The 2021 major league season ended almost a year ago, but the memories of what KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez did during its six months are still fresh and clear. It seems like only yesterday he was chasing the records he ultimately caught before his 10th big league campaign ended.
His 48 home runs broke Johnny Bench’s record for most in a season by a primary catcher, tied for the major league lead, and equaled Jorge Soler’s club record. He also led the majors with 121 RBIs, became an All-Star for the seventh time, and won his fourth Silver Slugger, a feat that broke his tie with none other than George Brett for the most ever won by a Royal. He hit .273 with an .859 OPS and 128 OPS+. And his bWAR was 5.3.
Attached to those collective accomplishments and numbers, though, is an unfairness of sorts, and it is this: the tendency in some quarters will be to measure all Perez’s seasons by last year.
And that poses a question of the present—should Perez’s 2022, which doesn’t and won’t approach his 2021, be considered a lost season?
Salvador Perez isn’t having the season he had for the KC Royals last year.
From the beginning, 2022 hasn’t been 2021 for Perez. He hit only .206 in April and plunged to .177 with just one home run in May before rebounding to a more respectable .254 and five homers in June. And entering the Royals’ six-game homestand that starts tonight, he has 19 homers and a .236 average.
Calling Perez’s current season a disappointment would be accurate.
Trashing it would not.
Not to be forgotten about this campaign is how much of it Perez has missed battling thumb problems. Two trips to the Injured List, the first with a left thumb sprain and the second to recover and rehabilitate from thumb surgery, cost him almost two months. One IL stint is bad enough; two coupled with midseason surgery can be irreparably disruptive. The negative impact Perez’s thumb has had on his production is indisputable.
But even with the thumb issues, this really isn’t a lost season for Perez, and what he’s done since returning July 29 from the IL proves it. In his first game, Perez served notice he was back by clubbing a three-run homer off the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole to give the Royals a fifth-inning lead (they eventually lost it and the game); since then, he’s hit seven more homers and driven in 26 more runs.
His post-IL average is also a more Perez-like .278. And his 91-game basic numbers project well—his 19 homers and 63 RBIs extrapolate to about 34 and 112 over a 162-game season. Perez, of course, wouldn’t play all 162 games even absent injuries, but you get the picture.
He also remains the Royals’ leader and hasn’t lost a bit of the energy and enthusiasm he brings to every game. He’s still Salvador Perez, still giving everything he can to the club he’s spent his entire career with, and with which he’ll probably end it considering the reportedly franchise record contract he signed last season and which took effect this year.
So, anyone ready to tag Perez with a “lost season” shouldn’t be so hasty. Only if he suffers another injury and misses the rest of the season, or slumps horribly down the stretch, should that characterization apply.
Salvador Perez and the Royals hope he continues his good post-injury hitting.