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Yasmani Grandal

In the Battle of AL Central Catchers, Pick Yasmani Grandal

by Adam Kaplan

Unsurprisingly, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Pérez was selected by the fans to start the All-Star Game for the American League this year. Starters were announced on July 1st, and from the beginning of the season until the end of June, Salvy led all catchers in the AL in home runs (19) and RBIs (48) to go along with a .282 batting average, which at the time was first among AL catchers with at least 150 plate appearances. When the All-Star Game starters were announced, many White Sox fans were (rightfully) upset that Yasmani Grandal wasn’t selected. This was my take at the time:

Unfortunately, my prediction was incorrect as Tampa Bay’s Mike Zunino was selected to be the backup. Despite the legitimate arguments that Grandal and Zunino deserved to be the two catchers representing the AL in Denver (and Yaz went on the IL right before the All-Star break, so Yaz could have ultimately gotten his recognition while also having Salvy and Zunino play in the game, but whatever, not that I’m bitter about that or anything), I bring up my old tweets because the discourse hasn’t changed on Pérez and it’s frustrating to see so many smart people with so many bad takes.

First, let me start off by saying I actually think Salvador Pérez‘s accomplishments are incredible. Among every player in the American League, the Royals catcher is tied for 1st in home runs (46) and leads everyone in RBIs (115) while hitting .273, good for a wRC+ of 125. I don’t mean to diminish how Salvy has performed this year offensively, but I still find it quite aggravating how grandiose and misleading the narrative on his performance has become. Take a look at the following tweets:

Setting the record for the most home runs ever by a catcher is quite impressive and deserves to be lauded. Claiming he’s having the best offensive season ever for a catcher is ludicrous. Largely in part because he’s not even the best offensive catcher in his own division! That honor belongs to Yasmani Grandal.

For starters, while Salvy has a fine wRC+ of 125, Yaz’s wRC+ is a whopping 163. Pérez is 25% better than average, but Grandal is 63% better. A lot of this is driven by Grandal’s elite ability to get on base; his on-base percentage for the year is .423 while Pérez’s on-base is only .313. (NOTE: Why do we like Yaz?):

(Sorry, with Jordan Lazowski as my Editor-in-Chief, I’m legally obligated to use this meme when discussing Yasmani Grandal)

Pursuant to Fangraphs’ “Offensive” metric, Grandal still edges out Salvy 20.9 to 18.4. Further, Pérez’s home runs per game isn’t significantly better than Grandal’s – 0.30 HR/game for Pérez vs. 0.25 HR/game for Grandal. Over a full 162 game season, Pérez is still on pace to hit more homers than Yaz, but not by a significant enough amount to claim he’s the better offensive catcher. If you want to look at a limited set of statistics, then sure, Salvador Pérez is better than Yasmani Grandal, but if you look at the big picture, Yaz is clearly having a better offensive season this year.

And all of this doesn’t even include defense. For some reason, Salvador Pérez is viewed as a good defender. Here’s a tweet recently from our own Steve Stone:

I respect Stoney and he more often than not has some incredible insight to offer, but I don’t think he’s entirely correct here. While the Kansas City catcher is better at throwing out runners trying to steal, he is literally the worst defensive framing catcher in the league right now. Baseball Savant measures a catcher’s ability to frame pitches, and Pérez has been the actual worst framing catcher at -18 Runs Extra Strikes. Compare that to Grandal, who is widely considered an above-average framer, is still better than Salvy this year at -1 Runs Extra Strikes (he was at 0, league average, before the previous Cleveland series and when I originally wrote this article). Grandal is certainly not having as great of a season defensively as he has in years past, but he’s still significantly been better than Pérez has been. To put into context how bad Salvy has been defensively at framing pitches this year, the difference in Runs Extra Strikes between the leader, Milwaukee’s Omar Narvaez, and Yasmani Grandal (11), is basically the same difference between Pérez and the second-worst framing catcher, our own Zack Collins (-8).

Even if all of the above didn’t convince you that Yaz is better than Salvy, let’s look at their fWAR this year. Fangraphs’ WAR statistic is designed to determine how valuable a player has been, taking into account both offense and defense. Salvador Pérez’s fWAR is 3.0 while Yasmani Grandal’s fWAR is 3.7. That number is even more impressive considering how heavily plate appearances are factored into calculating a player’s fWAR (it’s hard to create value when you’re not on the field). The fact that Grandal has a better fWAR than Salvy despite playing in 67 fewer games should tell you all you need to know. Yasmani Grandal has been a better catcher this year than Salvador Pérez.

Again, I don’t want to diminish Pérez’s accomplishments; hitting all of those home runs and knocking in all of those runs is incredible. I just wish what Salvy is doing is put into proper context, and I’m confused why so many smart Baseball People™ and those creating narratives aren’t doing that.

It’s not that what Salvador Pérez has done this year isn’t amazing; it’s just the hyperbole has gone off the rails. As a White Sox fan, I find it that much more aggravating when Yasmani Grandal isn’t talked about in the same light and isn’t getting the credit he so justly deserves. Grandal was getting disrespected when All-Star voting was taking place, and he’s getting disrespected now. I’m just doing my part to ensure Grandal gets the love and respect he deserves. Not all heroes wear capes.

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Featured Photo: White Sox / Twitter

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