Should The Rays Be Worried About Joel Peralta?
Joel Peralta’s Struggles Extend To 2013
Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times points out that in Tuesday’s loss to the Orioles Peralta threw six fastballs among his 21 pitches and that his percentage of fastballs has decreased each of the last four seasons from 55.4 in 2011 to 37.4 thus far in 14 appearances this year. The fastball is also averaging a career low 88.8 miles per hour.
The slow start for Joel Peralta is concerning since it appears to be a continuation of his struggles at the end of the 2013 season.
From September 1st of last year to his appearance Tuesday night against Baltimore he has apperaed in 28 games and in 26.1 innings of work has allowed 18 runs (16 earned) on 21 hits (including five home runs, stuck out 25, walked 15 (one intentional), and hit a batter. In that span of time the opposition has posted a triple slash line of .214/.325/.388 against him.
After the All-Star break last year Joe Maddon often spoke of wanting to limit Peralta’s appearances to avoid running him into the ground.
On July 29th the front office orchestrated a trade for Jesse Crain in hopes that he would come back from injury and take some of the innings and if he could not there was the possibility that Juan Carlos Oviedo may be able to return from his injury and provide help in September.
Neither Crain or Oviedo made an appearance for the Rays in 2013 and Peralta made a career high 80 appearance topping his previous career high of 76 set in 2012.
By the end of the year he was running on fumes and despite the Rays success in September he struggled. His fastball velocity was still there (90 mph) but his command was not. Despite striking out a batter an inning (14K/13.1IP) he issued 9 unintentional walks and allowed ten runs (eight earned) on eight hits including two home runs resulting in an ugly 5.40 ERA.
An offseason of rest and a light load in spring training was the hopeful remedy for him but thus far in 2014 the benefits have not surfaced.
In nearly the same amount of work as he had in September of last year (13 innings) he has allowed eight earned runs on thirteen hits including three home runs and has struck out fewer batters (11) while walking fewer (5). The opposition is posting a robust slash line of .255/.333/.451 against him.
Over the past several seasons he has been referred to by Joe Maddon as the best left handed reliever in baseball because of his success against left-handed batters holding them to a triple slash line of .164/.236/.286 but in 2014 lefties are hitting .310/.355/.448 against him.
There is no denying the value that Peralta has provided the Rays bullpen over the last few season but the question has to be asked if he is now paying the price for the heavy workload he has endured over the past three seasons
He has made over 70 appearances in each of the last three seasons and his 227 appearances over that span of time are the most of any reliever in the major leagues. He also had been used to face the toughest part of the lineup facing the oppositions three through five spots more than any otehr holding them to a .179 (48 for 268) average and held number three hitters to a 0.085 average (7 for 82).
The Rays depend on Joel Peralta to work the higher leverage innings, serve as the second lefty in the pen, and face the oppositions best hitters. If he is unable to pitch like he did prior to September of last year the Rays will have a large void to fill in their bullpen and more than likely it will take more than one arm to fill all the roles.
As for now Joe Maddon will continue to utilize him to fill that role but if the results don’t turn around quickly the question to be answered is for how long does he stick with his guy?