The Tigers are 27-19 this season, a start one can't sneeze at. Most of the credit will go to the "Four Aces and a Porcello" rotation. Hitters deservedly receiving accolades are Cabrera, Hunter, Fielder, and Infante. This is a solid core. However, one guy gets lost in the shuffle. Despite being arguably the best in the American League at his position, he's gotten little credit for this team's start. This is his commendation. I see you, Jhonny Peralta.
Jhonny Peralta was traded to Detroit in late 2010 for very little from Cleveland. Unhappy at 3rd base, he was slumping terribly. The Tigers moved him to shortstop, where he played sure-handedly but with little range. Still, the position was stabilized more than it had been under Adam Everett or Ramon Santiago. After the season, Peralta was rewarded with a 2 year, $11.25 milion deal. With his $6 million option for 2013, he was essentially signed for 3 years and $17.25 million.
That contract looks like a steal for Dave Dombrowski. Consider that a normal win on the market is about $5 million. In Peralta's 2011 alone, he was worth 5.0 WAR by Fangraphs. That means his contract was "paid off" by September of 2011. For the term of the contract, he's had a value of 9.3 WAR. So, with still 2/3 of a season to compile more stats, Peralta has been worth $46.5 million.
Much was made about Peralta in 2012 bring inadequate at the shortstop position. He slumped to the tune of a .689 OPS. For a shortstop who many (Lynn Henning) thought had too little range, .689 was not enough to play shortstop. However, his defense and offense have improved in 2013. Defensively, Peralta has been sure-handed as ever. Despite a few mental errors against the Twins the other night, he continues to make the plays that a shortstop needs to make. He's also shown some resolve to improve his range by losing close to 20 pounds. This has noticably increased his range, especially up the middle. Meanwhile, every ball that he has to come in on is gobbled up. Overall, Peralta defensively is an underrated asset.
On the batting side, Peralta is surging. Currently, Jhonny bats .327 with an OPS of .852. This pace seems unsustainable, considering his .405 BABIP and highest K rate since 2007. However, the shortstop has a career high LD rate of 26.9%, close to 5% higher than last year. 5 more line drives per 100 at bats means about 3 more hits which will raise a batting average by 30 points right there. Regressing his BABIP from .275 last year to closer to .350 at this line drive rate means that Jhonny can expect to hit closer to .290 or .295. That would place him amongst the top shortstops in the league.
In conclusion, Jhonny Peralta is an underrated asset on the Tigers. His cheap contract probably ensured the Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander extensions. With solid defense, incredible durability, and one of the best bats in the American League at his position, it's time to stop sleeping on Peralta.