Is Salvador Perez Turning On the Power?

We’re given a few things. One, Salvador Perez is rather newly 26 years old. And he’s a catcher, and you know how they develop. Two, Perez is running what would be a career-high strikeout rate. Three, Perez is running what would be a career-high isolated slugging. We’ve seen this before, and the speculation is almost always the same. Is Perez starting to trade some of his contact for power? He wouldn’t be the first to go down that path, even if it seems like a particularly anti-Royals thing to do.

By no means has Perez been powerless in the past. Last year he socked 21 dingers! The year before, 17 dingers. The year before that, 13 dingers. But there could be more in there, and there’s no ignoring the signs. I’m not coming up with things out of the blue; I’m just following the evidence. And now, here, have some more evidence. Using Baseball Savant, I looked at all the hitters who had at least 100 batted balls tracked in both 2015 and 2016. I calculated the changes in average exit velocity and average launch angle, and then I used some simple math to find the biggest overall changers. Here are the top five, in the more-power direction. These guys have hit the ball harder, or lifted the ball more, or both.

Batted-Ball Changes
Hitter Change, MPH Change, Angle
Danny Espinosa 4.7 3.8
Salvador Perez 3.4 6.1
Jose Altuve 3.8 2.4
Odubel Herrera 0.9 7.8
Freddy Galvis 3.4 2.1
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Based on z-scores, Espinosa is up a combined 3.8, while Perez is up a combined 3.7. So maybe this could just as easily be a post about Danny Espinosa, but Perez is more interesting to me. With a batted-ball-speed increase of 3.4 miles per hour, Perez ranks fifth-best in the pool. And with a launch angle that’s increased by 6.1 degrees, Perez ranks seventh-largest in the pool. Having both things happening at once points in a direction, and that’s backed up by the increase in strikeouts. It’s not at all certain, but on appearances, Salvador Perez seems to be less of a contact hitter, and more of an extra-base-hit hitter. And after posting consecutive sub-100 wRC+ marks, he’s presently up at 120. He’s already cleared last year’s overall WAR.

This is an InstaGraphs entry, so I’m afraid I don’t have anything else. I’m going to monitor Perez for longer before I go into more detail. It’s always fascinating when a bat elects to begin a new chapter. That’s what it looks like Perez is doing, and though it could just be a fluke, it could also be the next stage of development for a potential franchise icon. The Royals have always loved Perez, from the beginning. It’s been easy to forget he wasn’t a finished product.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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6 years ago

I’d argue that no, Sal Perez is not “turning on” the power. Rather, he flipped that switch some time before now and is safely into “left the switch on” territory to the point that his wife is now annoyed over it.