Following an All-Star season in 2011 it was safe to say that many people expected a bit of a drop in production from Jhonny Peralta in 2012 but not to the degree in which it happened. Peralta saw his average (.299 to .239), OPB (.345 to .305), and SLG (.478 to .384) all fall from the previous season. More concerning was his ISO falling 35 points. The lack of power can be contributed to his ground ball rate rising from 35.8 % to 41.4%, his fly ball rate falling from 44.2% to 36.7%, and his home run totals nearly being cut in half. His numbers contributed to a total WAR of 2.6.
Deeper Dive: Peralta's Defense
One of the major questions marks surrounding the 2012 Tigers was certainly the infield defense and Peralta was one of the major concerns. While he was always recognized as having sure hands, many people regard Peralta as a below average defender due to his lack of range. When looking at advanced fielding metrics it may come as a surprise to fans that Peralta was actually one of the better defenders in baseball last season from the shortstop position. Among all qualifying MLB shortstops from the 2012 season Peralta posted the fourth highest UZR at 9.9 and the fifth highest RngR at 6.2. His 11.7 UZR/150 was the third highest in all of baseball and a 3.6 ErrR was second only to gold glove winner J.J. Hardy. While that may not meet the smell test in ranking him as one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball, Peralta continued to make all the routine plays while committing just seven errors all season, leading to the second best fielding percentage among MLB shortstops at .988%. It’s unlikely his defense will be impressive, but it’s arguably not the pain point many have insinuated.
While the Tigers have spent the offseason considering acquiring a new shortstop they have yet to pull the trigger on one, meaning that as it stands now Jhonny Peralta will enter the season as the Tigers everyday shortstop. Given that his home run –to-fly ball rate was down over 30% from the previous season, it is reasonable to expect a rebound and to see his power numbers to go up in 2013. His average is in line for an improvement as well as his BAbip he posted in 2012 was 25 points below league average.
As he enters the final year of his contract it remains to be seen what the Tigers do following the season. Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth will again be the primary backups at the position should Peralta get injured or need a day off.