Salvador Perez made his big league debut in a random August game in 2011 against the Tampa Bay Rays. While much attention had been paid to top prospects like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, and Johnny Giavotella, all of whom made their debuts earlier in the season, Perez shot up through the system like a rocket.
A decade later, Perez has become one of the most important Royals of recent memory and one of the best catchers in the team’s history. Throughout his illustrious Royals career, Perez has smacked 992 regular season hits and another 27 during the postseason.
But which hits are the best hits? Well, there are an almost infinite amount of ways to rank hits, but I am using two objective ones in order to keep things consistent throughout this series: Win Probability Added (WPA) and Championship Win Probability Added (cWPA).
WPA is a measure of the difference in win probability before and after an event. If the team’s win probability before a hit is 40% and the win probability after a hit is 50%, for instance, the hit’s WPA is .10, because it added 10% to the overall win probability. Similarly, cWPA measures the effect of events on the results of the World Series win probability; cWPA figures are lower, as it measure the probability of the result of an entire series.
Without further ado: the greatest hits of Salvador Perez’s career.
10. August 10, 2016: game-tying double in the bottom of the 11th against the Chicago White Sox
- WPA: .42
In Kansas City’s previous 20 games, they had gone 4-16, sliding precipitously from two games above .500 to six games below .500, seemingly playing themselves out of playoff contention. But in an epic game that went 14 innings, the Royals turned things around. Perez had the biggest hit of a big game in the bottom of the 11th inning. Down 2-1 with one out made, Perez smashed a double to the right-center gap, scoring Hosmer.
How did this game end? Christian Colon scored the winning run (foreshadowing!) on a single off the bat of Lorenzo Cain. Including this game, the Royals would win 12 of their next 13 games to more than erase their previous slide.
9. July 5, 2017: go-ahead home run in the top of the tenth against Seattle
- WPA: .42
We know now that 2016 and 2017 were pair of failed seasons that didn’t see the Royals eclipse .500 ball. But on July 5, the Royals were 43-40 and trying to make a last run at the postseason with the OG gang. With the game knotted up at 6 apiece, one out, and an 0-1 count, Perez cranked a 93 MPH fasetball on the outer half of the plate to right field, just over the leaping Mitch Haniger. Lorenzo Cain, who reached on an error, would also score, making it 8-6 Royals. Kansas City would add another run on an Alex Gordon single before Kelvin Herrera closed out the game with a one-two-three bottom of the 10th.
8. April 8, 2016: game-tying triple in the bottom of the eighth inning against Minnesota
- WPA: .42
Fresh off a World Series victory, the Kansas City Royals were hungry for more playoff success. They exhibited some of that Royals Devil Magic in this April game against the Twins. Down 3-2 in the eighth inning, Perez yanked a middle-middle fastball by Kevin Jepsen to the Billy Butler Memorial Gap in left-center field. It ought to have been a single or double, but left fielder Eddie Rosario thought he could make a diving catch.
He didn’t. Alex Gordon came around to score from first base, and a lumbering Salvador Perez notched a rare triple. Omar Infante hit a sacrifice fly to score Perez, and Wade Davis slammed the door for the win.
7. September 15, 2012: walk-off home run against the Los Angeles Angels
- WPA: .42
Is there anything more wonderful in sports than a walk-off home run in front of a roaring crowd? I’m not sure—especially with how this game worked out. Against Angels ace Zack Greinke, who the Milwaukee Brewers offloaded just two months prior in a midseason trade, the Royals were powerless. Greinke pitched 8.1 scoreless innings and allowed only 7 baserunners. But after striking out Alcides Escobar to begin the inning, Gordon singled, and Mike Scioscia replaced Greinke with Ernesto Fieri.
It did not go well. Billy Butler immediately cranked a two-run homer to center field. Perez follwed with a home run of his own, hammering an up-and-in fastball to left field that hit the foul pole.
6. June 14, 2016: go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth inning against Cleveland
- WPA: .61
Sliders are supposed to slide, not hang; when they hang, bad things happened. Perez taught this to Bryan Shaw, who left a two-out slider up in the zone that Perez almost hammered into the fountains. Joakim Soria slammed the door, though he didn’t get the save because he took over from Dillon Gee with one out in the eighth inning.
5. July 7, 2016: walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth inning against Seattle
- WPA: .66
For seven innings, James Paxton stymied the Royals, who allowed only five baserunners over that time period. The Mariners only scored two runs against Duffy in 6.1 innings, but those were enough; Seattle tacked on another in the top of the eighth against Soria. But the Royals roared back in the eighth, when Perez singled to lead off. Along with Cheslor Cuthbert, who also singled, Perez scored on a Paulo Orlando single to cut the lead to 3-2.
That wasn’t Perez’s big hit, though. After Brooks Pounders (lol) held Seattle scoreless in the top of the ninth, new reliever Steve Cishek lit the game on fire. Cishek surrendered a double to Whit Merrifield to lead off the inning, then hit Kendrys Morales with a pitch. Once Jarrod Dyson Pinch ran for Morales, everyone knew that the game was over if someone got a hit, and sure enough: Perez smacked a walkoff double.
4. July 9, 2014: go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth against Tampa Bay
- WPA: .67
Poor Kirby Yates. In an 0-1 count with runners at the corners and one out, Yates left a cutter up in the zone, but managed to fool Perez enough to get a fly ball out of it. Unfortunately for Yates, Tropicana Field is just the worst. Perez hit the ball maybe 325 feet, but it juuuuust cleared the short left field over the outstretched arm of a frantic Brandon Guyer.
Still, down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, it was a gigantic hit and the most impactful of Perez’s entire career from a WPA perspective.
3. 2014 World Series Game 2: lead-extending double in the bottom of the sixth against San Francisco
- cWPA .029
Perez’s postseason claim to fame is his World Series MVP trophy and the #1 hit on this list, but Perez was often more hurtful than helpful in the postseason. Perez’s popout to end the 2014 World Series, as well as an earlier fly out to Madison Bumgarner and a ground ball double play against Jeremy Affeldt, combined for -.337 cWPA in Game 7 alone.
But this was Perez’s second-greatest moment in the 2014 playoffs. Against pitcher Hunter Strickland in a 1-2 count, Perez punished a middle-middle fastball to the spacious left-center Kauffman Stadium outfield gap to score Eric Hosmer and Terrance Gore. It gave Kansas City a 5-2 lead, an insurmountable figure with the firepower that Ned Yost could utilize out of that bullpen.
2. 2015 ALDS Game 4: go-ahead home run in the top of the second against Houston
- cWPA .028
In the 2015 ALDS, the Royals found themselves in an usual place: up against the wall, facing elimination. The Houston Astros were up two games to one, and with the score even at zeroes, Salvador Perez gave the Royals some breathing room with a sweet opposite-field shot against Lance McCullers, who hung a fastball on the outside corner of the plate. The two-run homer also scored Moose and helped set the Royals up to come from behind and rip the Astros’ hearts out in their home park.
1. 2014 Wild Card Game: The Hit
- cWPA .049
The 2014 Wild Card Game was the best sports game I attended in person. It will be the best sports game I will have attended into perpetuity. It was the ultimate release of catharsis in the macro and micro scales—in the macro, as the Royals’ first postseason game and win in 29 years; in the micro, as an unbelievable roller coaster of a baseball game with a stunning ending.
How else could this game have ended? Part of the reason that the Royals were in this position was because Gordon and Perez went a combined 0-11 prior to the 12th inning behind Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler, who went a combined 7-14 with two walks. Of course it would be Perez, the only guy in the lineup who hadn’t yet reached base, to get the winning hit. And of course it was because he somehow managed to pull a pitch a foot outside the strike zone past the third baseman, Josh Donaldson.
What a game. What a hit. What a release. In hindsight, the entire two-year playoff run started with this moment. Long live Salvy. Long live Salvy Splashes. Amen.