There’s a weird dichotomy in sports coverage between local and national news. Local coverage, like the Kansas City Star, Fox Sports Kansas City, or even our own humble Royals Review, is almost always more consistently and broadly knowledgeable than national coverage. But national coverage is where the prestige and ultimate reach is. Ain’t no one reading the Kansas City Star in Brooklyn. But you can see Sportscenter in both Kansas City and Brooklyn.
All this is to say that issues picked up by national coverage are a big deal by their very nature. There are 30 Major League Baseball teams, and while a site like Royals Review can cover the utter minutia of an offseason, a site like, say, Fangraphs can’t.
Fangraphs, according to Alexa internet traffic rankings, is a top-5000 website in the United States, a top-20,000 website globally. Royals Review, by comparison, is a top 40,000 website in the US, a top 230,000 website globally. Writer Travis Sawchik opened up a recent article about Salvador Perez with this line:
Salvador Perez, to me, is one of the more overrated players in baseball.
Look, I get it. It’s a flashy opening. It’s controversial and a good conversation piece. The problem is, as Royals fans know, it’s simply not true. Since 2011, Perez is tied for eighth among all catchers in Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement. He’s a very good catcher and the hardest Royal to replace.
If you’re a national writer, you could do much better without alienating the fanbase of the team you’re writing about. This is especially true because Sawchik’s core argument is correct. Perez does needs more rest!
Sawchik’s main point is that Perez has such a big split between his first half and second half production, and that combined with his immense playing time suggests that the Royals are simply overplaying Perez. Here’s a good two paragraphs regarding that:
Perez’s problem might be that he is simply playing too much. Way too much. And it’s not as if the position as a whole exhibits this sort of split. Consider: MLB catchers as a whole last season posted a 85 wRC+ in the first half and a 89 wRC+ in the second half. OK, so Gary Sanchez arrived in August. But in the pre-Sanchez era of 2015, catchers were again just as productive in the first half (84 wRC+) as the second half (85 wRC+).
Perez, meanwhile, is almost always significantly worse in the second half. Last season, he posted a 114 wRC+ in the first half and a 55 wRC+ in the second. In 2015, it was 92/78 split. In 2014, it was 114/59. He’s also one of only four catchers to log more than 4,000 innings behind the plate since 2013.
And here’s where the junction of national and local coverage meet: this is a legit issue, one that we’ve been covering for a while. Here’s from an article I wrote nearly two full years ago:
Perez is 25 years old. He has already had major knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in 2012. In 2013, he suffered a concussion after a foul ball caromed off his helmet and went to the 7-day disabled list. Furthermore, Perez has caught more innings from 2013 to now than any other catcher in baseball...
...It is in the Royals best interest if Perez remains a catcher for his career. It is in Perez' best interest if he is able to use his knees past his 30s. Ned Yost must stop using Perez as much as he is. Perez is a great asset, but only if he is not consumed by the greed of constant winning. While, yes, Drew Butera or Erik Kratz will be a downgrade and give the Royals a poorer chance to win should they play, the long-term consequences must be considered.
Perez will soon be 27 years old, and he’s played over 2400 innings between 2015 and 2016, including playoffs. It’s counterintuitive that playing Perez less would mean more production, but there’s a simple reason why catchers don’t play as much as Perez does.
Ned’s unlikely to change at this point. But with Perez’ re-done contract, which guarantees him his option years, it behooves the Royals to protect him, for their sake and his.