The Milwaukee Brewers won last night’s tilt against the Boston Red Sox, thanks once again to baseball’s #5 offense. The Brewers erupted for 11 runs and were able to overcome yet another lackluster start from one Wily Peralta, who failed to get through five innings even after being staked to a 6-1 lead. Peralta melted down in the top of the fifth before getting pulled with 96 pitches, ultimately allowing 4 earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched once the dust had settled.
Wily’s first start of the year - 5 scoreless innings against Colorado on April 5th - helped provide a glimmer of hope that he was on his way to being at least a serviceable major league starter. The former top prospect teased us with his mid-rotation potential when he won 17 games and posted a 3.53 ERA/4.11 FIP back in 2014, but ever since then Peralta has been essentially batting practice fodder for most of the lineups that he’s faced. After last night’s contest, his ERA stands at 5.30 through 35.2 innings, with a 5.25 FIP and 6.41 DRA supporting his lack of effectiveness.
Through it all, Peralta is still basically the same pitcher that he was back when he debuted in 2012. Unlike Jimmy Nelson, who has attempted to add pitches, vary his pitch usage, and shift his zone profile throughout his career in an effort to take that next step, Peralta remains heavily reliant on his four-seam/two-seam/slider combination. He’s always favored the low and glove-side portion of the strike zone, and that remains true in 2017. The fact of the matter is that his strategy just isn’t working, and it hasn’t been for a long time.
Peralta’s velocity is currently at a career-best level (though some of that may have to do with the new league-wide pitch tracking system) and sure, his current 7.82 K/9 would be a the highest mark he’s ever posted. Yet somehow, his swinging strike rate has plummeted from 8.5% last season to a career-worst 6.6% this year, which is 9th-worst among all qualifying pitchers. For some reason, batters have swung less at only 57.9% of his pitches in the zone this year, almost 8% less often than his career average, but that is rather unlikely to be sustainable.
So we should probably expect some regression in the K department, which is bad news since Wily’s 4.04 BB/9 is also the worst total of his career. He’s hitting the zone less frequently than his career average (42.1% versus 43.9%) and giving up hard contact (35.2%) and home runs (1.77 HR/9) at his highest levels ever. He’s not even much of a ground ball pitcher anymore, either. Peralta has seen his ability to induce worm-burners steadily decline from a 53.6% GB rate in 2014 to 51.6% in 2015 to 50% last year. He’s now at just a 44.3% mark, which is a shade below league average.
Wily Peralta is 28 years old, nearly 700 innings into his major league career, and hasn’t shown the ability to make adjustments at the big league level. He’s no longer a young arm that is “trying to figure things out.” By now, it might be fair to say that he is what he is: a well below-average starting pitcher. His last three seasons of work have produced an ERA- of 116 and FIP- of 115, and he appears to be taking another step in the wrong direction this season.
With Junior Guerra on the mend and reportedly nearing a rehab assignment, the Brewers will soon be faced with a decision about who to drop from the starting rotation. From where I sit, it’s a rather simple one - Wily Peralta should simply no longer be taking the ball every fifth day for the Milwaukee Nine. Perhaps a move to the bullpen can rejuvenate the big righty’s floundering career, otherwise a non-tender this fall is becoming more and more a plausible outcome.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus