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The Kansas City Royals missed their All-Star catcher during the 2019 season, but how much of a difference would he have made offensively?
It was a strange year for Kansas City Royals fans with the Gold Glove backstop out for the season. Salvador Perez is highly regarded amongst most Royals fans and he is the heart and soul of the team throughout these seasons where there isn’t a lot to be excited about.
Perez brings a high level of defense and consistent batting to the team whenever he is healthy, and the Royals knew that having to play a year without him could be bad. They quickly went on the search for a free agent catcher, understanding the options they currently had were still young and needed some time.
The Royals quickly found a replacement in Martin Maldonado. Maldonado had nowhere near the offensive ability of Perez, but his defense was on par, having won a Gold Glove in 2017. Maldonado also brought a veteran presence to the young Royals team, helping the young pitchers find their way on the mound.
As Maldonado was not with the Royals for the entire year, the team saw multiple catchers, working through Cam Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria, and Nick Dini. While all of these catchers have great defensive abilities, they all seem to struggle when they are at the plate to bat.
Understanding this, the thought came to mind about what the team really missed during the 2019 season with Perez sidelined. In comparing the stats of the 4 catchers the team used to Perez’s 2018 stats, there are some interesting differences that make one wonder if the Royals would have done better if Salvy were available even half the year.
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Defensively, there is little to talk about. Perez had an outstanding year in 2018 with a 1.000 fielding percentage and caught stealing percentage of 48. The 4 pitchers for 2019 saw a combined fielding percentage of .995 and a caught stealing percentage of around 34. While there is an obvious difference, Perez’s 2018 numbers were some of the best of his career, and it’s likely he could have dropped a little in 2019.
The difference is found in the offensive stats. Again, Perez’s 2018 stats will be used for offense. While there is always the chance he could have had a bad year, he is fairly consistent with his numbers, and as 2018 was a down year for him in some areas, it will work for this comparison.
Salvador Perez 2018 offensive stats:
Games: 129; Plate Appearances: 544; Runs: 52; Hits: 120; 2B: 23; HR: 27; RBIs: 80; Slash: .235/.274/.439
Combined 2019 stats of Maldonado (during time with the Royals), Gallagher, Viloria, and Dini.
Games: 180; Plate Appearances: 617; Runs: 58; Hits: 123; 2B: 32; HR: 12; RBIs: 50; Slash: .218/.283/.345
These offensive stat lines show some interesting points. It’s likely that when the Royals were looking for someone to replace Salvy as the full-time catcher, they weren’t as focused on someone to replace him offensively, but instead someone that could hold the same caliber defense.
There are a lot of similar numbers in the offensive lines above, runs, hits, and doubles all come in a little higher for the 2019 catchers, while home runs, RBI’s and the BA and slugging percentages are better for Salvy. The problem with this is that Salvy’s numbers are over the course of 129 games, while the others are for the entire year.
In all of the categories where the 2019 catchers “beat” Salvy’s numbers, they only did so by a small margin, but they also had 33 more games to do so. Salvy’s 30 extra RBI’s could have made all the difference in some of those close games the Royals had in 2019 and could have kept them out of the 100 loss club.
Of course, all of this is speculation. There is no way to know if Salvy would have put up the same numbers in 2019, but the fact remains that 4 combined catchers for the entire 2019 season were unable to match Salvy’s numbers over 75-80 percent of the 2018 season.
The argument could be made that these catchers are primarily young and still trying to find their way at the major league level and to expect them to replace a multi-year All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner is ridiculous, and it’s definitely true.
The purpose of this comparison, though, is to point out what the Royals really missed in 2019 with Salvy on the side. The Royals offense showed in 2019 they are on the upside of the rebuild and have made great strides to improve. Having Salvy in the lineup, though, could have pushed them over the top.
Speculation can be a dangerous hole to dive into but for “Royals Optimists,” it’s a constant. It will be interesting to see how the Royals offense changes with Perez in the lineup in 2018. If he can continue to produce, the Royals could potentially have a power hitter every other batter and strike fear into pitchers everywhere.