The countdown: Ranking Salvador Perez's 2021 home runs, part 1
Honoring Salvy's power surge in the best way possible: A list. Today, home runs number 48 to 41.
Thirty-six. Baseball is a game of numbers and if you’re a Royals’ fan, the number 36 means something. It was the home run total of Steve Balboni when he set the single-season franchise record for dingers way back in 1985.
Thirty-two. That’s not as meaningful. But that’s how many years it took someone to break that record. Mike Moustakas edged his way past Balboni in 2017 with a total of 38 home runs.
But since then, there have been a pair of power-hitting seasons the likes of which I never thought we’d see in Kansas City. Jorge Soler was first, obliterating Moustakas’s record just two years after it was set by bashing an astonishing 48 home runs. Last summer, it was the Salvador Perez Power Show as the Royals backstop (and part-time designated hitter) unleashed a barrage of dingers that grew more impressive as the season progressed. While Perez did not break the single-season record, there was a brief moment where it was firmly in his sights. Some poor injury luck prevented Perez from claiming the top spot for himself.
Still, it’s a season that deserves celebration. And what better way to celebrate than by a list, counting down Perez’s most impressive home runs of 2021?
Today, we will begin with a teaser ahead of the top 40. These are, in a way, the honorable mentions of Perez’s dingerific 2021 season. We have to start somewhere.
To rank these home runs, I’m using data from Baseball Savant and also taking into account the game situation. That’s to say this is an arbitrary list, collated by yours truly. Maybe you would place these dingers in a different order, but you will still have a delightful time reliving Perez’s trots around the bases.
Let’s get things started…
#48 — 6/11/21 at Oakland Athletics
We open this exercise by going on record to state that it’s probably not a great idea for a southpaw to lob an 89 mph pitch up and in to Perez.
I probably should’ve cut the gif at the moment when the ball leaves the frame. It’s a rocket off the bat, hampered only by the fact the pitch was delivered under 90 mph. You get the feeling watching this that had the pitch come in five to six mph faster, it still would’ve left the yard, but a little more to left-center and at a much higher exit velocity.
#47 — 8/28/21 at Seattle Mariners
We’ve heard of wall-scrapers when describing a home run. How about a wall-topper?
We will return to Seattle a few times in this countdown.
#46 — 7/30/21 at Toronto Blue Jays
Isn’t it strange how some home runs just kind of leave you…unimpressed? I don’t mean to discount anyone leaving the yard—I mean if you started me at home plate and let me hit a ball off a tee and had me walk to pick it up and repeat the process from where the ball stopped rolling it would still take me at least three swings to get the ball over a fence. Still, this home run is one of those ho-hum kinds of shots. If Nicky Lopez cranked one like this, I’d probably craft an entire newsletter around it. Since it’s Perez, I just present the gif and look forward to what comes next.
Although it should be noted, at 42 degrees, this was Perez’s highest launch angle on a ball that left the yard in 2021. That sounds impressive, but there were 82 home runs in 2021 with a launch angle of 42 degrees or higher.
I should also make note of the guy with the glove who plays the hop perfectly. Well done, Man In White.
#45 — 7/2/21 vs Minnesota Twins
Perez collected five hits off Minnesota’s J.A. Happ in 2021. Four of them left the yard. We will see Happ’s name mentioned again. And again. And again.
This was the fourth of those dingers.
It was a four-seam fastball on a 3-2 count. Twins catcher Ben Rortvedt sets up inside, but Happ misses. Badly. Still, on a pitch like this, it should simply be the fourth ball and Hanser Alberto should be walking up to the plate with a runner on first.
Earlier in the plate appearance, Perez whiffed on a 91 mph heater that split the plate in half but was elevated in the strike zone. That he was able to muscle a 93 mph offering four pitches later over the right field fence boggles the mind.
#44 — 5/14/21 at Chicago White Sox
As we get deeper into the countdown, I’ll take a closer look at where Perez hit his home runs in 2021. But it should not be lost that we’re early in this exercise with a pair of opposite field dingers.
Again, not a poor pitch, but not an ideal one, either. It’s a slider that’s on the outer edge, but hangs just enough. With a runner on third and less than two outs, you know Perez is torqued up to bring at least that run home, so he’s going to be looking to swing. He did and pushed it just over the right field fence.
At a recorded 344 feet, this was Perez’s shortest home run of 2021.
#43 — 8/23/21 at Houston Astros
By the time Perez arrived in Kansas City in 2011, Zack Greinke had moved on to Milwaukee. It’s a shame really, because we’re left to ponder what could’ve been had two of the more interesting Royals in recent history formed a battery. I tend to think Greinke wouldn’t have liked to throw to Perez so much, given his poor framing metrics. But I also tend to think Perez wouldn’t have cared, smiling and saying something along the lines of “Just throw me the baseball, amigo.”
This is the hitting version of how that conversation ends.
Greinke is lucky to get the fastball to the 90s these days, relying more on guts and guile than anything else in his prodigious toolbox. It’s not a horrible pitch, on the edge, but Perez is sitting heater in a 2-1 count and the Crawford Boxes are so tempting. It’s easy cheese.
This home run was the 81st RBI of Perez’s season, setting a career-high. In August.
#42 — 5/15/21 at Chicago White Sox
“That was out of the strike zone.”
—Jason Benetti, White Sox TV broadcast
“How in the world did he hit that ball?”
—Ryan Lefebvre, Royals TV broadcast
This is like the home run off Happ earlier in the countdown, except it was thrown faster (by three mph) and higher. And in a much more favorable count for the pitcher. Speaking of the pitcher, don’t miss Carlos Rodón’s reaction as the ball continued its flight.
We understand your pain, Carlos. It’s a waste pitch from a left-handed pitcher who is ahead in the count. If Perez swings, he’s supposed to miss. If he somehow connects, he’s supposed to foul it off or pop it up. He is definitely not supposed to turn that baseball into a 359-foot moon shot.
#41 — 8/10/21 vs New York Yankees
Sal Perez, leading off the sixth inning…The broadcast explaining the ins and outs of the Sonic Slam Inning…Perez cashing in a cool $1,000 for Darren Beets of Gardner, Kansas.
This is a good place to leave the countdown—with Perez launching a game-tying bomb against the Yankees (his second of that particular game) and winning someone a grand.