The strange discourse of Salvador Perez
Sports Twitter is an outlet that can spark all sorts of debates. The latest being the newfound debate surrounding the career of Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
Fresh off being awarded as AL Player of the Week, Perez is slashing .290/.324/.565 with a .372 wOBA and a wRC+ of 136 since 2020––165 games played, 686 plate appearances. For his career, Perez is slashing .270/.301/.461 with a .325 wOBA and a wRC+ of 103 in 1,108 games played.
Add in his 16.9 WARP (Baseball Prospectus’ wins above replacement), and you have a pretty solid career for the longtime Royals backstop.
It grows bizarre when people take his 2020 and 2021 campaigns––both tremendous–and make him out to be somebody he isn’t.
The debate about Perez has, somehow, progressed into a case about Hall of Fame enshrinement.
To put a bow on that question: Perez isn’t a Hall of Famer. But why?
He’s one of the worst defensive backstops in the league.
Using fielding runs above average (FRAA), Perez has only rated positively twice––with one being a 2020 season where he played only 37 games.
You’d have to go back to 2013 to find the last time the Royals backstop was a positively-rated defensive catcher. Since then, he has finished 92nd (-6.8, 2014), 71st (-0.8, 2015), 104th (-16.7, last among catchers), 105th (-6.9), 114th (-9.7), missed 2019, and tied for 30th in 2020 (0.5).
If the season ended today, he’d be 78th among with -8.9 FRAA. In total, that’s -49.3 FRAA as a catcher since 2014.
Coupled with him ranking 159th out of 163 catchers (min. 1,000 innings) in frame-runs (-90.4), he just doesn’t cut it defensively. He’d need to be a generational-type hitter to overcome that.
Now, let's take a look at his offense.
He is far from a generational hitter.
Among catchers with a minimum of 250 plate appearances, Salvador Perez ranks third in wRC+ (136) since 2020. He only trails future Hall of Famer Buster Posey (151) and young phenom Will Smith (146).
As fantastic as he’s been the past 165 games, that has only raised his career wRC+ to 102––two percent above league average.
That ranks tied for 104th all-time among all qualifying catchers, sandwiched between Scott Hatteberg and Jonathan Lucroy. While it is only one percent below Ivan Rodriguez and four percent above Yadier Molina, he’s nowhere near them on a defensive level.
But let’s not only look at advanced metrics. How does Salvador Perez match up in traditional stats, including batting average?
He’s tied for 103rd in batting average (.270) and tied for 411th in on-base percentage (.301). While he is top 30 in home runs (190) and top 20 in slugging percentage (.461), it can’t get him into even the top 70 for OPS (.762).
Many more deserving candidates than him didn’t make it, nor should they have.
Let’s take a look at how Salvador Perez stacks up against some notable catchers, since 1990, that aren’t in the Hall of Fame.
Offensively, he’s in the middle of the pack. However, he wasn’t more valuable over a 150-game sample.
How about how he stacks up against catchers in the Hall of Fame?
Salvador Perez has had a good, productive career. It has led to him to seven All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves and a World Series MVP. From strictly an accolades perspective, he appears as if he could be in the discussion for Cooperstown enshrinement.
However, you have to look at the numbers and not just base it off of awards. Perez was an All-Star for six straight seasons while being one of the worst defensive backstops in the league, having a 94 wRC+, and being outside the top six for American League catchers in fWAR.
A significant problem with overrating players is that those in a position to analyze and give opinions on them sound like they’re talking down on them. As it pertains to Salvador Perez, he needs to be appropriately rated––or at least be in that ballpark.
Calling him a Hall of Famer is hyperbolic and flat-out untrue. He’s had a productive career, one recognized from an accolades perspective. Let’s leave it at that; no need to overrate him.