Royals veteran catcher Salvador Perez is having a career year with the bat and he's now in the history books. The 31-year-old backstop homered in the bottom of the first inning Thursday in Kauffman Stadium, much to the delight of the home fans:
That was number 45 on the season for Perez, increasing his major-league-leading RBI total to 112. Let's focus on the home runs here for a second, because that's where he made history.
With the common parameter here being a player who has appeared as catcher in at least 75 percent of his games, here's the all-time leaderboard for home runs in a season by a catcher:
1. Johnny Bench: 45 (1970)
1. Salvador Perez: 45 (2021)
3. Javy Lopez: 43 (2003)
4. Todd Hundley: 41 (1996)
4. Roy Campanella: 41 (1953)
6. Mike Piazza: 40 (1999)
6. Mike Piazza: 40 (1997)
6. Johnny Bench: 40 (1972)
To tie the great Johnny Bench and top any season Mike Piazza -- generally considered the best hitting catcher ever -- is pretty cool.
Perez has now appeared in 115 games behind the plate (111 starts) and 33 at designated hitter, but it would be absurd to detract from the accomplishment based upon this. He's played in 145 of the Royals' 146 games. When he has been behind the plate, he's been an excellent defender (he leads the AL in caught stealing percentage) and no other catcher plays everyday, DH or not. He does have 15 homers as a DH and it's possible some would like to nitpick there, but he's actually hit far better when he's slotted behind the plate (check the splits if you wish).
The Royals have 16 games left, so the smart money is on Perez not only breaking this record, but putting a good amount of distance between himself and the rest of the field. He's also tied Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. for the major-league lead in home runs and we already noted his lead in RBI.
His pace isn't slowing down, either. It's actually speeding up. Perez has now hit 15 homers in his last 26 games. Though he's hotter now, this is a continuation of a trend since he returned from major injury.
Perez's previous career highs were 27 home runs and 80 RBI. He missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and then came back for 37 games last season, in which he clubbed 11 homers and drove home 32. It's rather remarkable, but he went from, essentially, league average hitter with good power to one of the most powerful hitting catchers ever somewhere around that surgery.