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Salvador Perez now has the most home runs in one year by a catcher in MLB history....kind of

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It depends on how you define the record.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Salvador Perez blasted his 46th home run of the season, tying Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. for the most in baseball, and putting him just two shy of the Royals’ single-season home run record of 48 set by Jorge Soler in 2019.

The blast also set an MLB record for the most home runs hit by a catcher, topping the mark set by Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench in 1970 - kind of. It all depends on how you define the record. Salvador Perez has hit more home runs in one season than any other player who has spent 75 percent of their time catching in a season.

Most home runs by a catcher (75% of playing time)

Player Team Year Home Runs
Player Team Year Home Runs
Salvador Perez KCR 2021 46
Johnny Bench CIN 1970 45
Javy Lopez ATL 2003 43
Todd Hundley NYM 1996 41
Roy Campanella BRO 1953 41
Mike Piazza NYM 1999 40
Mike Piazza LAD 1997 40
Johnny Bench CIN 1972 40
Mike Piazza NYM 2000 38
Calrton Fisk CHW 1985 37
Gabby Hartnett CHC 1930 37

These were all hitters that spent the great majority of their time squatting behind the plate. All of them caught over 100 games, which translates to over 900 innings caught in a season.

It was a great moment that even legendary Hall of Famer Johnny Bench recognized.

But this isn’t the official “home runs by a catcher” record that the Elias Sports Bureau recognizes, according to Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star. Elias only counts home runs actually hit while starting at the catching position, and Salvy has only hit 31 home runs at that position, with 15 coming while he was at DH. That still leaves him 11 short of the record of home runs hit while at the catching position, set by Javy Lopez of Braves in 2003.

Most home runs hit in a season as a catcher

Player Team Year Home Runs
Player Team Year Home Runs
Javy Lopez ATL 2003 42
Todd Hundley NYM 1996 41
Roy Campanella LAD 1953 40
Mike Piazza NYM 1999 40
Mike Piazza LAD 1997 40
Johnny Bench CIN 1970 38
Mike Piazza LAD 1996 36
Gabby Hartnett CHC 1930 35
Mike Piazza NYM 2000 35
Ivan Rodriguez TEX 1999 35
Mike Piazza LAD 1993 35

It seems unlikely Salvy could break that record with 12 home runs in his last 11 games - but don’t put it past him either.

Salvy should also get some credit for hitting at Kauffman Stadium, a notoriously difficult place to hit home runs. Of his 46 home runs, 25 have come at home, and according to Baseball Savant, he would have hit 56 home runs this season if he had played all of his games in the bandbox stadium in Philadelphia, Citizens Bank Park.

On the other hand, Salvy is also playing in the fourth-greatest home run season in baseball history, a season with more dingers than even the season at the height of the PED era. Javy Lopez had his record-setting season in 2003, a year that saw 1.03 home runs-per-team-per-game (at the time, the fourth-most home runs in MLB history). This year, there have been 1.23 home runs-per-team-per-game, more than any other season except 2017, 2019, and 2020.

By comparison, 152 home runs have been hit at Kauffman Stadium this year (by the Royals and opponents). In 2003, Javy Lopez hit 25 of his 42 home runs at the catcher position at home, part of 179 home runs hit total at Atlanta’s Turner Field. And in 1970, Bench played for the Reds and hit 30 of his 45 home runs at home. The Reds split that season between Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium, which opened mid-season, with 158 home runs hit at the two ballparks combined.

Either way, it’s a remarkable achievement, and while not the “official” record, it is still a record of great significance either way. Congrats to Salvy!