He finished seventh in the American League MVP voting process, with 103 points.
His 2021 accomplishments included leading two of the Triple Crown categories: home runs and RBI.
Perez was also an All-MLB first team selection, a Silver Slugger award winner, and an All-Star for the seventh time in his career.
How did he do, statistically?
Very, very well.
Some say, however, that it was a fluke.
A Fantastic Season
He hit .273/.316/.544 with 48 home runs (the most by a catcher in a single season), 88 runs scored, and 121 RBI.
🚨 SALVADOR PÉREZ. 48 HR. 🚨
🚨 SALVADOR PÉREZ. 48 HR. 🚨
🚨 SALVADOR PÉREZ. 48 HR. 🚨 pic.twitter.com/xyjV27dFHq
— LasMayores (@LasMayores) September 30, 2021
It wasn’t his best defensive season, so his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) output was somewhat low, at 3.4.
However, there is no denying he was impressive with the bat on a losing team.
It’s fair to question, given the fact his previous career-high in home runs was 27: Was his performance a fluke?
The answer is somewhat complex, but here is the deal: it wasn’t necessarily a fluke, but it definitely was a best-case scenario for him.
His season wasn’t entirely fluke-ish because there is obvious power in his right-handed bat.
Before 2021, he had four seasons with 20 or more home runs, so this didn’t come entirely out of the blue.
But a 21-homer increase over his previous high is definitely eye-opening, and involved a combination of situations that included an apparent skill chance and a bit of luck, too.
For starters, it’s the first time Perez played the entire season: he only missed one game.
Additionally, he has been hitting the ball harder than ever since the beginning of 2020.
From 2015 to 2017, his hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls at at least 95 mph) hovered in the 30 percent range.
In 2018, it jumped to 47.4 percent.
It stabilized at 47 percent in 2020 (he missed the whole 2019 season with injury) and this year, it jumped to 55.9 percent.
It’s clear he took a step forward in squaring the ball, also evidenced by his career-best barrel percentage (16.3).
Both his hard-hit and barrel rates were elite.
A barrel is the perfect type of batted ball: a high exit velocity and an ideal angle.
Not surprisingly, most barrels lead to ideal outcomes: doubles, home runs, etc.
Why do we say Salvy was a tad lucky, though?
Because his HR/FB (home run per fly ball ratio) was very high, at 26.4.
Can He Repeat His 2021 Performance?
It should come down somewhat in 2022, but not so much that his performance will collapse: his newfound ability to punish the ball will give him a very high floor and, together with the gains he made in 2020, means his 2021 performance wasn’t a fluke.
Salvy is continuing what he did in 2020 and showing that it was no #fluke (a nod to Hoz😊)
— The Katrix (@KittyCat1964) June 4, 2021
Now, judging by wRC+, he did have his best mark over a full campaign with 127.
While it’s difficult to see him repeat such a number with his inability to take walks (4.2 percent walk rate in 2021, 3.6 for his career), he should be able to remain in the 115-120 range if he keeps hitting the ball this hard.
For reference, wRC+ means weighted Runs Created Plus and takes every aspect of a hitter’s performance (walks, hits, total bases, etc.) and adjusts them to ballpark, era, and other external factors to combine them into a single descriptive stat.
In wRC+, 100 is average, so 127 is actually very good.
We may have seen the best of Perez in 2021, but the best way to describe his performance could be a “best-case scenario” of his range of outcomes rather than a fluke.