Is Jhonny Peralta Baseball's Best Shortstop?

With Troy Tulowitzki out, no one has put up better numbers at shortstop than Jhonny Peralta.

After the St. Louis Cardinals took three of four games in their all-important weekend set with the Milwaukee Brewers, their lead in the NL Central grew to 5 games over the Brew Crew, and it's now 4.5 over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have leaped over Milwaukee for second place in the division.

Even though the Cardinals haven't been terribly impressive for much of the season, they are making a move at just the right time. And one of the players leading them there is Jhonny Peralta, who, with Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki out for the season, is the best shortstop playing Major League Baseball right now.

Of course, when Tulowitzki is healthy, he has no peer at the position, and would certainly get the nod over Peralta. However, Tulo's fWAR is now lower than Peralta's, and over the last three years has played in 47, 126 and 91 games. As of right now, of all the players playing, Peralta is best.

Where would St. Louis be without Jhonny? He has been doing it for St. Louis all season long, both with the glove and the bat. But when the Cardinals signed him to a four-year, $53 million deal in the off-season, it was not without some trepidation by many. Peralta, you'll remember, was suspended for 50 games last year for his role in the Biogensis PED scandal, and his signing was not without some controversy.

Apparently, the Cardinals knew what they were doing.

Jhonny PeraltaCardinals1.365.35.520.35412714.118.1
J.J. HardyOrioles0.
Erick AybarAngels-
Jimmy RollinsPhillies0.523.33.717.3181014.17.7
Alexei RamirezWhite Sox0.663.13.314.32110145.7
Alcides EscobarRoyals-
Jose ReyesBlue Jays0.762.82.49.3221026.20.7
Ian DesmondNationals0.392.72.022.3191014.13.6
Starlin CastroCubs1.
Hanley RamirezDodgers1.262.32.313.34912514.3-6.8

His nERD of 1.36 means a lineup full of Jhonny Peraltas would score 1.36 runs a game more than a lineup full of league average hitters, tops among all MLB shortstops. He also has the top Wins Above Replacement (fWAR and rWAR) among his peers at the position, with his 5.5 fWAR 5th among all NL position players and his 5.3 fWAR tied for 4th in the National League.

His .270/.344/.461 slash line is slightly better than his career numbers (.268/.331/.428) but not too far off. His walk rate of 9.5% is the best its been since 2005, his first full season in the Majors, and his 17.9% strikeout rate is the lowest its been since 2011. He notched career hit #1500 on Sunday, and our projections see him finishing the season at .267/.343/.456, with an OPS of .799, a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .346, 22 HRs and 74 RBIs.

And aside from his offensive prowess, his defense has also been huge, third among all National League shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved, at +17.

Yet his name has not come up much in the MVP discussion. Much of that is probably due to the stigma of being caught using a performance enhancing drug, in addition to the performances of players like Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Lucroy and Clayton Kershaw, all of whom have a better case for the MVP at this stage of the season. But there is still time for a hot month of September to at least force baseball writers to consider putting his name on the ballot.

Peralta has also been far and away the best offensive player on St. Louis this season. The closest Cardinal to in terms of Baseball Reference's offensive WAR (oWAR) to Peralta's 3.7 is Matt Carpenter at 3.0. Yadier Molina, who in reality is the team's most valuable player, only recently came off the disabled list, and many of the remaining St. Louis hitters have not had terrific years in terms of run production.

Backed by pitching and their usual excellent defense, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be steaming toward yet another National League playoff birth. This time around, they're probably not the best team in the league, but the Cardinal Way always seems to win baseball games when it matters most.

And Jhonny Peralta is a big reason why.