The projections generally agree that Salvador Perez will have a better season than last year. On the other hand, they don’t believe his hot starts and tremendous power from 2011 and 2012 will return. Here are some of the major projections and, as you can see, there’s almost no variance between them.
I had planned to look at some batting trends for Perez, but that would be unfair. Salvador Perez’s 2014 season is probably best remembered for leading the Majors in games caught. He caught 146 games, ten more than the next closest player. Here is a list of the total players who caught 135 games or more.
Last season, Ned Yost reminded me of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Not because of Yost’s gruff southern demeanor, but because Rooster rode a horse so hard he had to shoot it to put it out of its misery.
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Perez wasn’t overworked too much in the first half. He almost never played more than five days in a row for the KC Royals until July. Then we saw him play 10 games in a row, then 13 after the All-Star break, then one game a day for 15 days in a row (Aug 4-Aug 19). The grind kept up for the rest of the season. That’s not healthy for a catcher. The game logs for Lucroy show that he rarely caught more than three games in a row.
Perez entered July hitting .287/.334/.455 with 10 home runs, perfectly represented his career line to that point (.301/.331/.451). After playing 6, 10, and 15 games in row, the workload caught up. For the rest of the season, he hit .234/.244/.355. He no longer drove the ball, making weak contact proven by his .258 BAbip during that time.
Perez is a famous “bad ball” hitter. Until the second half of 2014, he hit everything: inside, outside, low, especially high. This Fangraphs zone map of AVG/P shows how well Perez turned on inside pitches through 2013.
The following chart shows the same data from 2014. Notice how his hot zone has abandoned the inside part of the plate.
Even though he made decent contact on outside pitches, he made horrible swings on inside pitches. His bat was just too slow to turn on inside pitches. Yost admitted as much last December.
“I felt like he felt his bat was getting a little slow,” Yost said. “He had to swing earlier, which resulted in more swings out of the zone.”
Perez has to play less. We’re only talking 12-15 games. Ned Yost will just have to deal with pitchers who’d rather throw to Salvy on their scheduled appearance day. The good news is that Yost has already admitted he played Perez too much and won’t do it again. During the Winter Meetings, Yost said, “I can’t catch Sal 150 games again. I can’t. I’ll kill the kid.”
This is why Salvy will probably outperform his projections. Raw numbers don’t account for unnatural exhaustion and a change of heart by a team’s manager. Perez may not get his bat back to 2013 levels immediately. He has to break off the rust, but once he does, we’ll probably see the Salvador Perez who spoiled us with 350 foot line drives for the past 4 years.
Projection: .280/.329/.433, 15 home runs, 528 PA.