Based on the start of this season, the baseball gods appear to have mixed feelings toward Wily Peralta. The Dominican right-hander caught some bad breaks in the first two months of the year, receiving just four wins despite a sparkling 2.73 ERA. Yet in June, although Peralta’s ERA ballooned by a run and a half, his fortune apparently improved. Last month Peralta compiled a mediocre 4.22 ERA but still had more wins (5) than any pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. Adding to the complexity of the situation, however, are the advanced metrics that reveal Peralta actually was unlucky in June. Overall, Brewers fans can expect Peralta to continue his impressive performance through the second half of the season.
As noted, Peralta’s June struggles were largely due to bad luck. He posted his highest monthly BABIP of the year (.310), an average that ranks well above his career norm. As a result, it is reasonable to assume that these difficulties were merely aberrational. Similarly, Peralta stranded only 68.8% of base runners in June. Once again, this total represents a severe deterioration from the first two months of the season (Peralta stranded 76.7% and 83.3% of base runners in April and May respectively). Since Peralta stranded fewer runners in June than he has throughout his career (70.4%), fans can expect Peralta’s luck to improve on this score.
In fact, Peralta actually had a great June when you factor out the bad luck. Peralta compiled a very respectable Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.70 last month, a mark that ranks better than his 4.34 FIP in April or the 3.82 total he posted in June. Apparently Peralta’s high ERA last month came about as a result of factors he could not control. As a result, Peralta’s trends appear headed in the right direction.
Other substantive measures support the idea that Peralta’s performance has improved as the season progresses. First of all, Peralta has increased his command. Peralta’s BB/9 rate has improved from 2.63 in May to 1.97 in June. Impressively, Peralta has bettered his strike-zone percentage for both of his primary pitches, the fastball and the slider. Peralta has also managed to improve his ground ball rates. His ground ball to fly ball ratio started at 2.04 in April before dipping to 1.84 the next month. However, in June the number rebounded to a healthy 2.12 GB/FB, demonstrating a positive trend. By comparison, Peralta’s 1.99 GB/FB ratio for the full season ranks 8th in the National League. Given the aerial tendencies of Marco Estrada, Brewers fans should certainly appreciate a good ground ball pitcher.
At only 25 years old, Peralta should factor very prominently into Milwaukee’s long-term plans. He remains the only Brewers starting pitcher that has not yet qualified for arbitration. As a result, almost any level of production would make Peralta’s $515,000 salary seem like a bargain. Still, in the not-so-distant future, Peralta may need to be a centerpiece of the staff. Neither Yovani Gallardo nor Kyle Lohse is signed beyond the 2015 season. Estrada’s arbitration eligibility means that his salary will likely rise as steadily as his ERA has. The other starter locked in for the long haul, Matt Garza, will hardly seem like a bargain when 2018 rolls around. By process of elimination, Peralta remains the only cheap, young starter that Milwaukee controls for the long term. Fortunately for the Brewers, Peralta projects to be a valuable player throughout his tenure in Milwaukee.