Bird Bytes: Is Peralta a disappointment?

2014-07-03T03:40:00Z 2014-07-05T23:16:35Z Bird Bytes: Is Peralta a disappointment?Bernie Miklasz bjmiklasz@post-dispatch.com stltoday.com

Good afternoon. Our friend Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote a piece reviewing the free-agent signings from last winter. He had a long list of the best signings, and then followed with the "The Disappointing Five." 

Citing batting average, Heyman had Cardinals' shortstop Jhonny Peralta ranked No. 5 on the disappointing list behind outfielder Chris Young (Mets), outfielder Carlos Beltran (Yankees), catcher A.J. Pierzynski (Red Sox) and outfielder Curtis Granderson (Mets.) 

"The almost always prudent Cardinals probably knew they were paying a lot for Peralta," Heyman wrote, "but they also surely expected more than a .241 batting average his first year in the deal, a 62-point falloff from 2013." 

This is an interesting opinion from Heyman. 

If you want to issue a value judgment on Peralta's batting average, then yes, .241 is pretty disappointing.

Even more disappointing is Perata's .161 batting average (10 for 62) with runners in scoring position. But as those of you who are kind enough to read me know, I'm of the school that believes RISP numbers are mostly random due to the small sample size.

If anyone wants to make the case that Peralta hasn't taken advantage of opportunities to drive in runs, I would agree. From a percentage standpoint, that's absolutely a fact. But I also believe Peralta's RISP numbers will even out over 162 games. 

But even with the flaws found in Peralta's body of work to this point in 2014, he's providing plenty of value for the Cardinals. And I'd have to respectfully disagree with my buddy Heyman on this. 

Peralta has been worth nearly 3 wins to the Cardinals so far. His WAR (wins above replacement) of 2.7 ranks second only to Troy Tulowitzki (4.8 WAR) among MLB shortstops. 

Offensively, Peralta's wOBA of .334 ranks fourth among MLB shortstops.

If you prefer more traditional statistics, here's where Peralta ranks among MLB shortstops in a few notable hitting categories: tied for third in homers, third in extra-base hits, sixth in slugging percentage, tied for seventh in RBIs, 11th in onbase percentage. This doesn't mean he's Honus Wagner, but that's a positive profile. 

That's not all. When the Cardinals signed Peralta I wrote that he was much better defensively than many perceived or expected. It was an accurate assessment. Peralta currently is the top-rated shortstop in the majors, with 15 Defensive Runs Saved according to the data kept by John Dewan's Baseball Info Solutions. 

Some context is helpful here. Even with the .241 batting average, Peralta represents a substantial upgrade at shortstop over Pete Kozma

Kozma was rated below the replacement level in WAR last season. He was good with the glove, ranking in the top 10 among shortstops with 8 Defensive Runs Saved. That +8 may end up being better than Peralta's defensive ratings by the time we're done with 2014, but until now Peralta has been better defensively. 

In 448 plate appearances in 2013, Kozma had one one homer, 35 RBIs and 21 extra-base hits. 

In 323 plate appearances through Tuesday, Peralta had 11 homers, 36 RBIs and 34 extra-base hits. 

Kozma had a .280 onbase percentage and a .303 slugging percentage last year. 

Peralta has a .322 OBP -- only seven points less than his career rate -- and a has a solid .437 slugging percentage that's well above the current MLB slugging rate (.376) at the shortstop position.

Peralta has an OPS (.759) that's 176 points higher than Kozma's .583 OPS in '13. 

Peralta's .334 wOBA is 90 points higher than Kozma's .244 wOBA in '13.

The Cardinals signed Peralta to a four-year deal worth $53 million with the belief that he'd give them a lot more offense at shortstop. And Peralta is indeed supplying that offense _ despite the poor batting average with RISP. 

Peralta is making $15 million this season as part of a front-loaded contract structure. Reasonable people can debate whether Peralta is "worth" $15.5 million.

Some will undoubtedly crab that Peralta is overpaid; these are generally the kind of folks that think all ballplayers are overpaid. As I conceded earlier, I'd like to see Peralta doing a better job of knocking in runs based on opportunity. And I think he will. 

But more than halfway into the season, the Cardinals have a starting shortstop that's rated No. 2 in the industry for total win-based value. And a starting shortstop that's ranked No. 1 in defense at his position. 

Cards GM John Mozeliak can speak for himself ... but I don't think he's disappointed with Peralta. 

Maybe Mozeliak will be disappointed two years from now. Maybe Mozeliak is disappointed in some aspect of Peralta's performance. But I don't believe that Mozeliak is disappointed with the overall profile that puts Peralta near or at top of the MLB shortstop ratings in offense and defense.

At the end of the season, Peralta is projected to be worth about 4.5 wins to the Cardinals, which would represent close to a five-win upgrade at shortstop from 2013.

And if anything, Peralta will likely exceed that as he continues to develop more familiarity with NL pitchers after moving from the American League. 

Thanks for reading...

— Bernie 

Bernie Miklasz has been covering St. Louis sports since 1989. 

Copyright 2015 stltoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bernie Miklasz

You've read Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch since 1989. Now check out a new video "Breakfast with Bernie" every weekday morning. You'll also see more "Bernie Bytes" around the clock as he posts quick-hit commentaries on a variety of topics.

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