Skip to content

Cardinals put faith in defensive numbers in signing Jhonny Peralta

Nov 24, 2013, 12:35 PM EDT

Jhonny Peralta AP

Jhonny Peralta should be a terrible defensive shortstop.

Defensive ability peaks significantly younger than offensive ability, and Peralta wasn’t really any good defensively in what should have been his prime. As a 24-year-old in 2006, he was the game’s second worst shortstop by UZR. In 2007, he was the fifth worst.

By 2008, Peralta graded out better, playing pretty much average defense according to UZR, but the Indians moved him to third base the next year, making room for Asdrubal Cabrera at short. In 2010, the Tigers acquired him and moved him back to short, where he was again average initially. And then a funny thing happened. Here are Peralta’s career UZRs in the seasons in which he played 500 innings shortstop:

2003: 2.5
2005: -6.1
2006: -10.6
2007: -12.4
2008: -1.0
2011: 10.3
2012: 11.5
2013: 3.5

In both 2011 and 2012, Peralta rated as the game’s third best shortstop. In 2013, he was 14th.

It’s a pretty amazing turnaround made more complicated by the fact that we know Peralta was at least dabbling in PEDs for a portion of it. The narrative for baseball is that steroids=home runs, even though it’s never made much sense to look at it that way. Sprinters, cyclists and the rest didn’t take to doping to build up their biceps.

We know Peralta isn’t a particularly fast guy. He has 13 career steals in 11 seasons, getting caught 21 times. However, his range ratings have gone from horrible in his mid-20s to above average these last three years. The rest of his game has always been solid: even during his days as a bad shortstop, he was above average when it came to avoiding errors and average at turning the double play. His arm is a strength.

As for the range, well, that can largely come down to positioning. Cal Ripken Jr. wasn’t fast either. Troy Tulowitzki isn’t speedy. Adam Everett and Brendan Ryan, two of the game’s very best shortstops over the last decade, weren’t/aren’t factors on the basepaths.

Peralta has obviously gotten much better at learning where to play hitters through the years. To my eyes, he still looks for all the world to be a below average defensive shortstop. But after three years of UZR saying the opposite, I have more faith in the numbers than in my eyes.

I’m still not a fan of the Cardinals’ reported move to give him $52 million for four years. He’s a cheater, and if nothing else, it adds greater uncertainty to what we can expect from him going forward. Offensively, he was great in his 107 games when he wasn’t serving his steroid ban last year, hitting a career high .303 with a .358 OBP and a .457 slugging percentage. However, it took a ridiculous .374 BABIP to produce that .303 average; he actually had his highest strikeout rate since 2007. His career BABIP is .315, and he figures to come in much closer to there next year, which could result in a .260-.270 average. He’s far from a consistent force:

2009: .254/.316/.375 – .691 OPS
2010: .249/.311/.392 – .703 OPS
2011: .299/.345/.478 – .823 OPS
2012: .239/.305/.384 – .699 OPS
2013: .303/.358/.457 – .815 OPS

Of course, just getting average offense and average defense from shortstop would be a huge upgrade over what the Cardinals have received of late. I wouldn’t expect much more and I wouldn’t want to be on the hook for the back half of that contract, but for 2014, he makes the NL’s best team considerably better.

Latest Posts
  1. Dodgers acquire Andy Wilkins, designate Scott Baker for assignment

    May 3, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT

    Scott Baker Scott Baker

    The Dodgers acquired first baseman Andy Wilkins from the Blue Jays and designated Scott Baker for assignment on Sunday.

  2. Padres plan to promote catching prospect Austin Hedges

    May 3, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT

    Austin Hedges Austin Hedges

    The Padres are expected to promote catching prospect Austin Hedges on Monday.

  3. Athletics release Cody Ross

    May 3, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics Getty Images

    The Athletics released Cody Ross on Sunday.

  4. Brewers fire manager Ron Roenicke

    May 3, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT

    Ron Roenicke Ron Roenicke

    Ron Roenicke is the first casualty of the Brewers’ poor start to the season.

  5. Twins thinking about using Joe Mauer in the leadoff spot

    May 3, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    Joe Mauer Joe Mauer

    Would Joe Mauer better serve the Twins in the leadoff spot?

  6. Jose Abreu sticks up for manager Robin Ventura

    May 3, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    Robin Ventura Robin Ventura

    White Sox manager Robin Ventura has taken some heat for the team’s slow start, but first baseman Jose Abreu stuck up for him.

  7. Jean Segura was hit in the head by a Pedro Strop fastball

    May 3, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Jean Segura Jean Segura

    Jean Segura was hit in the head by a pitch attempting to bunt. Thankfully, he appears to be okay.

  8. The Cardinals walk off winners against the Pirates for the third game in a row

    May 3, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT

    Kolten Wong Kolten Wong

    The Cardinals won again in walk-off fashion and now own baseball’s best record.

  9. Tyler Lyons gets the next shot at replacing Adam Wainwright in Cardinals’ starting rotation

    May 3, 2015, 5:14 PM EDT

    tyler lyons getty Getty Images

    Lyons has served as a spot starter and long reliever for the Cardinals at various points over the last two seasons. He owns an ugly 4.62 ERA in 89 2/3 career major league innings, but his 1.216 career WHIP and 7.9 career K/9 aren’t too bad-looking.

  10. White Sox sign Tyler Colvin to minor league deal

    May 3, 2015, 4:28 PM EDT

    Screenshot 2015-05-03 at 1.09.00 PM Getty Images

    Colvin opted out of his minor league deal with the Marlins at the end of spring training after failing to make the Opening Day roster and spent a month looking for a new gig.

  11. Video: Trevor Plouffe slugs first career grand slam

    May 3, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    plouffe getty Getty Images

    That was the first career grand slam for Plouffe. The 28-year-old third baseman also homered in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the visiting White Sox and now has five home runs on the young season.

  12. Cubs claim Anthony Varvaro off waivers from Red Sox

    May 3, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT

    Screenshot 2015-05-03 at 1.22.45 PM Getty Images

    Varvaro was designated for assignment by Boston on April 29 after struggling badly in three straight relief appearances. He was very good in 2014 with the Braves …

  13. Adam Eaton out third straight day with illness

    May 3, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT

    adam eaton getty Getty Images

    He was actually sent back to Chicago on Saturday while the team finishes up a four-game series at Minnesota’s Target Field.

  14. Jordan Walden lands on disabled list with biceps injury

    May 3, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT

    walden getty Getty Images

    Walden felt discomfort in his right arm while warming up on Saturday afternoon. He told reporters after Saturday’s game that he’s not concerned, but it’s a scary situation for the Cardinals given how well the 27-year-old setup man pitched in April.

  15. Matt Moore set to face live hitters for the first time since his Tommy John elbow surgery

    May 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Screenshot 2015-05-03 at 9.55.47 AM Getty Images

    Moore is scheduled throw around 20 pitches to his Tampa Bay teammates before their series finale on Sunday afternoon against the Orioles.

  16. Michael Bourn back in Indians’ lineup on Sunday

    May 3, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT

    bourn getty Getty Images

    Veteran outfielder Michael Bourn was held out of the Indians’ starting lineup on Saturday with what was called a cervical strain. That sounded like a pretty serious injury, but all appears to be fine …

  17. Rays place outfielder Desmond Jennings on 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left knee

    May 3, 2015, 10:51 AM EDT

    Screenshot 2015-05-03 at 9.21.28 AM Getty Images

    It was a very disappointing April for Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, who hit .222/.306/.238 in 18 games. And now his May is off to a rough start too.

  18. Video: Jake Marisnick climbs Tal’s Hill, makes great grab

    May 3, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Screenshot 2015-05-03 at 1.02.46 AM Getty Images

    Marisnick is also getting it done at the plate for the Astros, who are on a nine-game winning streak and have opened a six-game lead over the Angels in the American League West standings.

  19. Another game ended on a batted ball hitting a runner

    May 3, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT

    howie kendrick getty Getty Images

    First it was the Giants beating the Angels when Kole Calhoun’s hard grounder to the right side of the infield struck Taylor Featherston. A few hours later, the Dodgers won in similar fashion …

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (4270)
  2. A. Rendon (3404)
  3. A. Colome (3260)
  4. J. Lowrie (3107)
  5. C. Gomez (2993)
  1. D. Jennings (2886)
  2. A. Ottavino (2787)
  3. D. Span (2780)
  4. J. Marisnick (2745)
  5. D. Wright (2725)