Salvador Perez Finally Gets Much-Needed Rest
Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Major League Baseball season is a long one. Teams play 162 games in about 6 months, and only the All-Star break offers consecutive days off for position players, with a few extra games taken off here and there, depending on the roster. Of course, teams hope that 162 games turns into several more – not by the league adding extra games throughout the season, because that wouldn’t make sense – but by making the playoffs. The Royals were one of those teams that got to extend their season, and thanks to a victory in the ALDS, they’re guaranteed at least four more games.
Those four games won’t begin until Friday, which means they’ll have a full four days off between games, which is the first time these players have had that much rest since the break. There are always mentions of “momentum” this time of year, and the idea that teams want to just keep playing while they’re hot, but considering how many games they’ve played, and considering how pressure-packed those games have been, this four-day break should come as a welcome reprieve for the Royals.
And no Royal should be more thankful for this rest than Salvador Perez.
Perez had a simply abysmal second half of the season, hitting .229/.236/.360 in 259 plate appearances. He’s always been known as a hacker, but he took things to another level after the break, swinging at 44.1% of the pitches he saw that were out of the strike zone, which was the highest rate in the league. Some have suggested that Perez was beginning to wear down as the season entered the home stretch, and it would make sense.
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He played in 150 games this season, an almost unheard-of number for a catcher in today’s game. The Royals seemed hesitant to give Perez days off earlier in the season, partly because they apparently didn’t trust Brett Hayes behind the plate, even for a day per week. Then, as the the team headed toward a playoff berth, Ned Yost didn’t want to remove that valuable glove from the lineup, so he continued to hope Perez’s bat would eventually come around. Unfortunately, other than the game-winner in the Wild Card game, Perez has continued to perform poorly at the plate.
Going back to his last game off on August 23, Perez played in each of the team’s final 34 games in the regular season, posting a .617 OPS in that time. During that span, Perez only had 2 calendar days off. Since the playoffs began, he’s had 3 days off in 7 days, and there have been a few signs of improvement.
His pitch selection has gotten a bit better, and he’s hit a few line drives, but his swing still doesn’t look right, and he’s popped up a few pitches in the zone that the old Salvy Perez would drive into a gap somewhere. Perhaps some more rest could be just what he needs to get back on track, and thanks to the Royals’ sweep of the Angels, Perez should be fully ready to go on Friday night in Baltimore.
This isn’t a guarantee that Perez is going to suddenly become a disciplined savant at the plate, nor is it a prediction that he’s going to be the series MVP, or anything like that. But it isn’t a stretch to assume a rested Perez could be a more productive Perez.
If Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are going to keep hitting home runs every other night, with Lorenzo Cain catching everything in the western hemisphere, and the unstoppable speed trio of Jarrod Dyson, Terrance Gore, and Billy Butler, Perez doesn’t need to be a star in this series. But every bit of offensive improvement could be huge, considering how evenly matched these two teams are. A rested Perez could provide just enough extra depth to the lineup to give the Royals a boost in the next week or so.
The Orioles and Royals will both enter this series with the same amount of rest, so it’s not as if either team will have a decided advantage in that department. Following such a long and arduous season, it should be nice to see a pair of teams squaring off after plenty of rest, with their pitching rotations set exactly as desired. Despite both teams having the same number of days off, the Royals’ Perez might be looking forward to this break more than any other player, and a bit of down time for their All Star catcher could pay big dividends once the series begins.