On-Base Perception

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Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta suspension stand-ins are defensive upgrades

Detroit Tigers third baseman Jose Iglesias scoops up

Detroit Tigers third baseman Jose Iglesias scoops up the ground out by Chicago White Sox's Dayan Viciedo during the second inning. (Aug. 4, 2013) (Credit: AP)

All-Stars Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta each agreed to 50-game suspensions this week in connection with the Biogenesis scandal. Their teams are vying for playoff spots and the loss of Cruz, who had 27 home runs for the Rangers, and Peralta, who had an .822 on-base plus slugging percentage for the Tigers, appears to be a setback.

But missing Cruz and Peralta could actually be a boon to their clubs.

Expecting that Peralta would soon be suspended, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski acquired 23-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias in a three-way trade from the Red Sox. It would initially seem that Iglesias is a poor replacement for Peralta. Iglesias was a .257 hitter in the minors with little power. He batted .135 in 74 at-bats coming into this season and, following a strong start, was batting .172 during his previous 25 games going into yesterday. Though his average was an excellent .318, it had fallen more than 80 points in less than a month and is likely to regress even further as Iglesias' unsustainable start catches up with him.

But the Tigers dealt for Iglesias because of his glove, not his bat.

Starter Rick Porcello has a 56.4 percent ground-ball rate and rotation-mate Doug Fister is at 56 percent. They rank Nos. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in ground-ball rate among starters with at least 100 innings pitched.

Having Iglesias to scoop up many of those ground balls at short is likely to have a positive impact on Porcello in particular. Porcello has a 4.32 ERA but a 3.49 FIP, an advanced stat measuring a pitcher's controllable factors: strikeouts, walks and home runs. Batters hitting the ball to the left side of the infield are triumphing off Porcello this season. Lefthanded hitters have a .455 average (15-for-33) when hitting the ball to the opposite field. Righties are batting .321 (18-for-56) when pulling the ball against him.

In 485 1/3 innings at shortstop during his career, Iglesias has a 7.3 ultimate zone rating and 7 defensive runs saved. UZR is an advanced stat measuring a fielder's ability to get to balls hit in his zone and DRS is the primary defensive component in wins above replacement.

In 929 2/3 innings this season, Peralta had just 1 DRS and a 4.3 UZR. Iglesias' extra range is also likely to help Miguel Cabrera, a poor fielder at third who now won't have to cover as much ground to his left.

The replacement is an upgrade in Texas, as well.

The Rangers traded for White Sox rightfielder Alex Rios on Friday and, despite his 12 home runs paling in comparison to Cruz's 27, is likely to be a better player.

Despite his power, Cruz posted a 1.5 WAR. For comparison, scuffling Mets catcher John Buck has a 1.4 WAR. Rios, however, is at 2.1 WAR and counting due, in part, to his defense.

He has a 2.5 UZR in right this season and posted a 9.5 UZR in right per 150 games during his career. In eight seasons as a rightfielder (he mainly patrolled center from 2010-11) he has 70 DRS (though -6 DRS this year). Cruz had a -4.6 UZR in rightfield and -1 DRS before his suspension.

Texas and Detroit, facing the loss of offensive threats, got defensive. And it's likely to pay off.

Tags: Biogenesis , Nelson Cruz , Jhonny Peralta

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