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Salvador Perez is still the same tremendous player

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Regression, schmegression, Salvy still has a bright future.

Ed Zurga

On Tuesday September 9th, 2014 famed KC Star writer Andrew McCullough tweeted

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:

PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
1st Half 347 5.50% 11.20% 0.154 0.295 0.283 0.329 0.437 0.337 115
2nd Half 185 1.10% 15.70% 0.144 0.248 0.232 0.238 0.376 0.266 66

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.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Career 41.00% 65.20% 52.10% 81.10% 92.00% 87.30% 45.70% 63.10% 6.40%
1st Half 41.50% 64.70% 51.60% 80.40% 90.70% 86.00% 43.40% 61.70% 7.00%
2nd Half 52.70% 72.60% 61.40% 75.30% 96.90% 86.50% 44.00% 68.10% 8.00%

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.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Salvador Perez 41% 65.2% 52.1% 81.1% 92% 87.3% 45.7% 63.1% 6.4%
League Average 30% 65% 46% 68% 88% 81% 45% 59% 8.5%

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.

Season Name G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
2013 Salvador Perez 138 526 13 48 79 0 4.00% 12.00% 0.141 0.311 0.292 0.323 0.433 0.329 106 -2.4 1.2 16.1 3.7
2014 Salvador Perez 131 532 16 52 63 1 3.90% 12.80% 0.15 0.278 0.265 0.297 0.415 0.312 98 -0.5 -1.9 14.1 3.2

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.

G PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
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
2014 137 568 9.50% 18.50% 0.176 0.311 0.274 0.354 0.45 0.354 127
2011-2014 605 2679 9.20% 19.60% 0.173 0.335 0.285 0.356 0.457 0.355 124

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.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
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%
2011-2014 28.10% 66.10% 45.00% 64.90% 86.80% 79.20% 44.50% 57.70% 9.00%

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.

Name Team G PA wRC+ Off Def WAR
Johnny Bench Reds 782 3228 127 97.7 73.3 30.7
Joe Torre Braves 639 2487 129 78.2 27.9 20.4
Ted Simmons Cardinals 687 2888 114 42.7 36.8 19
Fred Carroll - - - 552 2385 138 130.6 -5.2 18.5
Ivan Rodriguez Rangers 730 2868 94 -20.9 96.5 17.1
Gary Carter Expos 555 2168 112 31.1 44.4 15.2
Butch Wynegar Twins 723 2920 93 -24.6 73.1 15
Joe Mauer Twins 415 1755 124 58.6 23.1 13.9
Buck Ewing - - - 336 1469 117 40.3 48.2 13
Brian McCann Braves 473 1821 120 29.2 30.9 11.8
Ray Schalk White Sox 692 2451 96 -15.1 41.7 11.7
Jason Kendall Pirates 423 1670 121 47.6 16.2 11.3
Salvador Perez Royals 384 1521 107 5.7 45.2 10.8
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.

Name G PA Off Def WAR
Johnny Bench 2158 8673 251.8 161.4 74.8
Ivan Rodriguez 2543 10270 53.9 315.1 70.5
Gary Carter 2295 9019 151.3 222.1 69.4
Joe Torre 2209 8802 284.1 -9.8 62.3
Ted Simmons 2456 9685 164.6 28.1 54.2
Buck Ewing 1315 5770 228.4 86.1 48.1
Joe Mauer 1281 5511 227.3 34.6 45.3
Jason Kendall 2085 8702 -2.7 130.8 40.2
Brian McCann 1225 4822 46.5 102 30.9
Butch Wynegar 1301 5067 -25.8 123.1 27.3
Jack Doyle 1564 6566 96.6 -43.2 25.9
Fred Carroll 754 3290 145.2 -6 23.1
Ray Schalk 1762 6217 -95.6 99.3 22.4

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.