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Wandy Peralta is walking on thin ice with his command

The lefty reliever has gone through some elusive struggles in June but will still be counted on for big out.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since landing in the Bronx in 2021 in a somewhat-surprising trade for outfielder Mike Tauchman, Wandy Peralta has been one of the best and most consistent relievers on the Yankees. He had a 2.95 ERA in pinstripes in 2021, a 2.72 mark last year, and is at 2.67 in 2023. At first brush, one would think everything is going smoothly with him this year, but it isn’t.

Peralta has a mediocre 5.08 FIP and has the highest walk rate of his career at 14.7 percent. FIP and other tools can help us evaluate pitching performance judging the things a pitcher can control and eliminating defense from the equation; they point to him going through a middling season despite that shiny ERA.

The biggest concern is that Peralta has been particularly bad in June, with a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 innings, an 8.32 FIP and a 6/1 BB/K ratio. The last number, specifically, is pretty alarming because he doesn’t seem to have command of the strike zone at the moment and he rarely misses bats, at least in the current month.

Peralta’s main weapons, the changeup and the sinker, are much worse than last year by xwOBA and whiff rate. The cambio produced a .243 xwOBA and a 37.9-percent whiff rate in 2022, but those numbers are .355 and 32.5 percent this season. His 2022 sinker returned a .298 xwOBA and 24.3-percent whiff rate, but it is at .375 and 15 percent this time around. The difference is noticeable.

Since there don’t seem to be any major changes in his pitches’ movement profile – other than the horizontal movement of his changeup, which has decreased from 17.3 inches in 2022 to 16.7 this year – Peralta’s most pressing problem at the moment seems to be command. Wandy is not a control artist, but six walks and just one strikeout over a 6.1-inning sample is, at least, concerning. The sample is tiny, yes, but FIP says he could be in for a major ERA regression soon.

Peralta’s performance in his last two games tells us he has been having lots of issues throwing strikes consistently. Here is a pitch chart from his appearance on Saturday against the Texas Rangers:

Baseball Savant

The box score will tell you that Peralta threw 11 pitches, with five strikes but no runs allowed in 0.1 innings. However, he conceded two hits and again, got just one out. Further, out of his 11 pitches, two were clear strikes, three were on the edges, and a whopping six were no-doubt balls.

The situation was even worse on Friday:

The box score deceives again. It will tell you that Peralta pitched a clean inning outside of a single walk. However, he used nine pitches, and just three were strikes. If we examine the strike zone on the chart, two were inside the zone and seven were outside of it, not even near the edges.

Perhaps Peralta is having issues with his command. Perhaps he is seeing how hitters have a 91.7-percent Z-Contact%, the highest of his career, and is shying away from the zone on purpose. Either way, walking six guys for every strikeout does not seem like a promising or sustainable approach.

Peralta is a fine pitcher who has made adjustments at various points of his career. He will likely turn things around command-wise, because walking on thin ice probably won’t work for a long period of time. It’s fair to say this isn’t the sharpest we have seen him in pinstripes, but he is good enough to improve considerably as long as there isn’t any injury.