(BaseballStL) -- In the first month of the 2014 season, it was hard to find too many Jhonny Peralta fans in St. Louis. Peralta, signed to a four-year, $53 million deal despite his suspension for HGH, was struggling.
He hit just .204 in April and had almost as many strikeouts as hits.
But that has changed dramatically in late August as Peralta set the single season home run record for Cardinal shortstops Tuesday night, banging his 17th of the season as the Cards came from behind again to defeat Cincinnati 5-4.
“At the beginning of the season it was a little bit tough for me because I hadn’t seen a lot of the pitchers,” Peralta said Tuesday night. “But the more and more I play, I feel more comfortable.”
Does he ever. He’s hitting .340+ in August, has more than 30 doubles, a slugging percentage over .560 and a .960+ OPS. In short, he is doing everything the Cardinals envisioned when they signed him.
“I don’t try to put a goal on it, but if I hit 20 I’ll feel really happy. I don’t try to go out and hit a home run. Whatever happens in the game is going to happen. I’m just trying to do well for the team.”
Still, Peralta exhibits much more confidence than he did early. “The swing that I have and the contact I have is good for home runs, but I’m not trying to be a home run hitter.” More importantly, he said, is just being a part of history with the St. Louis Cardinals.
But Peralta is more than just a steadily-improving offensive player. His defense has been more than the Cardinals hoped for when they signed him to replace slick-fielding Pete Kozma. Peralta has just 10 errors so far this year and according to Baseball Reference, has saved 16 runs on defense. Put that whole package together and his wins above replacement is 4.9.
“In the beginning, in the minor leagues, my defense was better than my offense. Everybody thought my offense wasn’t going to be too good at the major league level, but after I played at AA and AAA, that’s when I started to hit better.”
“Here it’s a little bit harder to hit a homer. I don’t know if it’s the time or the weather, but sometime the balls carry here, sometimes not. In Detroit, the only far part is center field.”
Peralta is on pace to have the most productive season since 2011 season in Detroit when he hit 21 homers and drove in 86, ending the year with a .292 average. If his current torrid streak continues into the September pennant drive, Peralta’s signing would be yet another brilliant front office move by a franchise known for them.