Joel Peralta doesn’t overpower hitters with a 95 mph fastball and like a closer when he has a bad game it is usually reflected in a loss for the Rays. As this season has gone on there seems to be more and more questions asked on talk radio, on blogs, and directly to manager Joe Maddon as to what is wrong with Joel Peralta?
The questions tend to focus on whether Peralta is fatigued? After the All-Star game Maddon admitted that he is going to try and find some rest for Peralta who at the time led the American League in appearances and over the past 3 seasons leads all major league pitchers in appearances with 208.
In hopes of adding another high leverage arm to the back end of the bullpen to alleviate some of the wear and tear on Peralta the Rays acquired Jesse Crain, who was on the disabled list, with hopes of having him available down the stretch. .
Crain has yet to appear in a game with the Rays but his rehabilitation program has progressed to the point where he is travelling with the team which is always a good sign. In the meantime Joel Peralta keeps answering the bell and still leads the American League in appearances with 61.
This season Peralta has had trouble commanding the strike zone and has a career high 24 walks in just 53 innings of work. His previous career mark was 19 walks in 87.2 innings back in 2007 while he was a member of the the Kansas City Royals. Have his struggles with command dramatically affected his performance this season?
Through 61 appearances last year he had worked nearly the same number of innings and his overall results were nearly identical:
Last year he did not allow a run in 48 of his first 61 appearances. Of his first 61 appearances this year he has held the opposition scoreless in 47 outings. Other than his increasing walk total and decreasing strike out total there is a positive difference between his 2012 and 2013 seasons. In 2012 he allowed 35% (9 of 26) of his inherited runners to score while this season he has only allowed 9% (2 of 22) of his inherited runners to score.
Peralta will take the ball whenever he is called upon. Despite not having overwhelming velocity and having the occasional hiccup he is one of the best setup men in the major leagues.
His numbers are seldom against the soft spot in a lineup. According the the Rays media notes, in his Rays career he has faced the 3-4-5 batters more than any otehr spots in hh order holding them to a .173 average (44 for 245) and opponents number 3 hitters have hit .082 against him the lowest in the majors over that span (min 50 at-bats).
Despite the problem with his command he has been just as effective in 2013 as he was in 2012. He has improved on retiring inherited runners and has held the opposition to fewer home runs. As the Rays head toward their final stretch it would certainly be nice to have some late inning support to take some of the workload off his shoulders. The fatigue may eventually affect his performance at some point but it hasn’t as of now.