On Tuesday September 9th, 2014 famed KC Star writer Andrew McCullough tweeted
Salvador Perez is a tremendous player, and the cornerstone of this franchise's future. His regression as a hitter this season is troubling.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 10, 2014
There's no question that Perez has struggled in the second half of the season. In the first half he had a 115 wRC+ which was tied for 3rd best in all MLB catchers. He did so with a basically league average .295 BABIP. Then the entire league decided to take a few days break, have a derby, and play in an All-Star game before returning to regularly scheduled baseball. After that Perez has a 66 wRC+ and his BABIP has dropped almost 50 basis points (.248).
Here's your first half Sal Perez vs your second half Perez:
That's an ugly second half. Abysmal walk rate and in turn OBP. Perez is still hitting for nearly the same amount of power (10 point spread in ISO) and as referenced above you can notice a 50 point drop in BABIP.
Another thing of note, we're talking about 185 plate appearances. That's ~45 games worth of PA's. Perez has over 1500 plate appearances throughout his career and he's been a 7% above league average hitter. Hit career BABIP is .302 which is much more in line with his first half BABIP of .295 than the second half .248.
Turning to see what Perez may be doing wrong we can look at plate discipline figures.
Perez's O-Swing% has shot up drastically, and so has his Z-Swing%. That's obviously lead to his 10% jump in overall Swing%. If he's swinging at strikes more often you'd expect his Z-Contact% to jump (it has), and his aggression on outside pitches has seen his O-Contact% drop. Overall, he's still making the same amount of contact.
Perez is notoriously an aggressive hitter.
Above is Perez's career line against the general league average rate. He does chase outside pitches at an aggressive rate and is swing happy, but also makes outside contact and overal contact at a very high rate.
Compared to last year Perez is almost the exact same player he is this year except for the 30 point drop in BABIP which has been dragged down by his poor luck in the second half.
Our own Alex Gordon suffered a similar 2nd half fate last year.
|2013 1st Half||89||394||9.40%||21.60%||0.134||0.347||0.283||0.355||0.417||0.338||112|
|2013 2nd Half||67||306||4.90%||18.30%||0.184||0.265||0.244||0.291||0.428||0.31||93|
1st half was looking like his 2011-2014 (his breakout year) norms. Nearly the same walk-rates, K-rates, BABIP, average, and OBP but wasn't hitting for quite as much power. Then the second half came, his walk rate plummeted and his BABIP dropped 82 points.
|2013 1st Half||28.70%||64.10%||43.50%||68.20%||85.50%||78.90%||41.80%||55.60%||8.90%|
|2013 2nd Half||32.00%||67.90%||48.40%||64.90%||87.80%||79.60%||45.80%||61.40%||9.70%|
After the first half, Gordon started swinging at more outside pitches in turn making less outside contact and swinging away 5% more.
One more piece of information. Perez is still young and he's been a very successful MLB player behind the plate. Here are the list of catchers in MLB history with 10+ fWAR by age 24.
|Fred Carroll||- - -||552||2385||138||130.6||-5.2||18.5|
|Buck Ewing||- - -||336||1469||117||40.3||48.2||13|
|Ray Schalk||White Sox||692||2451||96||-15.1||41.7||11.7|
|Jack Doyle||- - -||458||1923||113||61||-10||10.1|
That's 15 players. Ever. Sal Perez is one of them, and he's done it while getting the 2nd fewest amount of games.
Here's how those 14 players (excluding Perez of course) did for their careers.
All of them at least doubled their career wins. Bench, Pudge, Ewing and Carter are all Hall of Famers. Torre is a Hall of Famer as a coach and player. Simmons is a borderline Hall of Famer. Mauer has been one of the best hitters period the last 10 years and McCann had multiple very good years. Kendall is the butt of many jokes here, but he was still a very successful catcher. Wynegar would be a 2+ win catcher for a few years while Doyle,Schalk and Carroll played in the late-1800's to early 1900's.
Now maybe Perez does in fact carry his poor 2nd half into next year and beyond. That would be an utter collapse, but a return to his career walk/swing rates, and BABIP should return him to around the same level of player we've grown to love out of Perez. There's really no reason to think that Perez's last 180 plate appearances are more important than the previous 1300 ones or that it is going to be sustained. I don't like using declarative or definitive statements like that, but I'd happily bet that the Perez we saw less than two months ago is the Perez we're going to see for the next few years unless something goes completely out of whack.
Who here would take a league average hitting, 3 win catcher locked up through his theoretical prime years for like 1/10th his value? Hopefully everybody raised their hand, because the Royals basically have that already.