COMMENTARY | After a rough 2012 season, shortstop Jhonny Peralta was lucky to keep his job with the Detroit Tigers. The 31-year-old became expendable in the offseason, but after failing to find suitors or an upgrade, the team opted to give him another chance.
Tiger fans didn't like that Peralta was returning in 2013, but they have to enjoy what they've seen through a quarter of the season. Peralta has quickly become the American League's best shortstop, and here are three reasons why.
His offense at the position is unmatched
Peralta leads AL shortstops in batting average (.326), OBP (.387), OPS (.858), and slugging percentage (.471). He's second in runs (21) and walks (15), tied for second in hits (45) and home runs (4), and tied for fourth in RBIs (18).
While Baltimore Orioles' shortstop JJ Hardy has more home runs (8) and RBIs (24), he has a .236 average. A low .200 average nullifies almost any offensive output when looking for a top positional player.
Say what you will, but numbers never lie, and Peralta is living proof of that in 2013.
He's improved defensively
Peralta has been known for his shaky defense, but that's no longer the case. He entered the 2013 season weighing 215 pounds, 12 pounds lighter than the past season. The change has paid dividends for Peralta, who is third in the American League with a .987 fielding percentage. His range has also improved, as he owns a 4.22 range factor, third in the AL. While it may be overlooked in the new offensive age, defense is extremely important when it comes to being a top shortstop.
He provides value in multiple ways
Name another American League shortstop that has provided what Peralta to the position this season? It's a hard task, because there isn't another shortstop that could come close to Peralta in the American League, whereas Peralta is matched by Colorado Rockies Troy Tulowitzki and Milwaukee Brewers Jean Segura in the National League.
While he will be scrutinized because he's no icon like New York Yankees Derek Jeter, Peralta provides similar value at the position. He hits near the bottom of the lineup, finds a way to get on base, and possesses a reliable glove at a position that demands consistency.
There isn't another American League shortstop that could provide what Peralta does on a daily basis, making him the best shortstop in the league. It may be hard to believe if you're unfamiliar with Peralta and the Tigers, but believe it. The proof is in the numbers, and come July 16, an All-Star selection will cement these claims.
Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's a sportswriter for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.
You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.
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