My concept of Jhonny Peralta was born after his first few seasons, in 2005: “meh.” Since then, the league has changed. Which means it’s time to re-evaluate players that have stayed the same since then. Like Jhonny Peralta.
Let’s just take Peralta’s power with respect to the league and put it on a graph. Oh wait, this site does that for you automatically.
Do you see how he’s hovered around league average, fallen from his early peak, and yet now looks better as the league ISO has fallen? Here’s his career rolling ISO by year, compared to the league, and the league’s shortstops:
There is something to his power that’s a little different, though. I used ISO because it was more stable. Peralta’s ISO has oscillated between .120 and .180 generally — that describes all but two of his seasons — and yet his homer total has changed from 11 to 24. Even weirder, over the last five years, his home run per fly ball percentage has only varied from 7.9% to 12.4%. You’d basically project him for around 9% most years, and he’d come within a point or two most years. And still his homer total has been as low as 11 and as high as 21 the last few years.
As much as Peralta has stayed the same, he’s changed. Check out his batted ball mix.
Batters do generally hit fewer ground balls as they age, but Peralta has kept that tendency going into his early 30s. He’s now settled in around a one-to-one level for three years. If he were to keep that up for a fourth year (and be about as healthy), he’d hit about 160 fly balls next season. At his career HR/FB, he’d hit 16 homers. Steamer projects him for 15.
Peralta did switch from the American League to the National for the first time, a move that is generally positive for the fantasy outcomes of the hitter. But that move is supposed to add a few strikeouts and Peralta almost cut his strikeout rate by a fifth from 2013 to 2014. That’s probably because Peralta had a baseline over 20% early in his career, but 2013 was the outlier in a five-year stretch that saw better strikeout rates.
It’s virtually impossible to tease out what effect performance enhancing drugs have had on Peralta’s career. His power waned last year in the middle of an investigation that cost him a 50-game suspension in the end, but his power has rebounded this year. He’s also never failed a test, so it’s likely that the suspension did not alter his usage much. In other words, he was implicated by association, not a test, so he’s more likely to have changed the personnel than the approach.
Maybe that’s a cynical way of thinking about it, but we’re left having to parse the tea leaves in cases like this. At the very least you have to agree that he’s slightly more likely than the general baseball population to be suspended for a large portion of next year. (Much more?)
No matter. When he’s in there, he’s likely to hit for an average that’s slightly better than league average, hit for power that’s slightly better than league average, and give you slightly more RBI than you might expect. That’s much more likely to produce a top-15 season than it is to make him an deep-league-only shortstop, or a bit more valuable with respect to his peers than if you were thinking of him as you thought of him back when you hummed Hollaback Girl as you got dressed and bench pressed to Since You Were Gone.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.