Speculation has the newest signee for the Rays as right-handed relief pitcher Joel Peralta. He’s coming off a great season with the Washington Nationals, but those that are smart, know to look at more than one season when evaluating a player. I’ll present a number of key statistics here about who Senor Peralta has been, and what we can expect going forward. Here’s a look at some of his most important stats over the last three years:
All data courtesy of JoeLefkowitz.com
More after the jump…
Starting at the top, 2009 was a shortened year for Peralta, but in 2010 he threw nearly as many pitches as 2008. 2010 saw Peralta throw his least percentage of balls, while garnering a better rate of called and swing strikes. Throwing more strikes and less balls led led to him going from striking out 17% of batters faced* in 2008 to 20% in 2009 and 26% in 2010. While seeing his nIBB% go from 6% in 2008 to 9% in 2009 to 3% in 2010.
*Intentional walks have been removed from plate appearances for both walks and strikeouts
Particularly striking (did you see what I did there, did you?) was his whiff rate of 11.8% this past year. That’s pretty strong, for comparison Fangraphs has Rafael Soriano at 11.7% swing strike rate in 2010, but it remains to be seen if that is something he can maintain going forward. Joel’s SLGCON was extremely down from the previous two years, while only having a marginal difference of platoon advantage compared to 2008. He’s a real humanitarian when it comes to creatures that live in the grass as shown by roughly 1/4 of his balls in play being of the ground ball variety. The lowest number on the Rays last year was 30.6% by the Aussie, Grant Balfour, though Dan Wheeler and Rafael Soriano were both under 35%. I think Wheeler may end up being a good comparable for Peralta, at his best.
How about the pitches that he throws? For these purposes I’ve lumped all fastballs together. We can see that he threw his change up and curve ball more than the two previous years while continuing to go away from his fastball and slider. The slider is basically a non-entity over the last two years, but let’s take a look at his fastball velocity to see if he’s lost a bit and going away from it:
He looks pretty much in his normal range here so I think it makes sense that he’s finding a more optimal pitch mix by using it less. Lastly, we have the summary statistics where we can see, across the board, that 2010 was an extremely strong year, though definitely not anything close to the prior two seasons. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that he’s more like the guy in 08 and 09 than he was in 2010, but since I’m mostly brain and no heart I think the pitch mix is one indication that he’s better than he was in the prior two years. Let’s take a look at the average break on his pitches over these years:
Keep in mind that this is the average break as compared to a ball with no spin. Triangles are for 2010, diamonds are for 2009, circles for 2008. It would appear that his fastball (four-seamer for 2009-10, all fastballs for 2008) and change had more armside-run while his curve ball and slider had more dive away from right-handers. Sharper, more biting pitches are what we intuitively think of when we hear the term “stuff.” It looks like his stuff was indeed better in 2010, though this stuff is by no means predictive of future performance. The change is great for keeping oppo-handed batters honest, but if Dan Wheeler is our 2009 comparison then it’s more likely that he’ll be facing mostly righties where that good fastball really plays up. This could mean that we see more of the slider, though I think he’s better served by continuing to throw that sharp curve ball low-and-away and out of the zone. If he’s mostly facing righties, what can we expect? Here’s his splits over the last 3 years and for his career:
I think this highlights just how good he was in 2010, though it does seem a bit out of character, particularly against lefties. The thing is that as bad as his 2009 looked, he was still very good against righties and that bears out over his career as he’s only allowing a .300 wOBA against righties (to put that in perspective, Yuni Betancourt and Frankie Gutierrez both had an overall wOBA of .300 last year). That’s pretty strong, but meanwhile he’s turning lefties into Andrew McCutcheon, not so good. For these reasons I don’t think that signing Joel Peralta gives us another Joaquin Benoit or Rafael Soriano or, heck, even Grant Balfour, but he gives us a Dan Wheeler that can go out there and shut down righties. Pair him with a LOOGY and we’ve got a good match up guy. If you follow the Rays, at all, you should know by now that Joe Maddon is going to put these guys in position to succeed so we may seem him in that ROOGY roll to start, but I’m sure he’ll get some opportunities in low-leverage against lefties and perhaps he can be a guy that gets a little more responsibility. For now, it looks like we got a solid piece for less dollars and years than Randy Choate just got. For those that read this far, here’s his pitch charts for the last 3 years, though I won’t be covering any of this: