How Long is Wily Peralta’s Leash?

You’ve seen the numbers. We don’t need to talk about Wily Peralta’s 10.13 ERA, his 5.40 BB/9, or his 2.7 HR/9 this season. You’ve seen the PITCHf/x statistics. We don’t need to talk about the alarming rate at which his whiff rates have decreased, the decline in his GB%, or his troubling inability to keep the ball down in the zone. We don’t need to talk about these things, because we’ve been seeing it for a while now: Peralta is in a rut.

Throughout Spring Training, Peralta and his manager Craig Counsell were broken records, continuously feeding reporters the same line: “It’s just Spring Training.” And yes, none of the 23 runs -14 earned – that Peralta surrendered in his 20 innings of work in the Cactus League counted. But his struggles, carried over from last season and now carried forward into this one, indicate a pitcher who is obviously not working with his best stuff.

Peralta entered the league delivering immediately on the promise that made him a consensus Top 100 prospect as a 23-year-old in 2012. Peralta made five September starts that season (as well as a single April relief appearance), recording a 2.48 ERA and 2.74 DRA over 29 innings. The performance landed him in the starting rotation to begin 2013.

From there, Peralta’s career has been a yo-yo. In his sophomore season he took a bit of a step back as the league adjusted to him, and he to it: he finished 2013 with an ERA of 4.37 and a DRA of 4.54. Peralta’s broke out in his age 25 year in 2014, throwing up a 3.53 ERA, bringing his BB/9 down under three for the first time, and logging a 1.4 WARP, the highest of his career. Expected to help anchor the staff last season with Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza, all three failed spectacularly as the Brewers’ fringe postseason hopes erupted in hellfire. Peralta finished the season with an ERA and DRA of 4.72 and 5.85, respectively, a WHIP of 1.54 and 5.0 K/9, all career worsts.

Peralta was especially poor in the final two months of last season, putting up a 5.73 ERA over 10 starts and failing to pitch in the seventh inning in September. His struggles to end the season last year, the disappointing numbers from Spring Training, and the disastrous start to this season through his first three starts paint a grim picture of a pitcher who has lost his way.

Of course, it’s much too early to consider a potential move out of the rotation for Peralta, either to the bullpen or to the minor leagues – Peralta does have options available, though he’d need to pass through revocable waivers in order for Milwaukee to make that move. However, let’s flip it forward to the second week of May, when Matt Garza is ready to return from the disabled list. Zack Davies, who will start on Sunday in place of the injured veteran, has been dealing for a month, and is proving that his cameo last September was no fluke. Meanwhile Peralta has continued to struggle, limping to a 6.72 ERA and still having failing to pitch in the seventh inning. What then? Can the rebuilding Brewers justify sending down a promising 23-year-old who is proving himself at the highest level in favor of a 27-year-old who isn’t?

Hopefully this speculation is all for naught, and the prolonged rough patch Peralta is going through dating back to last August is simply a bump in the road. But Davies isn’t the only pitcher waiting in the wings: top pitching prospect Jorge Lopez is nearly ready for his time, and the Brewers will need to make room for him soon. Josh Hader and Adrian Houser, both at Double-A Biloxi to start the year, will be knocking on the door soon, too. The plan for some time has seemed to be that Peralta and Jimmy Nelson would slot in somewhere among the Brewers’ next wave of prospects on their next competitive team. If Peralta can’t figure things out soon, however, he may find himself in the same category as fellow veterans Garza and Jonathan Lucroy in the Brewers’ long term plans: expendable.

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