Wily Peralta: A Tale Of Two Sliders | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Over his last five starts, right-hander Wily Peralta has lowered his ERA from 6.08 to 4.61. He’s only allowed four earned runs over that stretch (33.1 innings), and on Monday, I pointed out how Peralta drastically turned his season around last summer, which was roughly the same time as this year.

We’ve noted how his command has slightly improved and how his strikeout rate has increased over the last five starts, but it’s not enough to merely state Wily Peralta has increased his strikeout rate. It’s much more important to understand why his strikeout numbers have experienced a slight jump.

The 24-year-old hurler features a mid-90s sinker that can be devastating to opposing hitters. Few guys regularly run a true sinker into the 94-96 mph range, but at the big-league level, it’s rarely enough to have one plus-pitch. His success hinges upon the effectiveness of his slider. His breaking ball was largely absent earlier this season, and when he did throw his slider, it was more of a show-me pitch rather than a pure secondary offering. He’s gotten more comfortable with the pitch, though, and he’s featured it more heavily as the season has progressed.

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The above chart depicts how Peralta would often throw his slider fewer than 20 times per game — despite the fact he was still throwing 80-100 pitches — but that number has increased to 20-30 (or even more) in his last ten starts. Though it’s partially speculation, it’s likely not a coincidence his increased reliance on his slider has coincided with a 3.06 ERA in his last ten starts.

Featuring more sliders is great. The real test, though, comes with the effectiveness, and Peralta has been throwing his slider much better in recent weeks. He’s inducing more swinging-strikes with his slider. That has proven to be a struggle for the right-hander throughout the season, but he has missed more bats in recent starts and greater success has understandably followed.

(click to enlarge)

Perhaps it’s not groundbreaking to learn Peralta has gotten more swings-and-misses with his slider since he’s started to throw it more often, but it’s been a significant factor in his recent improvement. His slider was one of the main reasons he punched out eight Diamondbacks during his most-recent start on July 14. He was able to bury his breaking ball against left-handed batters, which is something he struggled to accomplish earlier in the year.

The interesting thing about Peralta’s slider is that he actually possesses two separate versions of his slider. One is a slower, gentler pitch that’s meant to find the strike zone earlier in the count, while the other is more violent and more vertical and serves as his put-away pitch when he’s ahead of the hitter.

Here’s an example of the first version of slider mentioned above. It came against Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds in his complete-game shutout on July 9.

In this instance, he was able to generate a swinging strike, but this pitch was meant to avoid the fastball and get ahead in the count. Peralta generally throws this version of his slider in the 83-85 mph range. Occasionally, this pitch can get a little flat on the right-hander, and it can be more hittable. On this pitch to Phillips, though, Peralta was able to get on top of the pitch and achieve the two-plane movement that’s desired on a slider.

It’s slight, but it doesn’t have to be anything dramatic for Peralta to be successful with it. The pitch is meant to be a get-me-over slider earlier in the count, so opposing hitters cannot simply sit on his sinker — which is obviously what Brandon Phillips was doing in the above clip. Peralta fooled him with the slider, and it allowed him to position himself in the driver’s seat for the at-bat.

His other slider is not meant to be thrown in the strike zone. It’s his two-strike wipeout slider for when he’s trying to strikeout the opposing batter. A good example of this slider came against Jason Kubel of the Diamondbacks on July 14.

Peralta has no trouble getting two-plane movement on this slider, as it doesn’t break as much horizontally as it does vertically. It’s very difficult to command, but it can be a true difference-maker for him when he’s throwing it properly. It breaks sharply and is thrown with more velocity — which can be seen in the above graphic, as his put-away pitch to Kubel clocked at 87 mph.

At times, it’s been frustrating to watch Wily Peralta this season. He has a chance to be a valuable mid-rotation starter for the Brewers over the next half-decade — his pure stuff makes that obvious — but a combination of bad luck and inconsistent performance led to an ERA north of 6.00 for much of the early season. He’s slowly bringing that ERA back down to a respectable level, though, and rekindling some of the hope that existed prior to the 2013 campaign.

If his slider becomes a more consistent, reliable part of his repertoire on the mound, he could be a solid number-three starter with some upside next year. And with Yovani Gallardo and/or Kyle Lohse potentially available on the trade market this summer, the Brewers need someone to step up and become a consistent, effective starter. Peralta has taken steps in recent outings to be that guy. It will be enjoyable to watch how he continues to develop throughout the remainder of the season.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Mathdude says: July 17, 2013

    Good stuff, Jim. Any idea if he’s on an innings limit? I don’t remember if he’s ever been over 150 IP and he’s already in the teens. Just thinking ahead a bit.

    • Vineet Barot says: July 17, 2013

      Mathdude, that’s a good point. I haven’t seen anyone mention that yet but he probably will be shut down if only because the Brewers are out of contention.

      Even if Gallardo/Lohse get traded and Estrada, Burgos, Thornburg and Hellwegg should be available to pitch again.

    • Luke says: July 17, 2013

      Peralta threw 175 innings between Nashville and Milwaukee last season. They should allow him to at least get close to 200, if possible.

      • Mathdude says: July 17, 2013

        Thanks for the info Luke. I forgot to combine multiple levels when I was looking up his IP data.

  2. Lee says: July 17, 2013

    What has been his WHIP during this streak?

    • J.P. Breen says: July 18, 2013

      1.08 WHIP in his last five starts. 1.31 WHIP in his last ten starts.

  3. Nicholas Zettel says: July 18, 2013

    Does that power slider remind anyone else of Ben Sheets’s curve? Faster, but it sure drops off the table.

  4. Steven says: July 18, 2013

    Great post. It is also interesting to look at whiff % on his sliders. In the last 10 starts he hasn’t been below 12% and in the last 5 his low is 14%. He only had 4 starts over 12% in his first 10 period. The scatterplot shows an ecouraging noticeable positive slop.

    When you wrote “it’s not groundbreaking to learn Peralta has gotten more swings-and-misses with his slider since he’s started to throw it more often”, I thought this was begging for a look into the rate. If the rate was lower, but the count was higher, that would negate the positive of producing more whiffs. However, it showed wthat his slider has been more effective recently. Furthermore, graphing usage as a function of rate shows that as rate goes up, usage goes up. This also may not be groundbreaking, as you would expect that if his slider is more effective he would use it more, but it is another indicator that his slider is one of the major keys to his improvement.


Websites mentioned my entry.

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