Jhonny Peralta is hitting .267/.347/.405 so far this year with 4 HR, 18 RBI and a 106 OPS+ in 240 PA. This is somewhat of a disappointment as he hit .299/.345/.478 with 21 HR, 86 RBI and a 123 OPS+ in a breakout season in 2011. At only 30 years old, he was supposed to build off of that year and continue to be an offensive force. However, except for his on-base percentage, he’s fallen off quite a bit back to his career numbers. Was last year a fluke? Or is Peralta getting unlucky this year?
As mentioned, his OBP has been up this year thanks mostly to his high BB rate, 10.4%. It hadn’t reached 10% since his 2004 and 2005 seasons. This is very encouraging. His strikeout rate has been slightly decreasing since 2010 (16.7% in 2010; 16.5% in 2011; 16.3% so far in 2012). This has given Peralta his best walk to strikeout ratio of his career. So he must be seeing the ball pretty well this year. His plate discipline numbers back this up too. His swinging strike rate (swing and misses/total pitches) is the lowest of his career, 8.0% and his contact rate is the highest in his career at 82.9%.
So, if he’s seeing the ball well, why hasn’t he been producing? Well, according to FanGraphs, he has a 28.3% LD rate. Not only is this the highest of his career, but it’s top 5 in all of baseball, behind Joey Votto (33.0%), Freddie Freeman (30.9%), Jason Kubel (29.5%) and Alejandro De Aza (29.4%). Hitting line drives is important because they fall in for base hits more frequently than any other type of batted ball, typically around 72% of the time. The fact that Peralta has hit this many line drives and has as low of a batting average as he does seems unusual. One quick measurement of luck is to add .120 to his line drive rate and compare it to his BABIP; if it’s higher than he’s been unlucky, if it’s lower than he’s been lucky. .283 + .120 = .403. Peralta’s BABIP is currently at .308; which isn’t too far away from his career .314 mark. However, putting it in perspective of his line drive rate shows that maybe Peralta has been a little unlucky this year.
Peralta’s HR/FB rate is currently at 7.0%, the lowest he’s ever put up. Last year it was at 10.8% and his career mark it 11.0%, so this seems unusual. His FB% of 32.9% is pretty low for him as the last 2 years it’s been 43.4% and 44.2%. Hitting more line drives instead of fly balls is usually a good trade-off. Sure, the homers decrease, but usually the average and sometimes the slugging percentage increase. This hasn’t been the case for Peralta. Although, we still have a little more than half a season to go, so maybe Peralta has a home run tear in him before the end of the season.
Peralta has a career .329 wOBA and 100 wRC+ and he currently has a .328 wOBA and 104 wOBA. So it seems like he’s right where he should be. However, the advanced numbers suggest something different. Peralta has been seeing and hitting the ball in a way that should result in better results. And maybe his luck is finally changing. Over his last 78 PA, he’s hitting .324/.397/.529 with 2 HR.
I propose that we make Peralta the #5 hitter, where the Tigers have had difficulty getting consistent production. Sure, the numbers on the surface show that this might not be a good idea, but as Peralta has shown over his last 21 games, his luck might already be changing and the Tigers could reap great reward from it.