The New York Yankees are in the middle of possibly their toughest stretch in 2022. Through 162 games any team, regardless of how great it is, will have ups and downs, but you have to take a deeper look than that, and it’s not so much that they’re losing, but how they are losing.
There is enough to focus on the offensive side outside of Aaron Judge, but the goal here is to talk about the bullpen. Aroldis Chapman is not the shutdown closer he once was, and that hasn’t been a problem due to the tremendous efforts of Clay Holmes through the first half. However, between Holmes’ massive struggles as of late, and the absences of Chad Green, Michael King, and the 2021 version of Jonathan Loáisiga, the Yankees’ bullpen hasn’t been as shutdown in the first few months.
One of the bright spots as of late and an arm that’s helped pick up the slack for this ‘pen is left-hander Wandy Peralta. Friday night’s game didn’t have a lot of positive points, and that’s putting it mildly, but if there was one, it came with Peralta momentarily salvaging the game in the bottom of the ninth by striking out Eric Hosmer with a runner-in scoring position and getting Christian Arroyo to line out to short. The Yankees ended up losing the game in the following inning so it all gets lost in history, but had the top of the order done its job in the 10th then that’s a pivotal moment of the game.
A while back, fellow Pinstripe Alley writer Esteban Rivera talked about the benefits of Peralta relying more heavily on his slider, a pitch he’d basically shelved for a while at the beginning of the season, and Peralta has done exactly that.
Take a look at the southpaw’s pitch mix in 2022 per month:
The slider usage has jumped significantly in the last two months, and it’s worked out, leading to 16 scoreless appearances in his last 19, and a higher K% of 23.2 in those 19 innings. The thought process for this change was simple. Peralta’s sinker and changeup have a nice differential in velocity, but they both follow similar paths, and their usage as a two-pitch mix can allow the major league hitter to zero in on a location, and be able to adjust to the pitch.
The slider was a primary pitch for Peralta with the Giants, but with a different profile than the one most Yankee pitchers use, and with underwhelming vertical and horizontal movement. It’s understandable that the southpaw went away from it after coming to the Bronx.
There is a very important point though, that no pitch works in a vacuum, and because of the effectiveness of his sinker and changeup, the slider has played terrifically off of that with opposing batters whaling at it out of the zone to the mark of a 51.0 Whiff% (the major league average for that pitch is 34.2). Peralta doesn’t need to feature his slider to be successful, but he’s been able to effectively use it as a third pitch for whiffs, and with the solid foundation that he already has in place, Peralta can take his game to another level and provide stability to a bullpen that needs it right now.