It’s behind ESPN’s Insider firewall, but resident stathead/Royals fan Rob Neyer, after doing a little homework, has determined something that a lot of Mets fans already kind of knew in their hearts: New York “first starter” Oliver Perez is the single most unqualified Game Seven starter in the history of postseason baseball. Big talk, but what kind of evidence have you got, Rob?

I identified every pitcher who started an all-or-nothing game in a best-of-seven (or best-of-nine) postseason series, and then I entered his wins and his losses and his inning pitched and his earned runs allowed for that season, and then I entered the same stats for his career. Then I did some sorting, which quickly led to an inescapable conclusion.

Perez is almost certainly the worst pitcher who’s ever started a Game 7. There are 94 pitchers in the study. Perez won three games this season, which places him 94th on the list. His winning percentage this season was .188, which is 94th on the list. His career winning percentage is .411, which is 94th on the list. His career ERA is 4.67, which is 93rd on the list.

Can you put that in English, professor?

So, yes, fairly incontrivertable. But just because Oliver Perez has been serving up bombs at a crazy rate since his one decent season several years ago doesn’t mean all is despair.

If you’re a Mets fan, I hope you’re still reading, because I do have one shiny ray of hope. Remember Perez’s 4.67 career ERA, 93rd on the list? Well, Nos. 92 and 94 happen to be occupied by the same pitcher ¦ and that same pitcher happens to be starting for the St. Louis Cardinals tonight. That’s right, folks: No. 92 is Jeff Suppan’s 4.60 career ERA (through 2006), and No. 94 is Suppan’s 4.80 career ERA (through 2004).

For a bonus exercise, see if you can detect the sarcasm in Rob’s rundown of Willie Randolph’s other starting options. Hint: I bolded it.

If he didn’t pitch Oliver Perez, he’d have to pitch Darren Oliver, who hasn’t started a game in more than two years. If he didn’t pitch Darren Oliver, he’d have to pitch Steve Trachsel, who’s got an owie on his leg, and his teammates think he bailed out last time. If he didn’t pitch Steve Trachsel, he’d have to pitch Aaron Heilman, who’s thrown only a dozen pitches since last Friday and clearly isn’t ready to do something he did for many years before the Mets decided he couldn’t do it.

I respectfully submit that what Rob Neyer ought to do on the Heilman question is repeat the words “we don’t want to mess with our bullpen” as many times as he can before passing out. It’s not going to make the situation any more sensible, but at least he’ll understand the way I feel.