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Sohme Nhumberhs ihn Prhaise ofh Jhonny

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Jhonny Peralta, bringer of dingers and saviour of the 2014 season. How good has he really been?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

So there was a baseball game last night, and it was...interesting. There was some defensive weirdness for el Birdos along the way, a fairly baffling performance by Alfredo Simon (doing his best Joe Kelly impersonation, essentially), and, finally, to top it all off, a walk off hit by pitch. Which would have been super awesome, except we've already seen that this season. I'm thinking a walk off wild pitch would have been cool; I can't recall the Cards having one of those yet in 2014.

Actually, screw that. The hit by pitch was still cool as hell, and I'll take about a dozen more before the season is over, please.

But, while there was certainly a weird and wacky vibe to the whole night, there was an milestone reached that should really be remarked upon. When Jhonny Peralta sent a Simon slider sailing into the sky in the sixth, he became the Cardinals' all-time single-season home run leader at shortstop. The ball traveled a reported 438 feet, landing in the upper deck just over from Big Mac Land, and carried Jhonny into the record books with it. Which is sort of amazing, when you think about it, considering there's still a month and a half of the season left to go. I suppose it shouldn't be completely surprising Peralta is the guy to set the record, when you look at the type of players the Cardinal franchise has traditionally employed at short, but I have to admit, in my mind Edgar Renteria hit for more power than he actually did. (His single-season high was 16, back in 2000.)

And so, I thought, to celebrate not only Jhonny's historic night but also his rather extraordinary season so far (seriously, can you imagine where this team would be without him?), I would take a quick look at some of his numbers thus far.

  • As of this morning, the 20th of August, Jhonny has produced 4.9 wins above replacement, according to the Baseball-Reference WAR model. (Normally I prefer to use Fangraphs' WAR, but in this case B-Ref's page setup makes comparisons a little quicker to look up. Beside, there's only about three tenths of a win difference in the two.)
  • Comparing that to last year, when Pete Kozma was the primary starting shortstop for the Cards, that's a...well, I can't actually quantify how much better that is, since there's really no way to multiply Kozma's negative value (a -0.4 WAR), and get a positive number. Trying to get from Pete's 2013 to Jhonny's 2014 is like trying to divide by zero: it just doesn't make sense.
  • Taking the values of the Cards' primary starting shortstops only, you can go back all the way to 2010, adding up all the values, and still be short of what Peralta has done just in 2014. That's right; Jhonny Peralta this year has been worth as much as one season each of Pete Kozma, Rafael Furcal, Ryan Theriot, and Brendan Ryan, all added together, with plenty of room to spare. Those four seasons were collectively worth 3.1 total WAR, with Boog's 2010 accounting for 2.1 of that. Now, going back to 2009 throws a wrench in things, since Ryan was worth 4.5 wins all by himself that season. Remember how fun that was? Still, four seasons, four shortstops, and still almost two wins shy of the value contributed by Jhonny Peralta in just 2014.
  • Last season, Pete Kozma hit one home run in 448 plate appearances. At that rate, he would have needed 7,616 plate appearances to match Jhonny's output this season.
  • Peralta's seventeen home runs is one fewer than Cardinal starting shortstops produced from the years 2006-2013. David Eckstein was in his second season with the Redbirds in 2006.
  • Peralta's current WAR of 4.9 would be the second-highest total of both Eckstein and Edgar Renteria's careers; again, still with six weeks left in the season. In other shocking news, David Eckstein once had a 5.2 WAR season. I remember him having some nice seasons with Anaheim, but I have to admit, that number was a real surprise to me.
  • The current market rate for wins in the offseason is somewhere in the $6-7 million range. At that rate, Peralta has been worth right around $30 million or so this season. If he keeps up anything close to his current pace, he should be worth his entire four-year deal by the time the 2015 season ends. And maybe even earlier.
So, yeah. I think it's fair to say the Jhonny Peralta signing was a good one. Perhaps even the steal of the offseason, no matter what Jon Heyman might think with a cursory glance at a batting average. (And yes, that bit of "analysis" still really, really sticks in my craw, even after all these months.) The Cardinals have the best left side of an infield in all of baseball this season, and Peralta has been the club's best player overall.

Not too shabby for a guy who looks so little like a shortstop, eh?