Being a Friday starter is a big deal. It means you set the tone for each weekend series and that you are expected to be the best pitcher on the team. In 2016, the Cincinnati Bearcats had two of them in Andrew Zellner and J.T. Perez. Then last year hit and both pitchers struggled to find success again. Zellner’s ERA ballooned to 5.98 and Perez was pitching out of the bullpen down the stretch.
Perez is back in the rotation this year and the pressure on him has been heavy since Zellner graduated. With Zellner gone, Perez has had to be the ace for the Bearcats. I’m happy to report that’s just what he’s been.
Yesterday, Perez tossed another gem as his redemption tour brought him to face Houston. He threw seven gorgeous innings, allowing five hits, a walk and three unearned runs, while striking out five. While the Bearcats took the loss in the game, it wasn’t Perez’s fault, as he certainly put them in a position to win. That’s what you want from your Friday starter.
Overall, Perez has pitched 43 innings in the 2018 season and in that time has posted a 2.51 ERA and a WHIP of 1.2093. He has pitched at least six innings five times, including a season-high of eight against Tennessee when he allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out five. Speaking of strikeouts, if there is one area Perez could still improve on, its in piling up the Ks. He has 34 total this season, which equates to a respectable 7.1 per nine innings, but is not at the lofty heights of USF’s Shane McClanahan and Houston’s Trey Cumbie.
Perez has also gotten very little run support, with the Bearcats averaging 3.4 runs per game when he starts. Of course, its unlikely UC will ever be scoring in huge bunches when Perez is scheduled to pitch, since he is usually facing the opposing team’s best pitcher, but a few more knocks would go a long way in making sure Perez’s return to acehood isn’t wasted. The Bearcats’ next chance to do so will be next Friday when they host the Memphis Tigers because Fridays at Marge Schott Stadium belong to Perez once more.