KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez is on a tear. He’s stroked 5 hits in his last 10 at bats with 3 home runs in his last three games. Perez’s streak started immediately after his third rest day in the last 10 days.
Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so.
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez tore up the American League in the first half of the season for a .283/.318/.500 slash line with 17 doubles, 14 home runs, and 41 RBIs. In the second half, Perez has crashed to a .212/.245/.401 with 8 doubles, 6 home runs, and 17 RBIs. Those numbers include his current tear.
In fact, Perez has struggled in the second half in the last three seasons:
Salvador Perez Splits 2013-16
1st Half 2nd Half
2016 .283/318/.500 .212/.245/.401
2015 .262/.273/.453 .258/.289/.391
2014 .283/.329/.437 .229/.236/.360
2013 .284/.314/.396 .303/.335/.483
Salvador Perez once again ranks among the league leaders in innings caught with 914.0 innings behind the plate. That’s third in MLB behind Yadier Molina and Wilson Ramos. If we extend the time frame to the last three seasons, Perez leads all catchers by a wide margin. Perez has caught 3555.0 innings in the last three years, well ahead of second place Yadier Molina (3063.2) and Kurt Suzuki (2826.1).
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Notice in the above chart that in 2013 Salvador Perez actually hit better in the second half. He also started the fewest games in his four full seasons of major league baseball at 126 starts. Perez missed 10 games between May 24 and June 4 due to injury. He also missed eight games between August 3 and August 11. I doubt that it’s any accident that 2013 is the only year Perez improved in the second half.
The bottom line is that Salvador Perez is wearing down from catching too many innings.
KC Royals Need To Rest Salvador Perez More
To me, it’s very clear that the KC Royals are costing themselves significant production by over-using Salvador Perez. Yes, playing him is very tempting. 2016 is the first season in which the Kansas City Royals have enjoyed the luxury of a back-up catcher with a solid slash line. Drew Butera is hitting a career best .261/.306/.457 though his numbers have been on a steady decline after a hot start to the season.
Even so, KC Royals manager Ned Yost needs to do everything in his power to find more rest for Salvador Perez. In the short term, Perez’s defensive burdens have clearly worn him down in the second half of his last three seasons. In the long-term, over-use might cost Perez years off of his career.
Certainly, it’s tempting to use Salvador Perez even though it might cost some production at the plate. He’s won three gold gloves in a row as the best defensive catcher in the American League. Perez has one of the strongest arms in the game and enjoys a tremendous reputation for his work in calling games. The Kansas City Royals mediocre pitching staff has needed every edge they could get the last couple of years.
But, resisting that temptation will reward the KC Royals in the end.