You already know Jhonny Peralta had an excellent season for the Cardinals last year, but I have some lists and comparisons that might show it was even better than you think. First, let's unpack the preseason projections.
Viva El Birdos made the most bullish projections for Bonny Jhonny, and we ended up the closest because of that. We were thirteen points high in BA, but other than that were remarkably close to his final numbers except for being a bit shy on his power, as was evident in the homerun projections. Steamer looks really strange there, as it had the second-lowest SLG projection while being the only system to correctly predict he'd clear twenty homeruns. Anyway, Peralta had a better season than any of the projections thought he would, surpassing VEB's expectations by a bit and Oliver's next-best by a solid margin. In doing so, he chalked up 5.4 fWAR, the best season of his career by that metric.
He combined very good hitting and very good defense at a premium position as league offensive averages dropped around him, and it was enough to put him in some elite company in the National League for the season and in Cardinals history. Before we look at that, let me clear any confusion about his defense.
At the time of his signing, some folks were skeptical of Peralta's defense, or at least the outstanding metrics he'd recorded with the glove late in his career, but he was outstanding yet again. Mark Simon (@msimonespn) tweeted a chart indicating good plays, misplays, and errors for each shortstop in the league.
Which shortstops rate best at making good plays/avoiding mistakes? Amarista, Hechavarria among most impressive pic.twitter.com/RGgZzJUVfr— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) October 6, 2014
Across all shortstops who qualified, the average was one misplay or error per 30.9 innings in the field. Jimmy Rollins was second best in baseball in this measure, registering one misplay or error per 55.7 innings. Jhonny Peralta made one misplay or error per 69.7 innings played. Peralta was over 25% better than second place, and was in another stratosphere than the average shortstop at simply making every play he should have in 2014. He is very, very good at not making mistakes.
Defensive metrics can be hard to trust, but after four years of terrific UZR and nuggets like above, it appears pretty clear that one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball is a 32 year-old slugger who was an average defender for the first seven years of his career.
I don't want to get too bogged down with analysis here, because the following lists and comparisons speak loud enough on their own. I'll just preface this by saying that Jhonny certainly didn't seem to have any particularly generous amount of luck aiding him. His .292 BABIP in 2014 was below his career average, and there's nothing in his peripherals that suggests anything but optimism for next year.
Cardinals Hot Stove
How does Jhonny Peralta's 2014 stack up against...?
2014 NL shortstop Silver Slugger Ian Desmond: .255/.313/.430
2014 Jhonny Peralta: .263/.336/.443
Full list of NL position players with more fWAR than Peralta's 5.4 in 2014: McCutchen, Rendon, Lucroy, Stanton, Gomez, Posey, Rizzo
Full list NL position players with more bWAR than Peralta's 5.8 in 2014: Lucroy, Rendon, Stanton, McCutchen, Heyward
Full list of NL players with more doubles than Peralta's 38: Lucroy, Freeman, A. Gonzalez, Goldschmidt, Span, Rendon
Full list of NL players with more fangraphs defensive value: Simmons, Hamilton
Since 2000, Peralta's 18.8 Def value at fangraphs is the 30th best by a shortstop. Of the 29 seasons that bested it, only Alex Rodriguez' 2000 and 2002 years featured a better season hitting. (Among shortstops who have cleared 15 Def value since 2000, Peralta has the two best hitting seasons by anyone not named Alex Rodriguez.)
Top five shortstops in MLB per fWAR: Peralta 5.4, Tulowitzki 5.1, Desmond 4.1, Aybar 4.1, Rollins 3.6
Of individual seasons by a Cardinals shortstop since 1920, Peralta's 2014 rankings:
RBI: (t) 7th.
fWAR: 9th. (Ozzie Smith had four of the eight seasons that beat him)
Jhonny Peralta wasn't just better than we thought he would be in 2014. He was the Cardinals' best player, he was one of the ten best position players in the National League, and he made some marks in the illustrious Cardinals shortstop history books. I'm looking forward to his 2015.