Salvador Perez - A Hall of Famer or Not?
“A High Fly Ball... deep left-center-field. Salvador Perez has the Royals third two-run home run today.” While this may have been an odd stat to mention at first, the announcers later relayed the importance of that longball - Perez had hit his 46th home run of the year, breaking Johnny Bench’s 51-year-old record of home runs in a season by a catcher. While Salvy has officially cemented himself into the Major League Baseball record books, this type of feat causes a need to consider where he will be in the grand scheme of baseball history. And the ultimate membership that decides that question of importance is The National Baseball Hall of Fame. While many have argued over whether Salvador Perez is a Hall of Famer, a clear answer remains to be present. The veteran catcher has played on an elite level for a long time, but is he as well-rounded as he needs to be considered “Great” for this club? To answer this question, his accolades, statistics, and impact on the overall league will be evaluated.
Over his 10-year career thus far, Perez has accumulated quite the resume. Along with a World Series MVP award in 2015, he has appeared in 7 All-Star Games (2013-2018, 2021), representing the winning American League team in every appearance. Perez has also been selected as both the best hitter and fielder in his position among AL nominees multiple times. Winning 5 Gold Gloves (2013-2016, 2018) and 3 Silver Sluggers (2016, 2018, 2020), it is fair to say that he has shown clear dominance in the game. That aspect in itself is important to emphasize, as the Hall of Fame not only considers career accumulations, but the relative ascendancy a player has in his given time, whether was that was short or long. This will be touched on more later. Unfortunately, Perez has never taken home an MVP award, never finishing within the Top 10. While that may seem atrocious, catchers often struggle to be relevant for this honor, as they generally play fewer games due to the nature of their position. While it is not impossible, as Buster Posey and Joe Mauer have won within the last 15 years, it does not happen very often.
Although winning some of these accolades is notoriously difficult and subjective, it is ignorant to not acknowledge their importance. As MLB Writers often consider the number of MVPs, All-Stars, and Gold Gloves/Silver Sluggers to evaluate their worthiness, Sal’s current numbers may hurt him. Specifically, the MVP award. While gaining this accomplishment is far from a shoo-in, the absence of one can be glaring to a voter. Without it, the player ultimately failed to be the best at any given time in their league, something that is highly detrimental. Lacking the appearance of ranking in the voting does not help either, showing writers that he was never even close to accomplishing the feat. While the other awards counts are relatively high for only being through 2/3rds of his career, that aspect could be a silver bullet. But in truth, accolades are far from everything. They are only one piece of the puzzle in the grand design of admittance evaluation.
With a new wave of voters in this designation process, new angles have been more openly considered with regular statistics and advanced sabermetrics. But even with these new views, Salvador still may suffer. He has produced a career of 29.5 rWAR, ranking 38th among all catchers. With only 263 former players in the Hall of Fame and many non-members ranking above him in this all-telling category, he needs to keep producing to even be considered. JAWS (Jaffe Wins Above Replacement), a stat that has been mentioned in a prior article to evaluate a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness, does not do him any favors. While the statistic is meant to give more weight to peak performance in a player’s prime, this only hurts. Ranking 39th among catchers with a 26.6, he downgrades a rank when that factor is given more hold. Slashing .270/.302/.463 with a 104 OPS+ and a 103 wRC+, he ultimately has failed to produce at least 5% above average in creating runs and OPS throughout his tenure thus far. His wOBA is also strikingly low, having a career .326. His offensive stats currently fail to hold at a Hall of Fame level, but there is another side of the game.
As a catcher, defense is a crucial aspect of the game. While being good defensively is important for all players (besides Designated Hitters), for catchers it is arguably more so, mainly because they are active every single pitch. Having a much larger sample size of fielding possibility, a catcher who can or cannot perform on defense can have a drastic impact. Perez is no exception. Holding a fielding percentage of .995 and only allowing 30 passed balls throughout his entire tenure, consistency has been a key aspect of his game. On the sabermetrics side, his career DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), a tell-all defensive stat, of +24 has proven him to be a fielding star. A Gold Glove caliber fielder receives at least a +15… a mark that Perez has far outpaced. As DRS is a counting stat (like WAR), additional years in the league will allow him the opportunity to increase this mark, possibly surpassing other Hall of Fame catchers. The defensive part of the game is where Salvador Perez has truly shown his real value, but there are other parts as well.
Quantitative data Is extremely important to the game of baseball… But, qualitative aspects in a player can somewhat compensate for statistical shortcomings in the Hall of Fame vote. Specifically, the ability to demonstrate both people and leadership skills; two highly invaluable traits. Salvador will benefit from this. As the Field Marshal and Captain for Kansas City, his intangible impact on his team has been immense. Spending every year of his Major League career with the Royals, he has learned the ins and outs of the organization and its leadership structure. In that time, he has built himself quite the reputation. Many describe the catcher as maintaining an infectious quality around the ballpark, always wearing a smile and having fun. This type of attitude has endeared him to both fellow teammates and managers, as he manages to bring up everyone that is around.
Not only being cheery, Perez has also proven that he is as selfless as they come. This was especially evident in the Royals quest to the 2015 World Series Championship. During Game 4, a hard foul-tipped ball managed to drill into his collarbone. When asked to describe how he felt after the incident, Perez made his stance clear, “Now I don’t feel pain.” Even if he was hurting, Salvador was determined to not give up on his team. Former Royals manager Ned Yost describes this perfectly: “He's as tough as they come. You just know that even if you ask him, he's going to tell you he's fine, so no sense of asking him." After enduring through the series and leading his team to a championship, Perez was selected to be the World Series MVP, symbolizing the effect that he had on the run. Even after winning the award, it was never a personal effort to the catcher.. the team and their success was the only thing that mattered, which is why he deserved the award more than anyone else. As Hall of Famers are often measured by how much impact they had on their team, Perez makes a case with the intangible skills demonstrated during the Royals time of need.
Any way that this argument is viewed can have a case for each side. The dilemma of Salvador Perez’s Hall of Fame worthiness is far from being straight-forward . Despite accumulating many awards including Gold Glove’s, Silver Slugger’s, and All-Star appearances, he has yet to win an MVP or place in the voting. Statistically, Sal is far from being a Hall of Fame hitter, but his defensive production has been quite impressive. He has also managed to affect his team in a major way, being a rock of sorts through every trial and tribulation of the Royals franchise during his career. In the end, while he may improve enough to join everybody in Cooperstown, he could not stop playing today and become a Hall of Famer. This is primarily due to the weight of his lackluster hitting, as he is miles away from offensively producing the results necessary. He has done very well in other categories, but this black mark is hard to hard to overcome. As the 31-year-old’s career is years from being over (barring any special circumstance), this answer is not set in stone. If he continues to produce at a high level as he has done this year (.276/.317/.546, 128 OPS+, 5.2 rWAR) for the time to come, he can achieve this honor. In the end, only time will tell.