Royals catcher Salvador Perez’s three consecutive AL gold gloves prove that his peers recognize him as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. However, the art of framing pitches to help his pitcher “steal” strikes is where he consistently ranks at the bottom of the league. Data shows that Perez’s pitch framing significantly improves late in the season and the playoffs.
Pitch framing has become much more well known in the last four or five years. Some catchers can receive borderline pitches in such a way that they win more strike calls than most players from umpires. It’s the one area where Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez has struggled his entire career.
For example, in 2016, Perez ranks 34th among all catchers with a sample size of more than 4,000 pitches at StatCorner.com’s pitch framing rankings.
So, one might conclude that pitch framing might just be Salvador Perez’s defensive Achilles Heel. The guy has a reported “pop time”(the time it takes for a catcher to receive a pitch and throw it to second base) of 1.7 seconds. Pitchers say Perez calls a wonderful game, and we know he does a tremendous job blocking pitches. Perez also leads all major-league catchers in Defensive Runs Saved with 12. But, maybe, pitch framing is something the 6’4″ 240 pound Perez doesn’t do well.
Not so fast.
Royals assistant general manager Scott Sharp told Kansas City Star reporter Rustin Dodd that internal data shows that Perez’s pitch framing became elite from August through the playoffs last season. Change the parameters to “low leverage situations” (blowout games and early in the count) and Perez’s numbers crashed. In two strike situations and close games, his numbers vastly improved.
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Clearly, Perez CAN frame pitches when he’s focused on it.
The obvious solution is to try to get Perez to concentrate more on his pitch framing skills on a regular basis. You never know when “stealing” a strike call could change a game. But, I think Perez’s pitch framing problems are part of a larger problem:. The Kansas City Royals are using Salvador Perez too much.
Perez ranks third in major-league baseball in innings caught this season behind Yadier Molina and Wilson Ramos. However, Salvy has caught more innings than any catcher in MLB over the last three seasons. I don’t think it’s any accident that his offensive numbers have also crashed in the second half in each of those years.
Perhaps if Perez got more rest, not only would his pitch framing improve, the KC Royals might also get more offensive production from him. This season, Perez looked like he was going to produce an offensive breakthrough with a .289/.321/.504 triple slash with 12 home runs through June 30. He’s hit a mere .200/.250/.356 with 8 home runs since.
In short, I think Perez’s brain is getting overloaded late in the season. Both pitch framing and hitting takes focus. Doing it day after day is likely to wear anyone down both mentally and physically.
Salvador Perez is likely to catch around 133 games in 2016. I’d like to see that number go down to around 120 next season.