The face of this franchise, Salvador Perez, just put up by far the best offensive regular season of his career in 2021. The numbers he produced are up there with some of the greatest seasons ever by a catcher. His stats are shown below:
Salvy’s 2021 season
In a Royals year full of ups and downs and players underperforming, the one constant was Salvador Perez. His batting average never dropped below the .260s in a full month, his OPS never below .778, and he had at least five home runs each month. He was the definition of consistent and even when the pitchers he faced adapted to him, he just kept finding a way to hit it out.
Across Salvy’s eight seasons prior in the big leagues, he was nowhere near the same player as he is today. Salvy used to strike out less, hit home runs much less, and was mostly known for his defense, where he won five Gold Gloves. Across those 942 regular-season games, Salvy slashed had a .442 slugging percentage and averaged 24 home runs and 103 strikeouts per 162 games. As a matter of fact, ever since Salvy got Tommy John surgery in 2019, he has been an entirely different player. He’s been swinging for the fences much more and the results (both good and bad) have shown.
At the All-Star break, Salvador Perez was tied in 12th place in the MLB in home runs with 21 and tied in 29th place in the MLB in RBI with 53. This was good enough to earn himself an invite to the 2021 Home Run Derby, which at the time, many non-Royals fans league-wide thought was a stretch of an invite. Salvy then hit the second-most home runs out of the field in the first round but was overshadowed by eventual winner Pete Alonso. The disrespect the derby announcers gave Salvy during his performance, by hardly even mentioning him, (which you can read about through this thread if you forgot), must have fueled Salvy through the second half.
After six games of adjusting his power back to real speed, Salvador Perez put on a show like no other. In the 66 games from July 24 through the end of the season, Salvy slugged over .600 and hit 27 of his 48 home runs on the year, tying Jorge Soler’s 2019 Royals franchise home run record. The dominance that Salvy showed in that second half was nothing short of an MVP level. Pitchers were scared to pitch to him and tried their best to get around him, but it didn’t matter. Salvador Perez was tied with Vlady Jr. for the most home runs in the majors and hit in the most runs out of any player. It was a shame that he was only officially given 7th place in the MVP voting.
The only “weak” spots of Salvy’s season came from his low walk rates and his pitch framing from behind the plate (which is all that matters to many on baseball twitter now apparently). So let’s break down both of these issues.
Walk rate, yes Salvy was one of the worst in the league at drawings walks (like he always is) but on a team like the Royals in 2021, do you really want your best offensive player trying to draw a few extra walks when he has a much better chance of hitting in some runs? Especially when this player, Salvador Perez, also adds no speed to the basepaths. When a player leads the league in home runs and RBIs, a minimal amount of walks should be of the least concern.
The most frequent stat I hear as a weak point for Salvy is framing. While yes, according to several advanced stat sites, Salvy is at the bottom of the league in all advanced framing categories, his numbers haven’t changed much since it has been tracked in 2015. While framing is important, this should not be the end-all, be-all to defense as a catcher. The difference between good and bad framing only really affects a very small amount of pitch outcomes in each game. Aspects that also directly affect each game are passed balls (Salvy had one all year while having the second most games at catcher), throwing runners out (league-leading 43.9% caught stealing by Salvy), and not making errors (only two on the year).
The Royals finished the season 74-88 and it’s frightening to imagine where they would have ended up had Salvy been even an average player. He put the team on his back day after day by constantly being the team’s only source of offense (especially through that brutal June stretch where the team went 4-21). According to Baseball Savant, Salvy was in at least the 90th percentile in Average Exit Velocity, Max Exit Velocity, Hard Hit Percentage, Expected Slugging Percentage, and Barrel Percentage. In simpler terms, Salvy absolutely raked. Seemingly every time he made contact with the ball he launched it.
In a season filled with stretches of hopelessness and gloom, Salvy was always the bright spot that kept on pushing. Going forward the Royals are desperately hopeful that Salvy can even be 70% of the player he was in 2021, to help push this future squad into a new era of contending.
How do you rate Salvy’s 2021?
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