It’s no secret that Jhonny Peralta plays shortstop like he’s wearing a set of iron loafers. If the ball isn’t hit directly at him, Jhonny seems to miss every groundball by one step. (Even when it is hit at him, that only precedes an adventurous throw to the surprisingly limber Ryan Garko.) Either opposing hitters have an uncanny ability to ground swiftly to just avoid Peralta’s outstretched arms, or he’s just a step too slow to get to balls just out of his zone.
This wouldn’t be a huge problem if he were hitting like Peralta Version 2005-2006, but he’s chilling around the Mendoza line these days, which is never a good thing for your starting shortstop. Be a great fielder, or a great hitter, or preferably both. Just don’t be neither. (Click 'More' to keep reading ...)
What makes this achingly unbearable to watch is that Peralta’s keystone partner, Asdrubal Cabrera, is a Gold-Glove caliber phenom at short stop. In the few games Cabrera has started for the slumping Peralta, AsCab has looked equally natural and in-rhythm for balls directly at him and balls 15 feet to the left or right. It’s his natural position, and one that he will surely take over once the Tribe figures out what to do with Peralta.
Consider the defensive stats. Peralta is third-last in defense for AL shortstops and third-last among all shortstops, tallying .778 RZR (Balls recorded for outs in a player’s defensive zone). He’s got a .981 fielding percentage, but it’s easy not to make errors when you’re only making the easy plays and letting the moderately difficult grounders roll through into the outfield.
By contrast, Asdrubal -- even though he doesn’t have enough innings at shortstop to qualify -- has a .875 RZR, which would be tops in the AL. He’s gotten to 4 balls outside of his defensive zone (OOZ) in 47 innings, compared with just 13 for Peralta in 274 innings. Given as much time as Peralta, Cabrera would probably reach twice as many balls outside of his zone, or about 10 more outs than pudgy Jhonny. Ten additional outs over the course of 30 games is a huge difference.
It’s not a breakthrough to say that Peralta is an awful defensive shortstop. It’s just staggering to see the numbers and realize that while he may appear to be only a step behind, the gap is much, much wider than that. – Vince the Polack