Little has been made of Roberto Perez in 2017.
With Yan Gomes healthy, the 28-year-old backstop is only guaranteed playing time when Trevor Bauer is on the hill.
“Personal catcher” is not the way Perez would have labeled himself heading into the season, especially after hitting three postseason home runs and signing a four-year contract worth $9-million this spring.
Perez specializes in gunning down attempted base stealers as he threw out 50% (13-for-26) of them in 2016 and 40% (4-for-10) of them so far in 2017.
His pitch framing ability is second to none as exemplified through his league-low 8.2 zBall%, a percentage that measures how often a pitch is called a ball despite its placement inside the strike zone. In simpler terms, Perez positions his glove in a manner that maximizes called strikes and gives a starting rotation the best opportunity to succeed on a consistent basis.
The hitting aspect of the game has been a different story for Perez, the backup to Yadier Molina on Team Puerto Rico at this year’s World Baseball Classic.
“He’s been catching so well,” said manager Terry Francona of his second-string catcher. “You want to see a guy have a little bit of success because it has been a tough 50 (or) 60 at-bats for him.”
Perez entered play slashing .127/.211/.143 (8-for-63) with one double and six RBIs in 20 games played. His inconsistent role behind the dish makes it hard for him to find the same rhythm he had in 2016, a year in which he nearly played every day with Gomes sidelined due to injury.
One game-changing hit is a good starting point if Perez wants to turn the corner at the plate…
Result: Two-run double on a 2-0 four-seam fastball
Pitch Velocity: 89.4-mph
Exit Velocity: 106.1-mph
Distance: 326 feet
Launch Angle: 9 degrees
Hit Probability: 82%
For an offense in search of more production in run-scoring situations, this two-out, two-run double off rookie Eric Skoglund could not have been a timelier piece of hitting.
When there are two outs with runners in scoring position, the Tribe is batting .173/.265/.361 (36-for-208) with seven doubles, 10 home runs and 60 RBIs in a sample size of 54 games (234 plate appearances).
Not the ideal numbers for a team chock full of clutch hitters this past campaign.
Perez has proven his value by shining on baseball’s biggest stage last October and certainly can contribute when a meaningful opportunity presents itself. While his hitting stats are not up to par (yet), his reliability on both sides of the ball make him much more than the typical backup catcher.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.