Shortstop Jhonny Peralta of the St. Louis Cardinals presents a Rorschach test to baseball fans of differing orientations. He has a reputation for being a subpar defender, but advanced defensive metrics like him. He served a 50-game suspension in 2013 for his involvement with the Biogenesis health clinic. (He reputedly took a banned stimulant). He’s having a season much like the one in 2012, before the performance-enhancing drugs scandal. So, fans may be conflicted about Peralta for one reason or another, but it should not blind them to the reality that he’s been a positive force on the field for the Cardinals in 2014.
Defensively, it’s been said for years that he doesn’t meet the “eye test” as a good shortstop. It’s an odd proposition, at this point. Peralta’s range is indisputably below average, but he is sure-handed, releases the ball quickly, and positions himself well.
Since the start of 2010, Peralta has a UZR/150 of +10 runs per season. Over more than 11,000 innings at short, he’s rated slightly above average. Some observers believe that if launch angle or batted ball speed were more closely investigated, he’d come up “short”. However, the St. Louis Cardinals are deep in sabermetrics, relatively speaking, and were willing to give a larger contract to Peralta than most people thought he could reasonably attain. It appears the Cardinals saw value where others saw a markdown.
With the bat, Peralta’s wOBA is .350 today. For an explanation of wOBA see this: That’s in the solidly good range. Here are the wOBA’s of three other Cardinals, to put the numbers in context: Matt Holliday, .346; Matt Adams, .352; Jon Jay, .353.
Of course, this statistic can’t encompass what we’d like to see out of the individual hitters. Ideally, you’d like to get more home runs out of left field, and even center. It would be better if Adams and Peralta got on base more. Taking a deeper dive into the figures reveals that batting average, for instance, is not a good indicator of a hitter’s value. See Carlos Santana.
Both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference say Peralta has been worth more than four games above replacement player in 2014. In fact, per WAR, Peralta is in line to have the best season of his career at 32. By the numbers, this is his best year since 2005, when he was 23. He has a good chance to hit over 20 homers, playing half his games in a neutral park.
Looking objectively, without bias at Jhonny Peralta’s play in 2014, he’s given the St. Louis Cardinals everything they were hoping to receive when they gave him four years and $53 million. Surprises always pop up, but it doesn’t look like Peralta will have to move off of shortstop any time soon.