I was at Target Field, watching a game with my wife. We had fantastic seats and I could get a great look at each player as they came up to bat.
When Salvador Perez walked up to bat, I leaned over and said, “You can just tell that there is more power in those haunches.”
That’s an odd statement out of context and perhaps a strange one even within context. I regret sharing that with you, and I regret further that I leaned the wrong direction and said that not to my wife, but to the older woman sitting next to me.
OK, I made that last part up, but it would’ve been funny to see the look on a stranger’s face if you’d begin to talk to them about how strong the 6’3″, 245 pound Sal Perez looks through his seat and thighs.
haunch |hônCH, hänCH| noun a buttock and thigh considered together, in a human or animal. • the leg and loin of an animal, such as a deer, as food: haunch of caribou meat.
Perez is a not-quite-unique hitter and we need to look at his numbers (and haunches) with different eyes. We are conditioned to target batters with a keen batting eye that we have grown to frame as a high walk rate and low strikeout totals. We’d be correct in doing so but Sal Perez and a handful of other players such as Adrian Beltre, Pablo Sandoval, Yadier Molina and – lately – Carlos Gomez, who don’t fit this mold.
Perez has an aggressive approach at the plate, not defining aggressiveness like a Bryce Harper who has a strong, violent swing, but aggressive in that jumps right into the at bat. He’s not waiting for pitches, nor taking much looking. He’s swinging at the first ‘good enough’ pitch and getting it in play. These fewer pitches per at bat means he won’t draw many walks but rarely will he see three strikes either. He’s not impatient or lost at the plate, this is his approach and it works great for him. If you are trying to squeeze him into the mold of what a prototypical hitter should be, then you won’t have confidence in his continued success. He’s an interesting hitter, so you have to look at the skills he brings.
I don’t see his walk rate climbing higher than 5%, but likewise, I don’t expect him striking out at more than a 10% clip. He gets away with this approach because he has a freakish contact percentage of 92.8%, which is not quite Marco Scutaro, but can any of us hope to make Marco-level contact, especially if we have large, full haunches? The moral of the story is that when his dad told him to keep his eye on the ball as a kid, little Sal took to that with the utmost of seriousness.
This level of contact is key in that the league average for BABIP (batting average on ball in play) hovers around .290-.300, meaning that since Perez puts so many balls in play so frequently he’s going to give your fantasy baseball team a boost in AVG. Even if his batted balls for for hits at an average rate, which they won’t (his LD% was a great 24.2%), his batting average will help you.
Now let’s get back to those powerful haunches. He’s a big, strong man. He doesn’t look like he was weened on protein shakes like Giancarlo Stanton, but you do get the sense that there is potential for him to drive even more balls out of the yard. His ISO – (2B +2*3B+3*HR)/AB – rose from .142 to .170. While Bill James is projecting an ISO regression to .152, his HR/FB has increased, which suggests more power potential. I, like the lady sitting next to me at Target Field, just look his hips and predict upwards of 17 homers this season, with potentially 25 in his prime. Remember, he’s just 22 years old.
He made the majors based upon his strong defense, but that doesn’t help your fantasy team. What does help your fantasy team will be his .300 batting average, 15+ home runs, and RBI/Run totals in the mid-70s. Buster Olney likes him as well.