2021 was finally the year. It was the year that the Milwaukee Brewers’ young trio of starting pitchers finally took the big step forward toward becoming one of the most feared threesomes across all of MLB.
Brandon Woodruff was pretty much already there, having been a mainstay of the team’s rotation since 2019, the year of his first All-Star appearance. Corbin Burnes joined him for good in 2020, then hit a completely new gear in dominating his way to the 2021 NL Cy Young award.
There was one more pitcher, though, that fans were waiting to fully blossom as another of the team’s starters. Freddy Peralta had burst on to the scene as a rookie in 2018, but coming into 2021 spring training, he still hadn’t secured a full-time starting spot for himself.
A solid Cactus League performance (13 2/3 IP, 3.95 ERA, 23 Ks, 3 BBs) earned him a spot at the back end of the rotation. By the end of the year, Peralta had fully proven that he belonged in the Brewers rotation.
Over 28 games, 27 of them starts, Peralta went 10-5 and set career bests with, 144 1/3 innings pitched, a 2.81 ERA, and a 0.970 WHIP. He was so good at limiting contact that had he had enough innings to qualify, his 5.24 hits per nine innings would have led all MLB pitchers.
Peralta made the first All-Star Game of his career, set career highs, and was one of the top pitchers in the league. Yet, there could are always things that even the best pitchers in baseball can fine tune from season to season.
There was one trend for Freddy Peralta in 2021 that, if he fixes it, could see him performing at an even greater level for the Brewers in 2022.
While Peralta was great at limiting hits in 2021, it sometimes came at the expense of handing out more walks to opposing batters. His 3.49 walks per nine innings would have ranked among the worst five qualified pitchers in baseball if he’d pitched enough innings.
What’s interesting though, is exactly when Peralta is throwing these balls that result in free passes to first base.
In his 27 starts last season, Freddy threw 62.66% of his pitches for strikes. In the first and second innings, however, he fell below that average, throwing just 59.71% of his pitches for strikes in the opening frame of games and 61.35% for strikes the following inning.
Things got markedly better for Peralta after that, though. In the third, fourth, and fifth innings of his 2021 starts, Freddy had a 66.58%, 64.6%, and 65.16% strike percentage, respectively. So once he got warmed up, he became much more of a strike-throwing machine.
Naturally, the sixth inning is when that strike percentage started to decline again (58.73%), which make sense since these days that is when arms often start to tire. Since Peralta only pitched past the sixth inning four times last year, that data isn’t worth analyzing.
A couple benefits could arise from turning some of those early balls into strikes. For one, less baserunners could mean less early runs scored by opposing teams. On top of that, it could result in less pitches being thrown, which could allow Peralta to last longer into games and put a little less pressure on the bullpen during his starts.
Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple. More strikes early could translate to more hits just as easily. For the most part, though, throwing less balls early should lead to even more success for one of the Crew’s talented young starters.