Matt, Matt, Jhonny: Peralta stepping up in absence of Holliday, Adams
ST. LOUIS -- Jhonny Peralta is having one of the best seasons of his career.
On Friday against the visiting Kansas City Royals, three singles extended his hitting streak to three games, following a home run Tuesday and a base hit Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies. His .323 average leads all shortstops in the league this year, and he has a .909 OPS.
It's a welcome thought for the Cardinals, surely, after losing two big bats in Matt Adams and Matt Holliday within the past three weeks. But it's even more comforting considering the reported four-year, over $52 million contract Peralta signed with St. Louis in November 2013 -- and after which, during his first season in the National League, he hit .263, mediocre by his own career numbers.
In fact, he'd batted .303 the prior year in Detroit, though his season was shortened 50 games due to a suspension because of his relationship with Biogenesis, which reportedly distributed human growth hormones and other performance-enhancing substances to major league players. A subpar 2012 had been sandwiched between his career-best batting averages in 2011 and 2013 and, entering the 2013 offseason, the Cardinals wanted a veteran shortstop who could hit from the right side while being reliable defensively. It was a shallow market, team general manager John Mozeliak admitted to MLB.com, and the club quickly scooped up Peralta, who'd played his entire major league career -- from 2003 on -- in the American League.
Which brings us to the unexciting 2014 numbers. There was a lot to adjust to that year in St. Louis.
"He put a lot on himself last year when he got here, and he had to overcome some things that were out there that he had to fight his way through," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny says. "And that can always add to the difficulty of trying a new league, trying a new team."
The silver lining is being able to look at Peralta's improvement over this approximate time last year. Before the 2014 All-Star break, his batting average was at .253. He'd had a horrible April (.204), a good May (.278) and a mediocre June (.250). This year, he hasn't hit below .300 in any given month. His 35 RBIs and 10 home runs lead the team.
"I think we're seeing the kind of player he is," Matheny says. "I think we're just watching a guy who's a consistently good player all the way around, who's doing a great job defensively as well, is putting together tough at-bats."
Peralta also celebrated another career milestone this weekend -- his 1,600th major league game. Overall, he's been a reliable body in the lineup so far this season, another boon for a club that's endured a swath of injuries to key players early on. If Peralta can help the Cardinals stay atop the Central Division as they figure out how to adjust to the injuries at other positions, the club's faith in him -- and that contract -- will prove well placed.