It’s time to continue the time-honored tradition of refuting the utter nonsense that Lynn Henning writes for the Detroit News. His most recent case: the Tigers should ship out Jhonny Peralta and go with Danny Worth as their starting shortstop for 2013.
I’m not going to argue that Jhonny Peralta is the greatest of shorstops or the greatest of hitters but I do believe that he has an above average bat for a shortstop and that defensively his weaknesses are well-balanced by his strengths. This is a position at which the Tigers could be upgraded – particularly going into the post-2013 future, since any additional loss of range or agility with age for Peralta would be absolutely crippling. John Verburg already outlined the case for replacing Peralta and some potential ways this could be done – I won’t go into that again.
My beef is with the contention that Danny Worth is a perfectly acceptable option to replace the imperfect Peralta. Danny Worth is not. Henning argues that we should expect 25 doubles and 10 homers from Worth (though at least conceding that he probably wouldn’t best his career .244 batting average). If we extrapolate from Worth’s career averages and scale up to a 600 plate appearance season, he would get those 25 doubles but only 5 home runs – and a .628 OPS (well over a hundred points lower than Peralta’s career numbers). He has shown not inconsiderable pop – for a shortstop – in AAA last year and the year before, but his overall minor league numbers have been nothing to write home about. If we go by his Davenport translations – Worth has produced the equivalent of a .231/.293/.333 line with an overall .626 OPS extraordinarily close to his actual major league numbers.
There is a reason to expect better from Worth – he has done better at AAA in 2011 and 2012 than any other stop along the road in the minor leagues and that typically bodes well for a player’s ability to transition to the majors. That is a smallish sample, though, and Worth has never been young for his minor league level. There is perhaps a bigger reason to expect less – Worth has shown extreme platoon splits and has been used, in the major leagues, mostly against lefties. Austin Jackson – a righty who plays every day – hits against lefties approximately 30% of the time. Worth has hit against lefties almost 50% of the time. In Toledo this year his L/R split was 1.009/.713, as a big-leaguer .748/.513. That suggests to me that Worth could do fine as a backup for a lefty shortstop, but that he’s not likely to have much success as an everyday player. If we weight his OPS according to Austin Jackson’s L-R plate appearance ratio he drops from a .628 to a .582. I’m skeptical that the .628 would be good enough for him to add value – as I think he’s more likely to be a tad above average in the field than he is to be Ozzie Smith – but I’m pretty sure .582 wouldn’t be.
In short – if the Tigers want a better all-around shortstop than Jhonny Peralta (and I think they do) – they need to be looking outside the organization (and I think they are). However much Henning and other devotees of the Tigers farm system like Danny Worth, handing the job to him would not be very different from handing the job to a minor league free agent or Rule 5 pick.