The Royals had another rough year, finishing fourth in the AL Central at 74 and 88. It wasn’t all awful, though. Things are looking brighter in Kansas City with promising talent closing in on the big leagues and a slowly improving roster. The biggest positive this year, though, was Salvador Perez.
What Perez accomplished in 2021 was a bit overshadowed given the circumstances. Despite putting up downright historic numbers, he played in the same league with two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani and super slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. both of whom will finish well ahead of him in the MVP race. It certainly didn’t help that he played the season on a team never really in the playoff hunt. Despite all of that, he captured the RBI and home run title in his league. He also set the record for most home runs at the catcher position, dethroning the great Johnny Bench.
Perez is a veteran of the game and one of the best modern catchers. Yet, this season, he proved himself as an all-timer, challenging the greats with one of the strongest efforts by a backstop ever.
Salvador Perez Made History in a Historic 2021 Season
Perez has been one of the more dependable backstops in baseball since his first full season in 2013. He’s racked up five Gold Gloves, seven All-Star nods, and a Silver Slugger since then. This year was different. After a mini breakout in a shortened 2020 season, Salvy continued to murder the ball in 2021. He bested his previous home run high by 21(!) with 48 bombs with 121 RBIs to boot. His OPS+ was the highest it’s been in a full season at 126, though that doesn’t fully reflect how well he played.
The one thing Perez didn’t do on offense was walk, with a mediocre .316 OBP to go with a .273 batting average. His .544 SLG, though, was by far his best in a full season and his .271 ISO puts him just outside the top ten in raw power. The only guys ahead of him are BIG TIME sluggers like Tyler O’Neill, Bryce Harper, and Ohtani.
Historically, it also ranks as one of the greatest seasons in terms of raw power at the catcher position. Perez’s 2021 season places at 15 all-time in isolated power. In the past 20 years, only Mike Piazza has been in Salvy’s solar system. Perez doesn’t even have a history of being a slugger. From his first full season in 2013 to 2018, his SLG was at .437 with only a 177 ISO. Not bad, especially for a catcher, but not at the historic heights he managed this year. It’s something that Perez himself is remarkably proud of and a marked improvement that justifies the Royals’ confidence in him with his franchise-record extension.
Perez Is in a League of His Own
It’s all well and good that he was hitting the ball about as hard as any catcher ever, but the counting stats are unparalleled at his position. Among all catchers, only two have ever led the MAJORS in home runs and RBIs – Bench and Perez. In an age where catchers are rested more often to prevent injury and fatigue, Salvy got himself in the lineup almost every day. Like Bench before him, he accomplished the feat by simply playing a lot and never really missing a beat. As a bonus, he was also in the Home Run Derby too, so clearly he didn’t mess up his swing.
In another year, there’s a fair chance Salvador Perez would win MVP. It’s nigh impossible nowadays to provide that level of production at one of the worst offensive positions. He turned the clock back to the ’70s to give us a performance straight out of Bench’s storied career. While Ohtani and Guerrero Jr. will get all of the attention come awards season, let’s not forget what Perez accomplished. We may never see something like this again.