Monitoring Salvador Perez’s Workload

For better or worse, the Kansas City Royals have garnered a fair amount of attention to start the season. On the better side of the ledger, the team now sits at 10-3, with the second best record in the American League behind only the 11-2 Detroit Tigers. Even finishing a game over .500 the rest of the way would give the team a solid 85-win season, and the Playoff Odds here at Fangraphs give the Royals a better than one in three chance at making the playoffs. While those might not seem like great chances, they are sixth in a league where five teams make the playoffs and they are already ahead of preseason darling Cleveland Indians.

The ugliness that consumed the weekend for Kansas City certainly is not drawing the type of attention a team should hope to receive, but perhaps lost amid the beanings and the yelling and the pointing, there was a significant and rare day for the Royals as Salvador Perez did not start on Sunday. Erik Kratz took his place, although Perez did not receive the day off as he entered the game in the seventh inning and caught the final two innings behind the plate.

This early in the season, a catcher making most if not all a team’s starts is not overly unusual. Perez started the first 11 games, but off days early on meant that he received two days of rest during that time. While his games and plate appearances are near the top of the catcher Leaderboard and his 107 innings behind the plate are second in baseball to Derek Norris’ 111 thus far, it is too early to get alarmed about his workload thus far. It is the upcoming workload that should be concerning.

Perez has gotten off to a great start at the plate so far, hitting .380/.385/.620. The updated ZiPS has Perez hitting .283/.312/.433 for a wRC+ of 108. Combined with his hot start, the updated ZiPS have his final projected line at .292/.319/.450 and a 115 wRC+. Those numbers would represent a career year for Perez and close to a five-win season, great numbers as the Royals try to return to the playoffs. Based on past usage from Ned Yost, the 24-year old Perez will receive as many plate appearances as possible to achieve that career year and become potentially a breakout star. For Perez, that could be a positive, but playing the most grueling position in the game could make that a negative as well.

Searching “Salvador Perez workload” yields the following results:

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An interesting juxtaposition to be sure. For the Royals part, they seem to understand that Perez might have been overworked last season, playing in 150 games, catching in 146 games, and starting 143 of those games behind the plate. Last season Perez had a solid 116 wRC+ for the first half followed by a terrible 61 wRC+ in the second half. We do not know for sure that his workload played a role. he actually had a better second half offensively in 2013, but we do know that catching is difficult and nobody has been asked to shoulder the load quite like Salvador Perez.

His 1248 2/3 innings behind the plate were the most in the majors last season by more than 60 innings over second place Jonathan Lucroy. Yadier Molina’s career high for innings caught in a season is 1176 ? having never broken 1200 innings in the regular season. Only five players were within 200 innings of Perez behind the plate in 2014, and adding in 15 games and another 140 innings or so and Perez was working nearly 50% more than most of the catchers in baseball. Hence articles wondering if the Royals broke Salvador Perez or if the Royals were Killing Salvador Perez. Coming into Spring Training, the problem was acknowledged, and a plan was at least discussed, although how much those discussions matter is up for debate once it is time to write a player’s name in the lineup.

Ned Yost at the Winter Meetings in December:

“I can’t catch Sal 150 games again,” Yost said. “I’ll kill the kid.”

Then Yost in February at the start of Spring Training:

‘How do I resist the temptation to write Salvador’s name in the lineup 150 times? I don’t know yet,” Yost said. ”It is hard to take him out. It’s hard to do. We’ve got to find ways and I don’t know how we’re going to do it yet.”

”It will be one of the hardest things that we try to figure out all year,” Yost said. ”How we keep balance there.”

”The easiest way to do it is just assign a starter (to a backup catcher) and that way Sal’s getting a break every five days,” Yost said. ”But there are other ways, too, where we just make it a mandatory off day. If we have a day game the next day (after a night game), give him that day off.”

At least they were thinking about it. Then in March:

Now it is April. The Royals have already had four day games following night games, and in the first three of those games, Salvador Perez received the start in both the night game and the day game that followed it before finally getting the first six and a half innings off on Sunday. The real adventure begins now as the cushy early April schedule disappears and Yost will have to actually figure out if he is interested preserving Perez for the whole season.

Beginning last Wednesday, the Royals embarked on a schedule where they will play 32 games in 33 days including six days after night games not counting the two they have already played in that stretch. A win early in the season is worth just as much as one at the end, and it is difficult to take a player out of the lineup before the grind of the season has worn him down. Perez is young and last season he showed that he could perform well playing in a lot of games, but the odds that he can continue down the same course year after year get smaller. If Yost is serious about getting Perez some days off and preserving him over the course of the season, the next month will go a long way in determining whether the offseason chatter was anything more than words.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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7 years ago

Hey craig if it was your job to make the call what would you do? start him 140 games or????

James Hogg
7 years ago
Reply to  Craig Edwards

Also get him in against LHP where possible e.g. rest him vs a RHP the night before a day game vs a LHP (then also he gets extra time to recoup after the day game)