At the end of last week, Brewers GM David Stearns joked that he was nearing a month of inactivity when it comes to making a roster move affecting the big league roster. The team is still looking for some bullpen help, but as we've been noting, there are already a couple options on the roster to take over the 9th inning.
Both Corey Knebel and Jacob Barnes would be sound, logical choices. But as we've done these, another name has come up that's more of an out-of-the-box idea: Wily Peralta.
The big right hander rebounded from an ugly start to the season, returning to the big league team in August and putting up a 2.92 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 16 walks in his final 10 starts. It was an encouraging turnaround, and it's easy to forget that Peralta will still only be 28 this year. There's plenty of time for him to steady his performance and still be a solid piece of the starting rotation.
With that said, it's also been two years since Peralta was more than just replacement level as a starting pitcher. As impressive as he was in the second half of 2016, he needed that run just to finish above that mark, ending the year with 0.6 Baseball-Reference WAR/0.9 Fangraphs WAR.
Wily hasn't been a true asset in the rotation for a full season since 2014. Considering the Brewers' current starting pitcher logjam, with 6 or 7 guys going for 5 spots, shifting Peralta to the bullpen could solve two problems at the same time while also playing to his strengths.
In the rotation, Peralta has taken on a workhorse mentality, pitching to contact rather than racking up big strikeout totals in order to pitch deeper in games. Despite possessing mid-to-high 90s heat, Peralta carries a career 6.38 K/9 rate and a higher-than-average BABIP of .307. Plenty of people here can probably recall more than a few Peralta starts that turned into death by papercuts, where much of the damage was done on a parade of singles.
So why are so many of us enthralled with the idea of putting that guy into more high leverage situations? Much of it has to do with his repertoire and a perceived bump with a full-time move to the bullpen.
As a starter, Peralta throws four pitches -- a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider and a changeup. That's a decent selection of pitches, but there's a problem: two of them have been pretty god-awful pitches. As BP Milwaukee noted in 2016 shortly after Peralta got sent down, his sinker and changeup have been getting hammered for years now.
When guys find success after moving to the bullpen, often it's because they can cut out their worst offerings and lean on their best pitches. Most baseball people carry the belief that a starting pitcher needs three different pitches to make it through the batting order multiple times. Often, this leads to pitchers "developing" a subpar third pitch that they're probably just better off not throwing.
In Peralta's case, he has a very good slider and can throw his fastballs really hard. If he makes the switch to the bullpen, he can likely rely on those pitches to get three outs and potentially thrive. However, as Kyle mentioned in last week's mailbag, Peralta's arbitration status provides the Brewers plenty of incentive to find out once and for all whether he can stick as a starter. We'll probably see him as a part of the rotation to start the year again, but whether he ends the year there remains to be seen.
Statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs