Salvador Perez was the second best catcher in the American League last year. The only guy ahead of him is now a first baseman for the Minnesota Twins. That leaves Perez as the best now in the league and he is getting better. And he is a big reason for optimism for the playoff chances of the Kansas City Royals.
Right now, Perez is the fWAR leader in baseball. That will change. He is not going to hit .458 like he is right now and his BABIP of .524 is completely not sustainable. But the hitting has always been there. In 1021 Major League plate appearances, Perez is batting .302 for his career. So you figure that is a base line along with his .320 career BABIP.
But there is a difference this year. And yes, it is early and 2014 is nothing if not a small sample size. But the trend is there. Salvador Perez is much more patient at the plate.
Perez has already walked eight times. One of them was intentional. But still, that is eight walks in 32 plate appearances this season. Last year, he walked only 21 times in 526 plate appearances. He only has to walk once a week for the rest of the season to beat his 2013 total.
I wondered if his sudden 25% walk rate was a fluke since he only walked 4% of the time last year and 3.9% the year before that. And looking at his plate discipline more closely, the answer seems to be that it is not a fluke. He is definitely being more selective.
Here are Salvador Perez's percentages for swinging at pitches outside the strike zone over the course of his career. The first line is Fangraphs.com's calculation and the second is PitchF/X:
- 2011 - 42.8%, 2012 - 37.6%, 2013 - 37.5%, 2014 - 25%
- 2011 - 37.8%, 2012 - 37.9%, 2013 - 37.5%, 2014 - 29.4%
There is a definite difference between this year and the past. His overall swing percentage also shows more selectivity. PitchF/X has his career, starting in 2011, like this for total swing percentage: 52.8%, 49.1%, 49.2%, 41.1%. I have always been of the mind that swing percentage is not something that is prone to flukes. If my thought is correct, then Salvador Perez has definitely refined his offensive game in this manner.
And Perez seems to be getting even better as a defensive catcher too. His ability to throw out potential steal attempts has always been above league average. His arm, release and accuracy rate off the charts. But the early data indicates that he is also doing much better blocking pitches in the dirt this year and is getting better at framing pitches.
Of the latter, he was below average and is now average in that category. I am also one to give the catcher at least partial credit for how well a pitching staff does. The Royals are currently fourth in the American League in the fewest runs allowed. They just need to score better than they have thus far.
So, no, Salvador Perez is not going to hit .400. His current torrid pace is not sustainable. But inside of that torrid pace is a fundamental shift in his approach to his offense. He he hits his usual .300 or so and adds thirty points to his on-base percentage, he will blow the doors off of any American League catcher while consistently improving his defense and leading a pitching staff that is succeeding.
Salvador Perez is the best catcher in the American League and he is getting even better.