What Jhonny Peralta's Suspension Means for the Detroit Tigers
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After weeks of building anticipation, MLB has issued a 50-game suspension to Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers. He and the others punished by the league will now miss all but a few of the remaining games in the regular season.
Though the Tigers can't be pleased to lose Peralta and his .305 batting average, they shouldn't be too worried about a sudden drop-off in team success.
Still, this suspension comes at an inopportune time for Detroit. On Monday, the Tigers enter a four-game series with the rival Cleveland Indians, who sit three games back in the AL Central. Winning this series will go a long way towards securing yet another division title.
Only time will tell how this affects the playoff race, but for the moment, let's take a look at what this means for Detroit.
OK, so this section probably shouldn't be called "The Good." It's actually more like "The Reasons Why Maybe This Won't Be So Bad." Anyways, I digress.
Yes, Peralta carries a .305 BA, .822 OPS and a 3.5 WAR rating, good for second among Tigers position players. They simply can't replace that production, especially from the shortstop position, which has been really weak in the majors recently.
All is not lost, though.
Jose Iglesias currently carries a .320 BA, which everyone and their mother says will come down to Earth. I'm not saying that's wrong. But what I will say is that Peralta was playing over his head, as well.
At the time of the suspension, Peralta was batting .379 on balls put in play. That number is good for fourth in the major leagues, which is a little concerning in some respects. For example, Miguel Cabrera is batting .371 on balls put in play, which is only a touch above his .360 BA.
The disparity between Peralta's regular batting average and batting average on balls in play indicates that he was getting lucky. So maybe he was due for a slump, anyways.
The real thing that should have Tigers fans optimistic, though, is the defense of Iglesias. At the age of 23, he has already refined and perfected his craft. Even better, though, is what that means for Detroit's pitchers, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports aptly puts it:
Tigers have a 46.6% groundball rate. Jose Iglesias is a vacuum cleaner at shortstop. Will be worlds better in the field than Jhonny Peralta.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2013
In the end, if there is one team that can sustain this kind of loss, it's the Tigers. They still have the best team batting average in the majors and score runs without relying on the long ball.
Because the Tigers are so balanced, they can probably afford to lose a guy like Peralta, as good as he has been.
It goes without saying that losing your starting shortstop for 50 games is never a good thing.
Excluding Omar Infante, who is rehabbing from an ankle injury courtesy of Colby Rasmus, Peralta ranks third on the team in batting average behind Cabrera and Torii Hunter. In addition to that, he is in the team's top five in nearly every offensive category. Iglesias won't be able to match that.
What makes things worse is that not everyone is producing up to expectations. Specifically, Prince Fielder is having the worst offensive season of his career, batting .260 and hitting only 17 home runs thus far. With that massive contract, the Tigers need him to step up in Peralta's absence.
Another player who is struggling is Austin Jackson. The talented 26-year-old was red-hot in June, batting .339. In July, though, Jackson was a miserable .223. They desperately need him to regain his confidence in order to keep a stranglehold on the AL Central.
One other possible concern is the health of Cabrera. Sure, the Tigers have actually done just fine in his absence, racking up a record of 7-1 when he hasn't started. But let's be honest: Not a soul in Detroit will tell you that the Tigers don't need him down the stretch.
One side effect of the PED scandals in baseball that often goes unmentioned is the reaction in the clubhouse. These guys play together nearly every day for several months. When one teammate does something like this, it can be a divisive issue.
For the Tigers, many have chimed in on their opinions already. Some guys like Justin Verlander have remained fairly calm on the issue, as Chris Iott reported:
Justin Verlander: "I want a clean game. I want an even playing field all around baseball and I think a majority of the guys feel that way."— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) August 5, 2013
Justin Verlander: "Everybody makes mistakes. ... He's my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field."— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) August 5, 2013
Others, like Jim Leyland, refused to answer questions, as Tom Gage noted:
to clarify if needed: #Tigers Leyland said "see ya' guys" to media after telling us to leave his office when a Peralta question was asked— Tom Gage (@Tom_Gage) August 5, 2013
But perhaps the most disconcerting comment came from Max Scherzer, who has not been afraid to speak his mind. Here's what he had to say, courtesy of George Sipple:
Max Scherzer: "It’s pretty apparent how I feel towards cheaters. With Jhonny, it’s disappointing, it really is.”— George Sipple (@GeorgeSipple) August 5, 2013
Detroit has plenty of games left in the season, and for now, it's unclear as to how Monday's news will affect the team's performance. What we do know, though, is that this is a very tough team to play against, with or without Peralta.
If there's one good thing to come out of this, it's that Major League Baseball is making a concerted effort to clean up the game that we all know and love.
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