Jhonny Peralta belongs on the Tigers' playoff roster

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Jhonny Peralta will begin working out with the Tigers today. The club should not hesitate to put him on the playoff roster.

The Detroit Tigers announced on Tuesday that Jhonny Peralta would join the team for workouts, starting Wednesday. Here is the official club statement:

DETROIT, MI - The Detroit Tigers today issued the following statement regarding Jhonny Peralta:

"In accordance with the protocols outlined by Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, Jhonny Peralta will join the club for workouts in Chicago beginning on Wednesday. There has been no decision made regarding Peralta's return to the active roster. It is an organizational decision to allow Jhonny to workout with the club in order to see if it will be in the best interest of the team to have him return at the end of his suspension."

Peralta is eligible to return to the Tigers on Sept. 27, in time for their last three regular season games in Miami. All the Tigers' minor league affiliates have ended their seasons, but the Florida instructional league begins on September 19. Peralta will work out in Lakeland at that time and should return to the team when he is eligible on September 26, although a formal decision on having him rejoin the team has not yet been announced.

Tigers' president and general manager Dave Dombrowski didn't say what role Peralta would play if he were to be activated, but he said he wouldn't get his starting job back.

Mlive's Chris Iott had the news on Twitter:

But Dombrowski seemed to put to rest any concerns about ethical considerations in bringing Peralta back.

Peralta was the Tigers’ second most productive player in the lineup prior to his 50 game suspension for violating major league baseball’s joint drug agreement. In fact, his 3.6 WAR still ranks second among position players on the team, despite missing the last 35 games. Peralta led American League shortstops in WAR and offensive production at the time of his suspension.

The Tigers have replaced Peralta in the lineup with the slick fielding Jose Iglesias. Few would argue that Iglesias gives the team an upgrade defensively, while batting .297 with an on base percentage of .343. He is truly one of the best, if not the best fielding shortstop in the league, and he has given the team a much needed spark with his glove and his speed on the base paths.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Tigers will allow Peralta to leave as a free agent after this season, and install Iglesias as the full time starter at shortstop for the 2014 season. But when Peralta’s suspension is up and he is eligible to return, the Tigers will have a decision to make. The smart move would be to bring Peralta back and put him on the playoff roster.

If Iglesias can continue to get on base at his current pace since joining the Tigers, he can be a valuable shortstop. But by no means would he replace the overall value that Peralta brought to the team in the first four months of this season. The drop off in offense, and in the power numbers in particular, is just too much to make up with even outstanding defense

Here is a comparison of Tiger infielders’ offensive production numbers in 2013.

Player GP PA Avg OBP Slg OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ wRAA fWAR
Cabrera 131 583 .353 .446 .667 1.113 .315
.467 199 70.2 7.3
Peralta 104 436 .305 .361 .461 .822 .156 .358 125 15.1 3.6
Infante 101
408
.325
.350
.459
.809
.134
.352
120
12.0
2.9
Fielder 143 635 .274 .359 .449 .808 .175 .353 121 19.4 1.6
Iglesias 32 110 .297 .343 .406 .749 .109 .332 107 1.5 1.0
Santiago 64 191 .229 .306 .307 .613 .078 .279 70 -5.3 0.4
Perez 24 63 .207 .230 .241 .471 .034 .209 22 -5.2 -0.6

Caution granted for partial season samples, but there are real trends in these numbers, which show that Peralta was more productive with the bat than any player on the team not named Miggy. The full chart at fangraphs is here.

Peralta still leads all AL shortstops in weighted Runs above average with 15.1 this season. Iglesias has posted some impressive numbers, particularly in his ability to get on base, but his overall offensive production falls far short. Over the course of a full season, either player would have a higher number of RAA and fWAR. Equalized to 600 plate appearances, Peralta would have a wRAA of 20.8 and Iglesias 8.1. League average is scored as zero.

That is not to say that Peralta would be as productive as he was in the first half of the season. He won't even have the chance to provide that production in his old job. But he can still be a useful bat on a team with a lineup that has been known to go AWOL without notice at times.

DEFENSE:

I am one who was more than skeptical of Peralta, mainly because of his defense, when the Tigers got him from the Indians, basically for nothing (Cleveland even paid his salary the rest of that season). The numbers, however, show that Peralta has been about or above league average defensively since joining the Tigers.

Disclaimer: defensive metrics tend to be very unreliable when using small samples, and that’s all we’ve got with Iglesias.

Ultimate Zone Rating, which is the defensive metric used to calculate fWAR, shows that the Tigers have the two best defensive shortstops in the league over the 2012- 2013 seasons. Ya, right. Put that one in your wishful thinking bin along with all the other broken chicken bones. UZR/ 150 has Iglesias pegged at over 21 runs saved vs the average shortstop, more than double second place Peralta, who has 9.8. Peralta ranked second in the league in 2012 with a UZR/ 150 of 13.5, meaning he would have saved the team that many runs over 150 games with his defense.


While Peralta has limited range, as evidenced by the fact that he was dead last in the league in out of zone plays last season, he is as efficient as any shortstop in the league on balls hit within the shortstop zone. That zone is defined as the area where the shortstop makes the play 50% of the time. It’s the same zone for all shortstops. 2013 shows Peralta more in the middle of the pack in both RZR and OOZ plays. Fangraphs has the data.

By another measure, Bill James’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) shows Peralta with one run saved above average this season and one below average last season, so he’d be about league average. Iglesias has a DRS of plus 1 in 475 innings this season, and that number would grow with more work. So much for defensive metrics. We don't need numbers to tell us that Iglesias is something special in the field. Iglesias unquestionably has greater range than Peralta. Maybe even the greatest range in the league.

Suffice it to say that Iglesias provides the Tigers with a defensive upgrade and a spark on the bases, while Peralta’s power gives him a big advantage at the plate. That defensive edge will be more important with ground ball pitchers, such as Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello.

Even if Peralta does not start ahead of Iglesias, the current bench among the 25 healthy players automatically eligible for the playoff roster is comprised of Don Kelly, Matt Tuiasosopo, Brayan Pena, Ramon Santiago, and Hernan Perez. It can not be argued that any of those players provides nearly the same value as Peralta.

Dombrowski told MLive's James Schmehl:

"(Peralta) was very forthright, and I think he handled the situation as well as he possibly could," Dombrowski said when asked how Peralta dealt with the investigation. "It was a very difficult situation. He came forward and admitted that and decided to take the suspension."

"(Peralta) is a quality performer who is a good guy and has worked hard and done a lot for the organization," Dombrowski said. "It's apparent he made a mistake and he was apologetic about that mistake."


The team should look forward to the return of the most productive and the best overall shortstop in the league, prior to his suspension. But there have been some silly myths being tossed around as an excuse for leaving Peralta off the team. Let’s explore some of those myths.

Peralta should never be allowed to return:

The players and owners negotiated an agreement that provides a specific penalty for violating the joint drug agreement. That penalty is 50 games, not one season, and not a lifetime ban. When Peralta’s 50 games have been served, he is eligible to play and he should be allowed to do so. If the owners and players want lifetime bans, they can negotiate that.

If Peralta were not a free agent after this season, would the team even think of not bringing him back until next season? Hardly. But since his contract is up after this year, it might be too easy to wash their hands of the whole mess and not have to deal with it in October. A bigger mess could be made if they don't bring Peralta back.

Most playoff contenders have at least one player on their roster who has been busted for PEDs.

New York Yankees- Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettite, Francisco Cervelli, Fernando Martinez
Orioles- Mike Morse, Daniel McCutchen
Indians- Jason Giambi
Royals- Miguel Tejada
Red Sox, David Ortiz (2003)- allegedly
Oakland- Bartolo Colon
Rangers- Nelson Cruz
Dodgers- Edinson Volquez
Pirates- Marlon Byrd
Braves- Jordan Schafer

The Dodgers, Orioles, and Pirates actually have just traded for these players this season. The Rangers have indicated that they’re looking forward to getting Nelson Cruz back for the playoffs. Should the Tigers be the only team to lose a player for the post season because of the biogenesis scandal?


What about Melky Cabrera?

The Giants chose to not invite Cabrera back when his suspension ended during the post season in 2012. There are significant differences in the cases of Peralta and Cabrera. Peralta didn’t set up a fake website in an effort to overturn his suspension. Peralta is eligible to return before the end of the season, while Cabrera was not. The Giants caught fire after Cabrera left the team, and went on a hot late season and post season run without him.


A championship would be tainted with Peralta on the roster.

Is the Giants championship tainted? Melky Cabrera was the MVP of the All Star game that led to them having home field advantage, and finished the season with the best batting average in the National League. He had a lot to do with the Giants getting to the post season.

Peralta’s usage of PED’s that got him suspended occurred before the 2012 season, one of his weaker seasons in his career. Unless there is a link between Peralta’s usage of PED’s and the 2013 post season, nothing would be tainted any more than any of the clubs mentioned above who have players that have used PED’s in the past.


Bringing Peralta back could disrupt the chemistry in the clubhouse.

All reports are that Peralta is well liked in the clubhouse. His team mates are disappointed that he was caught using PED’s but they’re not so naive as to believe that there aren’t other players on other teams or their own team who have used PED’s in the past. If Peralta can help the team win, he will be welcomed back in the clubhouse.


Peralta won’t be the same after such a long layoff.

This is a legitimate concern. In fact, chances are that neither Peralta nor Iglesias would produce at the level that they have thus far for the Tigers in 2013. That’s why the club should get Peralta working out in Lakeland as soon as possible. I would assume that he has been working out on his own during the layoff, as any player would, but some game action should be part of the routine.

Nobody is suggesting that Peralta should replace Iglesias on the roster. Once Rick Porcello moves from the rotation to the bullpen for the post season, the Tigers will very likely carry twelve pitchers and 14 position players, the extra position player being an infielder. Peralta would replace either Ramon Santiago or more likely, Hernan Perez on the roster.

If Peralta were not a free agent after this season, would the team even think of not bringing him back until next season? Hardly. But since his contract is up after this year, it might be too easy to wash their hands of the whole mess and not have to deal with it in October. A bigger mess could be made if they don't bring Peralta back and the offense goes silent as was the case in the 2012 World Series.


There is one factor and only one factor that should outweigh all others. If the Tigers have a better chance of winning with Peralta on the team, then he should be there. To do anything else is to cheat the team, the players, and the fans. If they’re worried about image, I would suggest that a reality check is in order. Having Peralta on the roster would not detract from a championship in the least. If, on the other hand, the team’s offense dried up as it did in the 2012 World Series, and they’ve left the most productive shortstop in the league sitting at home, they’re going to look pretty silly.

What do you think?

Should Peralta be on the Tigers' playoff roster- assuming they make the playoffs?

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