2017 Reds

Is Jose Peraza Improving?

After back-to-back 90+ loss seasons, improvement was all anyone was reasonably hoping for heading into 2017. As we enter into the final stretch of the season, there has not been much holistic improvement in terms of win-loss record. Individually, some players have shown progress and development while others have not. Amid the crosshairs of expectations and reality, there is still much to be determined for this ball club moving forward.

One of those question marks is undoubtedly Jose Peraza. Expectations for Peraza likely varied, but given the Brandon Phillips trade and potential Zack Cozart trade, along with Peraza’s respectable, partial campaign in 2016, a reasonable expectation was for him be a starting middle infielder with close to average production. Reality has aligned in terms of playing time but not quite so much in terms of performance.

After posting a 104 wRC+ with a .324/.352/.411 slash in 241 at-bats in 2016, Peraza’s first half line of 58 wRC+ with a .254/.278/.334 was certainly disappointing. A key component of his poor performance was a complete lack of plate discipline, as shown by his 1.5% walk rate, including the infamous stretch of May 22nd to July 17th without a single walk. Presumably, the only place to go from there was up.

Picking up in mid-September, Peraza’s second-half stats are better with a 79 wRC+ and slash of .274/.347/.313. Amazingly, his walk rate has exploded to 9.3% since the All-Star break, drawing a lot of attention, and for good reason.

 

Starting around mid-July there is a huge decline in ill-advised swings as Peraza’s O-Swing% (Outside the Zone) dropped from the low 40% range to the low 20% range, leading to the huge increase in walks. For reference, Votto’s career O-Swing% is 22.9%. Peraza is never going to have Votto’s plate discipline and his recent trend shows that his peak was not sustainable throughout the entire second half. Still, when comparing both rates to his career numbers (35.7% O-Swing rate and 3.6% walk rate), Peraza has been much better for the past two months.

Plate discipline, while very important, will not make a good baseball player by itself. At some point you have to be able to hit the ball. How have some of Peraza’s other peripherals fared this season?

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Peraza’s lack of power really puts an emphasis on his ability to hit line drives. This is something he did well last year, but has struggled with in 2017, especially early on. The turnaround later in the year coincided with his better plate discipline. Being more selective and waiting for better pitches allowed him to make better contact. While it has dropped off recently, it is encouraging to see that Peraza utilized his improved plate discipline to make better contact.

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Soft contact has been another problem this year and I added it to the graph above. For the year, Peraza stands at 25.8% soft hit rate, giving him the second-highest percentage in baseball among qualified hitters. Compare that to 19.4% last year from last year and it is no question why his balls in play have had a harder time finder open space. This is likely contributing to a BABIP decline of 67 points (.361 to .294), roughly the same drop he has seen across his AVG/OBP/SLG line. The positive is that he has continually dropped his soft hit rate since late July, again, utilizing his increased selectivity to benefit his total offensive game.

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When I read Chad’s tweet, I immediately thought about Peraza’s walk rate improvement, but also the fact that it was not sustained. I said that I would like to see more balanced improvements across the rest of his game, rather than just an unsustainable walk-rate for a month. After looking into the data more, his change in approach led to substantial improvements in plate discipline, which was very noticeable, but also improved his batted ball profile. So while the overall results for the year have not met expectations, it is encouraging to see change being made that has shown itself in several different areas of his game.

Also keep this in mind: Peraza is only 23 years old. Not many players have success in the major leagues at age 23. Pete Rose hit .269/.319/.326 in 1964. Barry Larkin hit .244/.306/.371 in 1987. Current shortstop Zack Cozart was in Double-A during his age-23 season. The list goes on, of course, and it adds to the message that this is far too early to make final judgments. It is, however, a great time to look for improvements that he is making and will hopefully continue to build on going forward.

28 thoughts on “Is Jose Peraza Improving?

  1. Another success by hitting coach Don Long. Long got Peraza straightened out some. Suarez, Gennett, Cozart, Duvall, Schebler, and Barnhart have all seen improvements in their hitting this past season, or over the course of a couple of seasons. There is, very unfortunately, one guy missing from this group, Billy Hamilton.
    Peraza will end up being more of a cross between his 2016 season and his second half of this year. That is what I’m looking for next year out of him. A .280-.300 hitter with about an 8% BB rate. That would be an OBP of about .335 to .355. We all could live with that from Peraza. That will be nice in the #8 or #7 batting slot.

  2. Well, with all the recent chatter about Peraza (especially from me) I guess I should’ve seen this article coming. All I have to say about this is that… I don’t want “average” production from a guy with little to no power. Especially the guy who was tapped as Brandon Phillips replacement. Last time I checked, Phillips was having a pretty solid season for Atlanta before he was traded. I think at least part of the reason people want him to succeed so badly is bcuz he was supposed to be BP’s replacement. But those are big shoes for him to step into. Shoes I don’t think he’ll ever be able to fill. So why is everybody pulling so hard for a kid who projects to be nothing more than an average hitter? “Well, there’s always the chance that he’ll continue to improve”, is what some of you will probably say. Again, I would ask in response to that, how long are you willing to wait for this? I love Cozart, but I don’t want to wait several years for another Cozart to happen bcuz IF Peraza did take a similar career path, we would probably trade him just when he would supposedly reach his potential his “break out (Cozart type breakout) year”. There is nothing special about this kid. You know what I’d like to see…Examples of players who broke into the big leagues at age 23 who sucked at that age and who continued to suck throughout their entire career. I know they’ve got to exist but nobody wants to talk about them. Let’s be fair with these examples.

    • “You know what I’d like to see…Examples of players who broke into the big leagues at age 23 who sucked at that age and who continued to suck throughout their entire career”.

      It is probably more that no one remembers them than that they choose to ignore them. Just from the Reds in the last 20 years or so here are some guys that somewhat fit your criteria in one way or another. Go to Baseball Reference or Fangraphs if you want to dig in on them. All these guys played on the 1998 Reds team which went 77-85. So, it is easy to track them by going to the BBRef Reds 1998 team page (below). Interestingly enough by 1999 when the team won 96 games, all of them except Stynes and Reese had been moved on out.

      https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/1998.shtml

      Willie Greene, Pokey Reese, Jon Nunnally, Chris Stynes, Damian Jackson

      A later day guy to consider is Adam Rosales who continues to bounce around but usually end up on an MLB roster, Then there’s Paul Janish and so, it goes.

    • Why judge a player based on the achievements of another who played the same position? It is entertaining to guess but I don’t think anyone can say Peraza will be a star, solid player, or bust at this point with any accuracy. BP played a grand total of 12 games in MLB in his 23 and 24 years. And both Montreal and Cleveland gave up on him before he came to Cincy. The Reds see something they really like from Peraza and in two or three years we can either enjoy his performance or place blame on the FO.

    • The whole reason for mentioning other 23-year olds is to show it is too early to judge him, not to predict he will become Barry Larkin or Paul Janish or anyone else. There is a lot more statistical analysis that goes into finding those comps. If you want that info, you can read this: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/projecting-the-prospects-in-the-todd-frazier-trade/

      Also, it is impossible to say if Peraza becoming an average hitter will be enough to add value to the team. If he can provide production that outweighs his cost and the rest of the team is good enough for him to be average and the team can win games, then that will still add value.

      • I was referring to comments about Peraza being “tapped as BPs replacement” and that BP was having a good year. Felt like Sandman considered him to be a failure because he doesn’t and won’t ever live up to BP (sorry Sandman if I am taking your comments out of context). I think comparisons to other players of similar age and physical characteristics can be of great value. Showing my age but I remember a couple of young light hitting shortstops that came up with the Reds. Darrel Chaney was eventually traded and Concepcion took a lot of flak until he finally broke through in 1973 (age 25) but broke his leg sliding into second about half way thru the year.

        • David, you were right in your interpretation of my comments. I didn’t want to see BP go bcuz I still believed he could still provide value and also bcuz he was one of my favorite players and his play with Atlanta only proved that to me. His OPS+ with Atlanta before being traded was only slightly below average (97). So, with all the fervor over Peraza I figured he was gonna be as good. But then I hear how he’s light hitting and now is projected as an average hitter. For those who want to nitpick here, I know you would probably say that average is better than slightly below average, whatever. Now, I fully realize that BP is considered old in baseball and probably hasn’t got much longer to play. But I wanted him to retire a red thereby giving the reds time to find a better 2B prospect. Fortunately, the reds went out and signed Gennett. But now there’s talk that he could very well be traded. It sucks.

      • Matthew, a lot of people seemed and still seem high on Peraza as if he’s gonna be the second coming of Tony Gwynn and hit nearly .400. That’s what I’m talking about. There was a lot of excitement for him and he’s just projected to be average. Now, he could certainly exceed his expectations but it seems unlikely. I find it hard to believe that there could be so much hoopla over a player just bcuz of his defense and a little speed. I know defense is important but my lord everybody was so blasted happy to get him and I’ll never understand it. I mean, was everybody that dang happy to be rid of BP that they were elated to receive an average player? Boggles the mind. You talk about him possibly still adding value to the reds even if he is average IF everyone else around him is performing better. I see it as him being outshined in that case.

        • I’m don’t think everyone was thrilled to get him. I recall a lot of people here at RLN who were not at all happy with the return on that trade. The fact that Schebler has become a solid player has helped that outlook on that trade. I have never liked Peraza and still don’t hold out a lot of hope for him. The stuff that Matt has put out here along with watching his plate appearances lately has raised my hopes some. He is only 23 and if he can indeed be an average MLB player, that trade starts to look pretty darn good for the Reds considering how Frazier has done since. Also, if he does turn into an average player, that’s actually better than BP will be over the next couple years and at a much lower cost. And this is coming from me, a guy who really liked Phillips.

          • Lwblogger2, I hope you get to read this. You mentioned how a lot of people at RLN were not happy to get Peraza… sure could’ve fooled me with the way they all seem to be defending him. But, it’s been my experience on another social media platform that there was a lot of hype & excitement for this kid. I do forget that Peraza was traded for Frazier and that for a lot of people that’ll be who JP is forever compared to but for me it will be Phillips bcuz that’s who he was tabbed as replacing therefore I was expecting JP to be at least as good as BP (in his prime. BTW, I still think BP can still hit and provide value and his numbers with Atl proved that to me). But then I hear how JP will be a light hitter and, now, just an average hitter. That may be good enough for some but not for me.

          • Trying to find another BP in his prime is a tough challenge. BP in his prime was one of the best 2B in the game. He’s not a MLB HoF kind of player but he’ll at least get enough votes to stay on the ballot a couple years. He was an excellent player. I don’t know if you can expect any player to step in and be that kind of player. There were only 3-4 2B in MLB who were as good or better than BP for a few years. Simply not a fair comparison. Any team getting a young player is doing so at the hope that the player will be better than the player he is replacing over the next 4-6 years. Not in comparison to the outgoing player in his prime. That is unless the outgoing player was in his prime. I love BP but he hasn’t provided a ton of value this year (yes, more than Peraza) and is unlikely to maintain even his current level of production. That’s where we differ.

            And I always read your stuff Sandman. I don’t have to agree to find it interesting or informative.

  3. Peraza is sort of a difficult case? He has good plate coverage and he’s athletic. He might develop into a pretty good player, but how is he supposed to get full-time atbats when Senzel comes up? I guess they could trade Scooter, but I think that would be a big mistake! He came up in 2013 and hit .324 (.835 ops) in 213 atbats. Its not like he’s never hit before? He’s confident and he’s comfortable in Cincinnati. To me…he’s found money so don’t question it until you have to. He can hit righties! That leaves Suarez, Senzel. or Peraza. Guess who is the odd man out? Trade him or make him into a utility guy, but he’s not a part of any Reds future that I can see? All that is also assuming that Cozart doesn’t come back as well?

  4. I’m not sold even a little. Peraza is average at best in the field, and won’t be a better than average hitter and therefore starter at 2nd, short or center any time soon. He’s blocked by better players in the outfield, at third (Suarez or Senzel), and at second (Gennett or Senzel). The only place he might be an upgrade is at short but only because the Reds don’t have a solid starter there, and at second when there’s a lefty on the mound and only then until Senzel arrives. He’s cheap and has some flexibility in the field, so keep him around as a utility player, but that’s the most I’m hoping for from Peraza. Moving on….

    • My issue with Peraza (and the Frazier trade) is with the kind of player he is. What’s his upside? Speed. It’s hard to imagine him hitting for power, drawing a lot of walks or playing plus defense. He might be a .270 hitter, but with that being mostly singles and few walks to go with it, it’s hollow production. Seems like the Reds targeted Peraza for his speed and athleticism. Qualities that aren’t tightly connected with winning baseball games.

      • The argument that they could have done better with the Frazier trade is one thing, though I still the Reds did well. But if he does improve at the plate and the Reds do find a better starting SS/2B options and Peraza can provide solid production as a super-sub, I think that is best case based on the qualities you mention. That is a lot of ifs though

  5. If Cozy leaves then I expect Peraza to start the year at short.Just got that feeling.

  6. Can he improve his range defensively? That’s the question I have. I don’t know that he can. I’m a believer in him at the plate. I believe he’ll only continue to get better there.

  7. Nice work Matthew. There is one interesting thing about looking at Peraza’s stat lines. He has played just about double what he did last season so his stats in 2017 should be about double what last year was. Interesting to see which ones are not. 2016 is the first column and 2017 the second column.
    2016 line: .324/.352/.411. 2017 line: .257/.297/.325
    G- 72 / 135
    AB- 241 / 471
    PA- 256 / 501
    H- 78 / 121
    1B- 65 / 103
    2B- 8 / 9
    3B- 2 / 4
    HR- 3 / 5
    R- 25 / 49
    RBI- 25 / 37
    BB- 7 / 20 (15 in 2nd half)
    K- 33 / 68
    SB- 21 / 22
    ISO- .087 / .068

    Obviously the number of hits/singles are down. RBI’s are off some too. But most everything else is doubled as should be. But, the 2B and SB are way down and equal what he did last year in half the number of games.
    Where did Peraza’s 2B power go? That is a glaring absence.
    Speed? The Reds really haven’t used Peraza as much this year as a base stealing threat, even though he has 22.
    The bad news is Peraza had horrible months in April and June. The good news is he had two very good months in May and August and has had a better second half. Peraza has had two so-so months in July and September.
    The bad news is that Peraza’s usage has decreased each month this second half from 81 PA’s in July to 76 PA’s in August to just 40 so far in September. The good news is that the horrible months were in the first half.
    Peraza has improved over his first half. However, he is getting less and less time to show that improvement.

  8. I think there is the possibility of a couple of other choices. I do think that Blandino could help fill the hole and I do not think Shed Long should be discounted either. I am probably wrong, but Frazier was a question mark until he was given playing time so who knows?

  9. Good data here Matt. It’s clear you put in some serious research and work into this piece. I’m not high at all on Peraza and haven’t been since day 1. That said, some of what you present here is encouraging and the fact remains that he is still certainly young enough that he can improve his hitting. I also think his defense will improve over the next couple years as he has the raw ability to be a better fielder. Lastly, by all accounts he works hard so if he fails to turn into an average or better MLB player, it won’t be due to lack of effort.

  10. Lwblogger2, I had to start a whole new comment bcuz for some reason there wasn’t a reply option at the end of your last comment to me. But all I wanted to say is that I appreciate your compliment. It’s nice to know that somebody finds the things I say interesting and informative. Yes, I do understand that you and many others may not always agree with my “rants” (lol). I realize that my opinions may not always be the most popular and in direct opposition to the conventional thinking. So I greatly appreciate anyone who gets anything useful out of whatever I say. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think it was possible for someone to get anything useful out of the things I say, bcuz of most of it indeed being in direct opposition to many of the opinions expressed here. I just hope that it’s not a case of me being laughed at bcuz of my opinions being ridiculous or outrageous. But I think you were sincere in your compliment and I thank you. I just want to let you and everyone else on here know that I respect your opinions as well, even if I don’t always agree with it/them. No doubt some of you have figured out that I have a bit of an issue with rage/anger and when someone says something to tick me off it’s very hard for me to bite my tongue…but I do bcuz I enjoy the most of the interactions on here and I want to respect the rules of this site.

    • I read and enjoy your comments, too, Sandman, and can’t remember a single instance of your being disrespectful towards someone you disagree with. It’s always good to have a variety of opinions.

      • Greenmtred, thanks, man. There was one or two instances early on (shortly after I first started commenting on rln) that I was temporarily blocked bcuz of something I had said…but that was bcuz I didn’t know about rln’s rules. But now I do and try to respect the rules. Somebody ticked me of the other day something fierce and I wanted to let loose a tirade of rage…but I didn’t.

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