A Late Inning Perk? Perhaps.

For the second straight season, Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins suffered a second half swoon. This one was more pronounced, as the left-hander carried a 1.21 ERA into the All Star Break and a 7.32 mark afterward.

The decline came in pretty much every facet of Perkins’ game. He threw 37.1 innings in the first half but just 19.2 after the break due to neck and back issues that led some to question his conditioning. Nevertheless, even when he was healthy enough to pitch, he was getting blasted. Check out his opponents’ hitting splits:

First Half: .188/.217/.246 (.206 wOBA)
Second Half: .356/.394/.674 (.447)

They slugged .674! SIX. SEVENTY. FOUR. That’s 25 points higher than what NL MVP Bryce Harper slugged. Of course, any kind of physical issue dealing with the core is going to sap a pitcher’s effectiveness, and make his stuff much worse than it’d usually be.

So does this show up in his stuff? If so, when? Brooks Baseball shows pretty steady fastball velocity for Perkins throughout the season. His four-seamer — his bread and butter heater-wise — checked in at 94.8 mph on average in April, and only dipped below 94.5 in August (94.4) and September (94.1). Is a decline from 95.0 in July to 94.1 by the end of the season substantive enough to matter? That could be part of it.

His other main offering is the slider, which peaked at 83.3 in July and was 82.2 in August. With the added torque needed to throw the slider effectively, that might be a main culprit here. His whiff percentage on the slider fell from 24 percent in July (his high-water mark) to 20.5 percent in August and a meager 16.7 percent in September. This bottoming out in September adds up results-wise, as he posted an 8.22 ERA in 7.2 innings that month, which bumped his season ERA from 2.55 at the end of August to his season-ending mark of 3.32. Perkins also didn’t record a save after Sept. 1, and just three total after Aug. 1 — no doubt disappointing considering he started the season 28-for-28 through the first half in save opportunities.

Health issues also sabotaged the end of Perkins’ 2014 season, though they waited until late September to rear their ugly head there. Is two years enough of a pattern to say it’s worrisome? Is his previous workload as a starter hurting him a bit here? Or, is it really a conditioning issue? Maybe it’s just random variance in pitcher injuries, but to see it happen in back-to-back seasons is bound to make prospective fantasy owners a bit leery of rostering him.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll say that I still feel confident in Perkins as a closer. Especially in light of how much situations can change around the league, I think his role is safe on a team that’s bound to be relatively good again in 2016. For the first time since he’s been a closer, he has two really good handcuffs in Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen. Those are the guys I’d keep an eye on if for any reason you see shakiness or health issues from Perkins. But for now, the plan for the Twins is full steam ahead with their incumbent. “He’s fine,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan told St. Paul Pioneer Press Twins reporter Mike Berardino at the Winter Meetings last month. “He’s healthy. No issues.”

With that in mind, I think he’ll make for a decent stealth candidate in leagues where owners see his final stats and not how dominant he was in his (healthy) first half last year.

In addition to Rotographs, Warne writes about the Minnesota Twins for The Athletic and is a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

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