's batting averages throughout his career seem nice (between .279 and .291 from '97 to '01), but all of those numbers were during his years in Coors Field. He was traded to Kansas City in the middle of '01, the worst of those years. However, then he played a full year in KC, and batted a paltry .236. That's bad enough. Then you take a look at his On Base Percentage, which factors in walks, and it gets worse. For most of the majors, an OBP of .350 is considered good, .400 is very good, and .450 is excellent. The highest OBP percentage Perez has ever had is .333 in a short year in '97. It was .260 last year in KC, and is only .301 so far this year. Or, you can compare his .301 OBP to the league OBP of .345. This is indicative of an impatient batter who doesn't take walks, a bad thing for a hitter like Neifi.

Now, a lot of players who can't get on base consistently are forgiven through their power. Neifi's power is, well, nonexistent. And I mean nonexistent. In 217 AB's this season, he has 0 home runs. None. Only two players in the majors have more AB's with no home runs, the power weak Dodger's SS Cesar Izturis and Minnesota outfielder Christian Guzman. And Perez has never, ever had power. He played five years in Coors field, the most offensive happy ballpark in history, and never had more than 12 HR's. That is incredibly poor power numbers. Overall, his Slugging Percentage is a weak .364 compared to a .439 league average.

Look, I'm no idiot. I know power isn't everything, but the people who can't even hit batting practice fastballs out must have other offensive skills to help the team. Quite frankly, Neifi can neither hit for average, nor for power.

Neifi does have some speed, but he rarely utilizes it. His 4 triples are a result of him using his speed with the gaps of Pac Bell Park, but he still has only 3 steals on the year. Compare that to Bonds, who at the old age of 39 has admittingly lost a step and doesn't run the bases with the same flash as years ago. However, Bonds has 7 on the season. Someone of Neifi's speed should do better than that.

So, while Neifi's average looks deceptively good, you can see it's an empty average.

Neifi: .276 AVG, .301 OBP, .364 SLG
League Avg: .274 AVG, .345 OBP, .439 SLG

And yes, that league average includes pitchers.

But lets look even further.

Looking at Neifi's splits, some more interesting numbers show up. One of the biggest is comparing Neifi's average with men on to his average with nobody on. With the bases empty, Neifi is hitting a nice .325. But with someone on base, a key time to be able to hit, Neifi's average drops to a shallow .213. With runners in scoring position, his average is slightly better, at .235. However, those are still poor averages, and in both cases his OBP is under .300. That means, that more than 7 of every 10 times up to continue a rally, Neifi doesn't do anything. The only team with an OBP of under .300 with men on is the team of wiffle bats in Detroit, who will need a miracle to lose less games than the Giants win this year. Even the Giants, with their well-documented problems getting those knocks with men on, has a team average of .351.

As I mentioned before, all of Neifi's decent numbers have come at Coors Field in the past. That's true of this year, as well. At Coors this year, against his old team, Neifi hit .500 with 3 doubles and a triple in 18 at bats. Take that away from Neifi's numbers, and his averages drop to .256/.283/.326. Maybe we should trade him back there. Like the commercial says, Filter what you don't need, keep what's good. Too bad the Neif doesn't have much of anything good.

But then there's the subject of defense. Yes, Neifi is, in general, a very good defender. He's got good range and can usually get a glove on whatever he gets to. However, Neifi isn't pure gold, in my mind. What I see when I watch Neifi is someone who doesn't have his head in the game. Look at last Friday night in the first inning. Neifi receives the throw from the outfield into second, with the Padres runner hung up between second and third, having turned around to get back to second, towards Neifi, in a desperate attempt to not get out. Neifi, however, turns and threw without looking, allowing the runner to stay on base and later come in for the first run of the game. Now, certainly it was Neifi's job to get that ball to third as quickly as possible if the runner is going to third, but part of the relay has to be to check where the runner is so you don't throw into him and let the ball get away. Neifi never checked, and therefore someone who should have been out wasn't. And this isn't rare thing with the Neif.. He will cut off EVERY ball within reach if he can, even the ones that should be let through to at least make good plays. This lack of concentration is what has led him to wear out his welcome in both Colorado and Kansas City.

Hey, I'll admit that Richie has been having a disappointing season. His 2001 hitting in front of Barry was certainly the aberration of his career, but he should be better. Perhaps he's getting there, after winning the NL player of the week. He's still also under league average with his numbers when compared to the league, at .269/.316/.413, but those numbers are still worlds above the bottom feeding Perez. More important, though, is that Aurilia appears to care about the game when he's in it. I just don't see that in a guy like Neifi. Even if this is Richie's last year with SF, he remains an improvement over the Perez option.

Look, I'm not trying to say that Neifi isn't a quality back up. In spot starts and coming in as a defensive replacement, he's done an excellent job for us, as much as could be expected, if not more. His value is in that, overpaid though he may be. However, don't let his performance in limited games fool you. While his defense is excellent, we are already the top defensive team in the league without him starting. This man is not a quality major league starter, and his presence on our team, as such would dramatically affect our team's performance.



Love me, hate me, idolize me, or laugh at me, just don't ignore me. Let me know what you think: write me at kevin@ugcfilms.com .

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