Last November, the St. Louis Cardinals shocked fans and Major League Baseball as a whole when they announced the signing of free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million contract. The 32-year-old was fresh off a 50-game PED-related suspension and many did not like the association, especially one so lucrative. Others were convinced his future production would suffer.
To replace weak-hitting Pete Kozma, the Cardinals had felt the need to act quickly and decisively to add the best shortstop then on the market – despite Peralta’s obvious warts.
To his credit, the Dominican native demonstrated throughout the 2014 season that he was all that he was expected to be and more. The Cardinals’ leader in extra-base hits – including both doubles and home runs – as well as two-out RBI and Wins Above Replacement was not Allen Craig. It was not any of the Matts – Adams, Carpenter or even Holliday – either.
It was the previously-maligned Peralta, who answered the bell for 157 of 162 regular-season games and both played solid defense and consistently hit the baseball.
His 21 home runs is the highest single-season total in franchise history by a shortstop and was not a fluke. 2014 was his fifth career 20 home run season.
Peralta’s team-leading 38 doubles ranked in a tie for seventh among all National League hitters regardless of position. It was his highest two-base hit total since he had 42 with Cleveland in 2008.
Offering an important right-handed bat in a lineup loaded with lefties, Peralta batted everywhere from second to seventh, but most often was fifth. He delivered plenty of key hits, placing in the top 10 in the Senior Circuit with his 31 two-out RBI. His overall total of 75 runs batted in was second on the team behind Holliday.
Defensively, Peralta is more steady than spectacular, but that matters over the course of a long season. The Dominican Republic native came in third among all MLB shortstops in defensive runs saved with 17. (Click here to read more about this stat.)
Following the season, he was the lone Cardinal named to the Sporting News 2014 National League All-Star Team.
In the Wins Above Replacement measure according to Fangraphs, Peralta topped all Cardinals players at 5.4, even ahead of ace Adam Wainwright at 4.5. Holliday and Carpenter were next among position players at a distant 3.8.
During the post-season, Peralta joined heart-of-the-order batters Holliday and Yadier Molina in a major funk. In the nine games, the shortstop went just 5-for-31 (.161) with one double and one RBI.
It was a disappointing conclusion to a solid first season as a Cardinal for Peralta.
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