Rays Re-Sign Joel Peralta | The Process Report

Rays Re-Sign Joel Peralta

Update The Rays officially announced the signing of Joel Peralta. In addition to two guaranteed years for Peralta, the club holds three options; one for each season from 2015-2017. The original report included just one option. Peralta brings the number of players on the 40-man roster to 35. The team has until midnight to add Rule 5 eligible players.

Nov. 5: Joel Peralta likes pitching for the Rays. He likes it so much that he openly wished he was not a free agent this offseason. After a few days on the open market Peralta got his wish—he is no longer a free agent, having reportedly agreed to a new pact with the Rays. Although an official announcement has not been made, reports out of Peralta’s native Dominican Republic say the two sides are in agreement on a two-year contract worth $6 million. The deal includes a option for a third year at $2.5 million.

When Brandon League signed a three-year deal in excess of $20 million last week, some thought the contract would set the market for relief pitching. If that were the case the Rays would likely be waiting until January, hunting for a deal in the clearance section. League may have set the standard for others, however Peralta’s desire to return to St. Petersburg apparently outweighed his desire to maximize his salary. The Rays may still go dumpster diving later this winter, but are unlikely to find someone with the quality of Peralta. And despite the team’s recent rate of success on low-risk deals, the chances of picking up another Rodney or Benoit are pretty low.

One could argue that Peralta pitched better last season than he did in 2011, his first year with the Rays. He increased his strikeout percentage by more than eight percent with a slightly lower walk rate. As a flyball pitcher, the threat of home runs is always there for Peralta. But the small right-hander kept the long ball in check, save an 18-day span when he allowed four of his nine home runs on the season.

More intriguing that than Peralta’s results is the process in which he struck out 32 percent of the batters he faced. Peralta throws three pitches with regularity: a fastball (88-91 mph), a breaking ball (78-81 mph), and a nasty splitter (81-84 mph). The splitter is his best offering; one that allows him to pitch fearlessly against batters on both sides of the plate. His willingness and ability to pitch backward increased the effectiveness of his other two pitches.

In 2012, nearly 45 percent of plate appearances against Peralta started with a breaking ball. This is a large increase over his previous three seasons. Joe Maddon once told me that nobody goes up to the plate looking to hit a curveball. This is especially true of the first pitch. Feeding off this mentality, nearly half of Peralta’s first-pitch benders fell for a strike without a swing from the opposition  By stealing early strikes with the breaking ball, Peralta created made up for his lack of pure stuff.

While watching video of Peralta’s home run issues in May, I came across a few at-bats that illustrated how he was successful using the Pitching 2.0 method. Here are two examples:

On May 30th, Peralta faced White Sox slugger Adam Dunn with men on first and second with no outs in the ninth inning of a one-run game. The right-hander swept a 79-mph breaking ball across the plate for a called strike one. His second pitch, another breaking ball, landed outside to even the count. Peralta ramped up his velocity—hitting 91—and dotted the outside corner with a fastball for strike two. Ahead in the count, he remained outside, getting Dunn to chase a low-80s splitter out of the zone.

The week prior, Peralta faced Blue Jays’ outfielder Colby Rasmus in the eight inning, protecting an 8-5 lead. Once again, the veteran righty started the plate appearance with a breaking ball for a called strike one. He went up-and-away with his next pitch: a fastball taken for ball one. Instead of saving his best pitch for last, Peralta threw an 80-mph splitter that coaxed a swing-and-a-miss from Rasmus to go ahead 1-2. Perhaps expecting another off-speed pitch, Rasmus whiff on a 91-mph fastball thrown in the zone. Here is that sequence in terms of velocity change: 78, +12, -10, +11.

In the past, Andrew Friedman has shied away from two-year deals in the bullpen. In fact, Troy Percival was the last free agent reliever to receive a two-year guarantee from the Rays. That said, the market has changed since Percival, and the six-million guarantee for Peralta is hardly a poison pill; it is actually below market value. Also factor in that the security of knowing where he’ll pitch for the next two years may have weighed in Peralta giving the Rays a substantial hometown discount.

Considering his age, and the general instability of relievers, there is a non-zero chance this deal turns out to be a negative or Tampa Bay. On the other hand, considering Peralta’s recent showing of durability and his reliance on pitchability over velocity, the odds are this deal will end up satisfying all parties involved.

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