Game 49: The return of the Old Shoe
Is it time to stop saying Jhonny Peralta is off to a hot start? Because at this point, Jim Leyland is comparing him in the most reliable terms.
“He’s been an old shoe,” Leyland said. “Very comfortable for a manager. He has a routine he goes through every day, like clockwork. He’s really a good player.”
That “old shoe” term is how he used to describe Placido Polanco.
When Peralta hit .292 with a .743 OPS in April, it was the best opening month of his career. It defied his history of slow starts and struggles in cold weather. More importantly, it set him up for May, historically his strongest month.
With four days left in the month, though, he’s hitting .400 (32-for-80) with eight doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs. He had better RBI production in May 2011, but in terms of pure hitting and reaching base, it’s the best single month of his career.
With his first four-hit game as a Tiger, he propelled himself into the mix among the best hitters in the league not named Miguel Cabrera. While Cabrera easily sits 36 points up on the AL batting average league at .377, Peralta is now tied for second with Baltimore’s Chris Davis at .341.
Peralta entered Monday 10th in the batting race at .326 and raised his average 15 points.
“A lot of guys are going to fly under the radar when you’ve got a Miguel Cabrera and a Prince Fielder,” Leyland said. “Guys are going to fly under the radar. But this guy’s a really good player.”
Does this mean he’s headed for the contract year of all contract years? Not necessarily. But if Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer, he has arguably has gotten beyond the point of a hot start.
“He’s swinging a magic wand right now,” teammate Torii Hunter told reporters. “He can poke the bat out and get a hit. He can swing hard and get a hit. It’s a lot of fun to play the game like that.”
His track record and his age strongly suggest he’s not this good for an entire season. However, he’s also not as bad as his stats suggested last year, either. He might well be good enough for his second All-Star selection in three years.
When one considers Derek Jeter is out and Elvis Andrus’ offensive numbers are a little down, Peralta might even be in position to make a case for the start.