I still wake up in the middle of the night screaming ‘Don’t swing at the high fastball, Sal!’

The last at-bat by any Royal of the year was the disaster that saw Salvador Perez continuing to swing as Madison Bumgarner (who is pretty good, by the way) just kept throwing fastballs above the strike zone. It was agonizing and, sadly, it was really nothing new.

Perez swings at pitches.  Most all the pitches, really.

This is courtesy of Brooks Baseball and the chart is from the catcher’s point of view:

 

Perez Swing Rates

 

 

All the pitches.

Now, Perez has managed to put a pretty successful career line at the plate (especially for a catcher) of .285/.315/.433 with a wOBA of .325 and a RC+ of 104.  With his defense and, dare we say it, presence, Perez has certainly been a valuable piece of the Royals puzzle.

That said, the Royals’ stated desire to get Perez some rest from behind the plate but ‘still keep his bat in the lineup’ seems to lack any real standing in reality.  Starting with his partial 2011 rookie season and moving forward, tell me if you see a trend here:

  • Batting Average: .331 to .301 to .292 to .260
  • On-base Percentage: .361 to .328 to .323 to .289
  • Slugging Percentage: .473 to .471 to .433 to .403
  • wOBA: .363 to .340 to .329 to .303
  • wRC+: 126 to 114 to 106 to 92
  • Games Played: 39 to 76 to 138 to 150

Two things and they are obvious:  Perez’s numbers have declined with the more games he played in a season AND the longer he has played in the majors.  I think rather obviously, Salvador’s steadily eroding offense is a combination of the league figuring out that he will swing at pretty much anything thrown between the two dugouts and also with Ned Yost’s obsession with having Sal behind the plate pretty much every day.

As the ultimate free swinger, Perez’s basic offensive numbers will be tremendously effected by BABIP.  The real difference between a solid 2013 and a less than stellar 2014 at the plate can be traced to an unlucky .278 BABIP.   While Sal’s line drive percentage was actually higher in 2014, his ground ball rate plummeted and while we grimace at the Mike Moustakas popup machine, take note that Sal’s infield fly percentage has jumped from 5% as a rookie to over 17% in 2014.

The chart above is the percentage of pitches Perez has swung at (career), here is one that shows those that he swung at AND missed:

Perez Whiff Rates

Perez has a pretty good ability to put the bat, in some fashion, on the ball pretty much anywhere, but seriously, 57 pitches up and away from him, Perez swung 18 times and he only missed once!  Can’t be all bad, can it? Can’t be all good, either.

One last chart (as charts are easier than writing and have pretty colors).  This one shows Sal’s batting average in the same zones:

Perez Batting Ave

Let’s go back to the up and away corner of the zone:  Sal swung at 18 pitches up there, missed one, fouled off eight more and hit .444 on the remaining nine he swung at.  Like I said, he can put the bat on the ball…sometimes.

All of this is not a take down of Salvador Perez.  I love having Perez as the Royals’ everyday catcher for the foreseeable future.  Even if his contract was not so team friendly, I would still love having him back there for years.  I have no real desire to ever see him DH.

There is nothing in the numbers or the charts that should make you lust for multiple games with Perez at designated hitter when those games would be much better served by having Perez completely rest.

If Perez is red hot – as he gets now and then – and you have a day game after a night game – then, sure throw him in at DH a couple (THAT’S TWO, NED!) times a season, but no more.  The Royals and Perez would be much better served by having Salvador behind the plate 130 games per year and live without his bat in the lineup for most of the other 32 contests.

That and reminded him that trying to hit the ball before it hits the dirt is likely not a positive swing thought.