The average players are the ones who fall under the cracks. They don’t garner the attention of black ink on their Baseball Reference page or reach milestones such as hitting forty homers or stealing sixty bases. They don’t offer the tantalizing potential of a top prospect, nor the arc of redemption from guys who never were, but might be. They’ll never be traded for future cornerstones, and they don’t appear from thin air, fully formed.
Hernan Perez made it through the 2016 season without anyone on BPMilwaukee writing a headlining article about him. The posts linked above certainly feature players who are deserving of the attention for many reasons, and they’re all worthy of your attention for the quality of the writing. But I wanted to take a moment to appreciate Perez’s performance in 2016 as a jack of all trades for a Brewers team that needed him to perform pretty much every function.
In 2016, Hernan Perez finished fourth on the Brewers in plate appearances and sixth in games played. He made at least two appearances at every defensive position outside catcher and pitcher, and logged at least one start at all those positions except left field. From the beginning of the season until about a week into June, he spent almost all of his time at third base, then appearances in right field started to get sprinkled in. As the Brewers roster shifted with trades and call ups, he became more versatile, spending time at every position outside catcher after July 27.
In the aggregate, Baseball Prospectus rated Perez as an above average defender, producing 3.8 FRAA. Retaining some defensive value while playing all over the diamond is a huge boost for the Brewers, as they can rest regulars and allow Perez to take their place without giving up too much defensively. Certainly his time at the most demanding defensive positions of center field and shortstop should be limited, but his ability to serve when needed puts him above most men on a twenty five man roster.
Perez also made large gains at the plate. In 2015 his first extended look in MLB, he produced a .227 TAv, due to a .281 OBP (league average was .317) and only 18 extra base hits in 238 plate appearances. He struck out more than the average player (22 percent to 20 percent) and walked in only 2 percent of his plate appearances.
His TAv rose to .273 and he produced a positive VORP (19.8) for the first time since his 2012 cup of coffee in Detroit. While he still strikes out too much, his walk rate increased to 8 percent, giving him a .302 OBP, much closer to the 2016 league average of 2016. He also dramatically increased his home runs, hitting 13 in total. His home run to fly ball rate jumped from 1 percent to 12 percent, part of the league wide increase in homers. While some of that may be fluky, he may not lose all of those gains. According to Hit Tracker, seven of his thirteen homers were labelled Just Enough, which are home runs that don’t go out by much. But, he did have six home runs that cleared with room to spare. For a hitter who only had one career home run coming into the season, that’s encouraging.
Perez also rated as the best base runner on Milwaukee. He produced 3.0 BRR, doubling everyone on the team, except for Jonathan Lucroy (2.0) and Domingo Santana (1.6). He produced positive value in every component of BRR. Setting the cutoff at ten base running opportunities, no other Brewer was positive in every measurement.
Hernan Perez will never be an All-Star. He’ll never be the best player on his team. However, players like him do produce value and provide the secondary value that props up the performance of star players. Unsexy, dependable average may not get the headlines, but it’s a good thing and worthy of our appreciation every now and then.