May 14, 2017 was an important day for Wily Peralta. Having been blasted by Boston for four runs over four and one-third innings in his previous start, he carried a 5.30 ERA into a home start against the Mets. Peralta’s sinker had become increasingly ineffective, even as Peralta had been relying on it more. His command-which was never his strong suit-had been terrible. And in what was an opportunity to restore his team’s confidence in him as a starter, Peralta fell apart. He labored through 4 and 1/3 innings of seven-run ball (six earned), although the Brewers would go on to win, 11-9.
That would be it for Wily in the starting rotation, though. On May 17, the Brewers announced he would transition to the bullpen, a change many (including me) thought would be a positive change. Peralta has many faults as a pitcher, but it’s never been his raw stuff; his heavy sinking fastball and biting slider had people positively salivating for his debut when Zack Greinke went down with a freak injury in early 2011. The results, though, have never matched that potential.
The move to the bullpen seemed great for a few reasons. Peralta would no longer have to worry about facing the same hitters multiple times. He wouldn’t have to worry about extending himself over six or seven innings (something that, until the end of last season, appeared to happen relatively infrequently) and could give full effort, especially on his high-90s fastball. And management could select his usage, reserving him for those situations in which Peralta’s frequent mistakes might not be so heavily punished.
Instead, Peralta has been absolutely pounded out of the pen. In 13 and 2/3 innings, he’s allowed sixteen runs, walking nearly as many against fourteen strikeouts. The move to the bullpen has actually ballooned his ERA from 6.08 to 7.21, and factoring in defense improves it substantially but still shows Peralta is a poor pitcher (5.00 FIP). Peralta has not allowed a run in only two of his nine appearances, and last night he turned a 4-1 game (still well within reach for this offense) into an 8-1 blowout against the Pirates.
Somehow, Peralta still might wind up being an above-replacement level player for the season. And his poor performance wouldn’t even be an issue if the Brewers weren’t still in first place in mid-June. But the fact that they are only puts added pressure on the team to put the best players on the field, which means there are precious few innings to allow Peralta to continue to acclimate to his new role. A minor league assignment is out of the question; Peralta has no options.
And so, as Craig Counsell put it after last night’s game, “it’s getting tough.” It’s getting tough for the team, tough for fans, tough for management to watch Wily Peralta flail in hopes of rekindling the hope everyone once had for him. This seems the definition of a “fresh start” situation for a player. It’s time to move on.