The Detroit Tigers have been clinging to a micro-thin lead in the American League Central, and they’re now faced with a little more adversity in the hunt for a postseason berth.
UPDATE: Saturday, Aug. 10, at 8:55 a.m. ET by Sam Westmoreland
From ESPN's Pedro Gomez:
Heard from a pair of reliable sources that it's highly unlikely Nelson Cruz (Rangers) and Jhonny Peralta (Tigers) appear in the postseason.— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) August 10, 2013
---End of Update---
Peralta commented on the suspension:
'In spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret. I apologize to everyone that I have hurt as a result of my mistake, including my teammates, the Tigers' organization, the great fans in Detroit, Major League Baseball, and my family. I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension.
I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down. I promise to do everything possible to try and earn back the respect that I have lost.'
The story was first reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Peralta isn’t the engine that drives Detroit’s offense, but he’s at least been a spark plug in the bottom half of the order this season. While Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have done much of the heavy lifting, Peralta has quietly put together a terrific season.
Peralta is batting above .300. If he finished the season today it would be his highest average in his professional career after just missing that mark in 2011 (.299). He's also on pace to rival some of his best numbers in home runs, doubles and RBI. That has been great news for the Tigers, as Peralta has been picking up the slack he let unwind last season in hitting just .239 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI.
However, Peralta’s absence now opens the door for the AL Central race to heat up. Just as one key acquisition can boost a team’s playoff chances, one key absence can be the crumbling keystone in a failed late-season push.
The Cleveland Indians have been within striking distance for several weeks, aided by a recent three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. As well as the Indians are playing at the moment, Detroit shouldn’t feel safe with or without Peralta.
The Kansas City Royals aren’t exactly in the hunt for the division crown at the moment, but they’ve been extremely consistent of late and may be playing the best baseball of any team in the AL Central since the All-Star break.
Do you think the loss of Peralta hurts the Tigers' playoff hopes?
Peralta’s absence opens the door a little further for both teams to chip away at Detroit’s lead, especially with a throng of matchups still on the schedule against both teams. By the time the division has been decided, the Tigers will have played 18 more games against their two biggest division challengers.
A lot can happen between now and October, but it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Detroit manages to augment Peralta’s missing production. As quoted by John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press, general manager Dave Dombrowski doesn’t expect to field a shortstop capable of producing Peralta’s offensive output:
We have depth in the infield. Argenis Diaz (the Triple-A shortstop) is an outstanding defensive shortstop. (Danny) Worth is playing second base (at Triple-A) -- we know he can play shortstop. (Ramon) Santiago can go over there and play. You’re not going to get the offense from any of them that you would get on a regular basis.
Peralta isn’t a great defensive shortstop—and his replacement is likely to be an upgrade in the field—but as Dombrowski pointed out, the offense simply isn’t going to be there.
At this point in the season, so much of a team’s offensive success is predicated on continuity and consistency. Peralta has been a crucial component to one of the league’s best offenses, and with the shortstop now suspended for 50 games, Detroit is going to feel the effects.