The St. Louis Cardinals signed free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a $52 million contract over the offseason. Entering play on Sunday, the veteran will rank sixth on the team in hits, with 23 in 105 at-bats. Peralta's .219 average places him fifth on the team among qualified batsmen. Going by these measures of production, you might be inclined to think that Peralta has been bad, perhaps even a bust. But you'd be wrong.
If all hits were created equal, Peralta might be criticized for a bad start to the season. Of all the frames used for valuing a player's offensive production, my favorite is to think of hits as coins. At first blush, you might suppose that a man with three coins in his pocket has more money than a lady with two coins in her purse. But if the man has three nickels and the lady two dimes, her coins are more valuable. So it is with Peralta, who has amassed a large share of extra-base hits this season and so his batting has been more valuable in baseball currency than some of his teammates with more hits or a higher average.
As noted above, Peralta has notched only 23 hits. But a majority of those hits (13) have been of the extra-base variety, including a team-leading seven homers. Peralta has nearly double the dingers of Yadier Molina, who places second on the team with four so far this season.
The long ball has fueled Peralta's power numbers. His Slugging Percentage (SLG) of .476 is third on the team behind Matt Adams (.482) and Molina (.528). But both Adams and Molina have hit a fair amount of singles, which helps boost their SLG rate. If we look at Isolated Power (ISO), which excludes singles from the equation and focuses only on extra-base hits, Peralta has a Cardinals-leading .257 ISO. Molina (.185) places second, Adams (.147) third, and no other Cardinal has an ISO above the MLB non-pitcher average of .144. Consequently, St. Louis—with a collective .126 ISO—places 26th in all of baseball among non-pitcher players, ahead of the Padres (.113), Rangers (.111), Mets (.110), and Royals (.108).
The Redbird bats have been punchless to start the season, which has been reflected on the scoreboard. They've plated runs at a meager rate, resulting in the club squandering many an excellent starting-pitcher performance. If you think that the Cardinals offense has been frustrating to watch during the start of the season, imagine what it would be like without Peralta's power. It's scary.