CLEVELAND – Roberto Perez signed a four-year contract worth $9-million this April with the ultimate goal of spending another season as the Indians’ primary backstop.
The healthy Yan Gomes put a dent in his plans.
Neither player has been productive at the plate in 2017, with Gomes slashing .224/.306/.360 and Perez batting .168/.245/.232.
From a broad perspective, it appears Gomes is the better hitter and likely the ideal fit for the everyday catcher role.
From an analytics perspective, it appears Perez is the more valuable player and arguably the best fit for the everyday catcher role.
Gomes registered a .176 (9-for-51) batting average in April and now has a .204 (10-for-49) batting average in June. Sandwiched between the cold spells was a .279 (17-for-61) mark in May, forcing manager Terry Francona to push him further down the batting order to see if his catcher can return to this previous form.
“He went that first month where it was really tough, and then he went through that streak where I think his OPS got up to somewhere around .900, and now it’s backed off again,” said Francona. “You can tell that he’s pressing. We hit him seventh yesterday. We hit him ninth today.”
When the valuable opportunity has presented itself this season, Gomes has folded to the pressure of delivering the big hit, hitting .133/.235/.233 (4-for-30) in high leverage situations (defined by Baseball-Reference).
Between Saturday’s 4-2 loss and Sunday’s 4-0 defeat against the first-place Twins, the Brazilian native went 1-for-8, leaving 11 men on base and seven teammates in scoring position.
“Unfortunately at times, when he starts to have a tough couple games, it’s turned into more than that,” Francona said. “Gomer’s a worker, that’s not an issue. You always kind of fall back on that, you know he’s not going to stop working. Which is good.”
Not only is his hitting with RISP concerning, but Gomes is also batting .152/.243/.242 at Progressive Field, a stadium where the Indians are 15-20.
“I just think sometimes the game is harder for guys than you want it to be,” said Francona. “You’re dealing with humans and it’s not a machine. Sometimes you get a little beat up during the game and it kind of gets the best of you.”
On the other hand, Perez is slashing .310/.382/.379 with runners in scoring position and .294/.350/.412 in high leverage situations (defined by Baseball-Reference), both sets of numbers that are substantially higher than Gomes.
While Gomes took down the AL Silver Slugger award in 2014, his recent injury history and Mendoza Line figures puts his everyday job in jeopardy. Like Francona mentioned, there are pressures in maintaining this role on the roster, a list of players with World Series experience.
“I think it’s my job to be supportive,” Francona said. “We’ve seen [Gomes] has the ability.”
Unlike Gomes, Perez launched three postseason home runs and developed a rapport with a winning team and dominant pitching staff in 2016. Although his batting average does not indicate a strong start to the campaign, his unparalleled ability to deliver in clutch situations makes him a fitting candidate to take over the starting gig behind the dish.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Gomes. “It’s going to haunt you a little bit. We’re looking to move it past. We’ve got a good team coming in. We’ve got to move it forward and start swinging, whatever we need to do to get to win some ballgames.”
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.