It’s no secret Salvador Perez has been on a tear for the KC Royals this season. He’s performing at a high level, slashing .277/.317/.550 with a career-high 41 home runs and career-best 102 RBIs.
Perez was especially hot in August, so much so that he tied Chili Davis and John Mayberry for the most home runs hit by a Royal in a single month with 12. That feat allowed him to tie Mike Moustakas’ 38 homers for the second best single season KC total, a milestone he’s since passed. Now, he’s in good position to break the club record (more on that later).
And he’s on the cusp of breaking a 51-year old record set by a great Hall of Famer.
Can the KC Royals’ Salvador Perez break Johnny Bench’s single-season record?
Perez’s 41 home runs are the most hit by an American League catcher who’s played at least 75% of his games at the position, breaking the previous mark of 37 set by the legendary Carlton Fisk in 1985. Thirty-six years later, Perez is on the verge of breaking an even greater record.
Currently, Perez’s 41 homers tie him for third on the all-time list of home runs hit by a primary catcher with Roy Campanella (1953) and Todd Hundley (1996). What these players have in common is that none were ever able to eclipse Johnny Bench’s 51-year record of 45 set in 1970, a mark Perez could very soon break—including today’s contest with Baltimore, he has 26 games to tie Bench by hitting four homers, and to pass him with five.
Breaking Bench’s record would be an important milestone and career highlight for Perez. Bench spent the entirety of his 17-year major league career with the Cincinnati Reds and was an integral part of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine powerhouse of the 1970s. He was also a 14-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glover, Rookie of the Year winner, and won two National League MVP awards, one of which he was awarded for his home run record-setting 1970 season.
That year, Bench’s 45 homers went along with 148 RBIs, a .293/.345/.587 slash, and a .932 OPS.
He also caught 100 or more games for 13 straight seasons with the Reds; Perez managed to catch 100 or more games six straight seasons for the KC Royals before a UCL tear sidelined him for the entire 2019 season.
Bench was a great all-around player of whom Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, skipper of nine of Bench’s Cincinnati teams, said, “I don’t want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench.”
There certainly will never be a catcher like Bench again, which emphasizes what a great feat it will be if Perez manages to break Bench’s home run record for catchers.
Two other achievements are also within Salvador Perez’s reach this season.
Although there’s no telling how hot or cold a player can get at any given moment, Perez is well on his way to breaking not only Bench’s all-time single season home run record for catchers, but also Jorge Soler’s Kansas City club record.
When Soler broke Moustakas’ record of 38 homers with 48 in 2019, he was able to stay consistent the entire season, averaging seven per month, but heated up in August and September with 10 in each month.
The fewest home runs hit in a month this season by Perez is five, which he did in April and May. He belted nine in June and seven in July. August was his best month by far when he smashed 12 home runs, with six coming in the span of a single week, including two grand slams in back-to-back games against Seattle.
If Perez continues his current hot streak—besides those dozen August blasts, he has three in his last two games—he could end up breaking Bench’s major league record and Soler’s team record.
And although it won’t be a record, Perez could lead the majors in home runs this season. Entering today’s play, his 41 rank second only to the 43 of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. To add to the intrigue, Ohtani has slowed a bit—he’s hit only six since August 1, while Perez has 15 in the same span.
So, Perez could overtake Ohtani and finish the season with the majors’ home run title. Although the task will be difficult considering their race is neck-and-neck, Perez has something working in his favor this weekend—the Royals play at Minnesota, and he’s ravaged the Twins in the power department.
Perez has 28 home runs in his career against the Twins, with five coming this season. His 19 home runs are a Target Field record:
Perez facing the Twins this weekend puts Bench’s big league home run record and Soler’s team mark in greater jeopardy, and gives him a great chance to catch and pass Ohtani.
Salvador Perez is coming off a hot August when he hit 12 home runs. With his total up to 41 with 26 games left to play, it’s quite possible he could break the KC Royals’ single-season home run record, surpass Hall of Famer Johnny Bench’s major league record, and lead the majors in homers.