07 June 2012
First things first: Jhonny Peralta isn’t an above average fielder at shortstop. He doesn’t have spectacular range and he doesn’t make plays with the flair of Troy Tulowitzki or Asdrubal Cabrera ,* but he does do one thing well, and that’s make the plays that are expected of him.
*Rod Allen raves about Asdrubal Cabrera’s glove, and he certainly makes you say ‘wow’ time and again, but his career UZR/150 is a pretty bad -10.2. Peralta’s career UZR/150 at shortstop is -2.9.
Peralta has always been a bat-first type of player; the type of player who’s bat more than makes up for his defensive shortcomings at one of the lightest-hitting positions in the game. But I don’t necessarily think that this lumps him into the group with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Brennan Boesch, and Ryan Raburn (at second base). Guys who are truly terrible at their position defensively.
All three of these metrics (Ultimate Zone Rating, Defensive Runs Saved, and Revized Zone Rating) agree that Peralta has been worse than average over the last six seasons, but the magnitude of his deficiency doesn’t appear to be all that we make it out to be. His RZR is mere decimal points below average, and his DRS and UZR suggest that he’s only been costing his team about one run per season defensively.
The interesting fact about Peralta’s defense is that the really bad fielding numbers came in the first half of his major league career. Through his first five seasons (approximately 4,500 innings), his UZR totaled -29.3 runs. In his next five seasons (including this year, approximately 3,700 innings in all), his UZR has totaled +10.8 runs (last year alone he was +9.9 runs). He probably didn’t become more athletic when going from his early 20’s to his late 20’s, but could he have learned how to play the position in a smarter way? Is he positioning himself better, or not trying to force the issue? I have no idea; it could simply be random variation at work.
The Tigers certainly have a lot of problems on defense, but I don’t think it’s really fair to lump Peralta in with the poor defenders. Sure, he’s not great, but he’s not really all that bad. He’s not going to be close to the worst fielding shortstop in the league, not by a long shot.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.