There’s no one out there that wants to see Wily Peralta succeed more than me, unless someone somewhere has money invested in his success. But that’s the only scenario.
When Peralta was in the minors, I was excited about him, as was everyone. He was always considered one of Milwaukee’s top prospects, and while I realize that’s not saying much when looking at the team’s past farm systems, he was still exciting nonetheless. His fastball exceeded 95 mph and he boasted admirable minor league stats; of course we were going to be waiting on the edge of our seats for him. During Peralta’s first full season as a major league starter (2013), he pitched like a bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, but followed that up with a “breakout” performance last season. I put the word “breakout” in quotes because yes, he broke out in terms of wins (17) and ERA (3.53), but he didn’t do enough to prove his success was sustainable. And that’s why I caution people to expect big, unreasonable things from him in 2015.
The statistic that sticks out to me the most is Peralta’s Fielding Independent Pitching. FIP is my favorite pitching statistic because it eliminates luck and is the best indicator of a pitcher’s performance. Peralta posted a 4.11 FIP last year, meaning when we look at all the things a pitcher can control (walks, hit batters, strikeouts and home runs), he was a below average pitcher (league average FIP was 3.74). A big reason for this is due to his HR/FB ratio being the second-highest among starting pitchers. Now, if he can find some way to keep the ball in the park (he can start by keeping his fourseam fastball away from the middle of the plate), he should be okay, but in his two big league seasons, he hasn’t figured how to do that yet. His HR/FB has actually gotten worse each season.
Another thing that worries me about Peralta is his strikeout rate. For a guy who averages 95.6 mph on his fastball, 95.8 mph on his sinker and 85.6 on his slider, his strikeout numbers should be a lot higher than they are. In 2014 there were nine qualified pitchers who averaged velocities of 94 mph or more on their fastball. Of those nine, Peralta ranked seventh in K%. He needs to start getting more hitters out via the strikeout, because not only with that limit the number of home runs he allows, but it should decrease his BABIP as well.
However, while those are two reasons to be cautious about Peralta, there are plenty of stats that bode well for him, and it would be unwise of me to leave them out just to strengthen my argument. Despite his K% being low, it has still increased over the last two seasons, so hopefully that’s a trend that will continue. Meanwhile, he’s started to walk less as he saw his walk rate drop considerably in 2014. His ground ball rate is also in very good shape — 51.0% in ’13 and 53.6% in ’14.
But, in order to have a real “breakout” season, the two things Peralta needs to do in 2015 season is limit the home runs and raise his strikeout rate.