The Detroit Tigers have won 11 straight games against the Minnesota Twins, extending that streak by taking the first two games of this weekend’s series at Target Field. They’ve won the last two games by a combined 14-4 score. One of the biggest reasons for Detroit’s run of dominance over the chief AL Central rival is the performance of shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Since coming over from Cleveland in July of last year, Peralta has suited up for the Tigers against the Twins 13 times. Detroit lost the first two of those games in extra innings at Target Field last September and then the streak began with the final game of that series. Last season, with the Tigers going 4-2 versus Minnesota after the Peralta trade, Jhonny went 11-for-28 with two home runs and eight RBI. This season, Peralta has been even better against the Twins.
Peralta followed Thursday night’s big game (3-for-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) with an even bigger night on Friday where he again collected three hits, again with a double and a homer, but this time knocking in four runs. For the season, Peralta’s line against Twins pitching is a gaudy .565/.577/1.261/1.838. In 26 plate appearances over seven games this year, Peralta is 13-for-23 with four doubles, four homers and 13 RBI.
The surprising thing is that coming into last night, even with all the success Peralta has had against the Twins since putting on a Tigers uniform, his career total total versus Minnesota aren’t all that great. In 122 career games, Peralta had produced a line of just .261/.314/.435/.749 when facing the Twins. If you take out his numbers since the trade, you are left with a line of .238/.291/.387/.678. Those were his numbers against the Twins over 110 career games while playing for Cleveland.
Peralta’s success versus the Twins since the trade is much more drastic an improvement than his overall numbers since leaving Cleveland, but there is no doubt that the trade that brought him to the Tigers has helped to rejuvenate his career. In parts of eight seasons with Cleveland, Peralta posted a line of .264/.329/.422/.751. If you combine his numbers to toss out partial seasons, Peralta essentially played in six full seasons with the Indians and averaged 17 home runs and 76 RBI; certainly strong production from a shortstop. The difference in his numbers since he came to the Tigers is glaring, however.
Peralta has now played in 146 games for Detroit, or essentially one full season for most players. He’s accumulated over 530 at bats, so certainly we have a good sample size to work with. Despite playing his home games in a park that has a much more pitcher-friendly reputation than Progressive Field in Cleveland, Peralta has produced a line of .294/.346/.486/.832 with the Tigers. He cleared the fence 24 times and has knocked in 94 runs for Detroit.
His first full season was 2005 and as a 23-year-old he put up the best season of his career in Cleveland, finishing with 24 long balls and and OPS+ of 137. This season with the Tigers, Peralta is on pace for 26 home runs (career high is 24), 95 RBI (career high is 89) and currently holds an OPS+ of 155. His .322 average would set a new career-high as well, as would his .368 OBP, his .547 Slugging percentage, and of course, his .915 OPS.
In case you were wondering, the guy the Tigers traded away to get Peralta, Giovanni Soto, was off to a fine start at High-A Kinston this year, but has only worked 56 innings over 11 starts this season. He was shut down due to a shoulder ailment earlier in the year and has yet to return to action.
You can point to a few examples of trades that didn’t work out under Dave Dombrowski’s reign as Tigers GM, but the Soto for Peralta deal, even just a year later, has to be scored a win for the Tigers.