The last of Salvador Perez's bruises from his exhausting and exhilarating October experience should have healed by now. The Royals' All-Star catcher took a beating, both throughout the regular season and in the postseason, but did all he could to stay on the field.
All the nicks and scratches and marks were well worth it in the end, as Kansas City claimed the World Series crown with a formula that has a strong defense at its foundation. Perez plays a large role in that regard and he was rewarded, along with teammates Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar, with a Rawlings Gold Glove Award on Tuesday night.
The Platinum Glove winners for the best overall defensive player in each league will be unveiled on Friday following a fan vote.
"Salvy, what more can you say about his defensive abilities?" manager Ned Yost said in a conference call on Tuesday night. "He's just the best in the American League."
This marks the third year in a row that Perez (catcher) and Hosmer (first base) each earned a Gold Glove for their defense. Escobar's first Gold Glove gave Kansas City a team-record-tying three recipients in one season. Perez and Hosmer have each taken home three consecutive Gold Gloves at their respective positions, while left fielder Alex Gordon, also a finalist, fell short of a fifth straight award.
Per Fangraphs' metrics, the Royals led the AL as a team in Defensive Runs Saved (56), UZR (50.9) and overall defense (56.9) this past season. That defense -- strengthened by the team's three Gold Glove winners -- helped pave the road to the franchise's first World Series title in 30 years.
"We realize what our team is made up of," Hosmer said. "We realize that's the strength of our club -- pitching and defense. We know we can't be on top of our game if we're not out there playing good defense. So, it's something we all take a lot of pride in. That's what we need as a team to be successful."
Perez has become a kind of posterboy for the Royals' defensive prowess. Between the regular season and postseason, the three-time All-Star has caught the equivalent of 300-plus games over the past two years combined. He led the AL in innings caught (1,192 1/3) this season and then logged another 142 in the playoffs en route to winning the World Series' Most Valuable Player Award.
Kansas City fans have appreciated Perez's work, but his durability was on full display on the national stage throughout the postseason. Plenty of times, Perez absorbed hard foul balls, or was knocked to his rear. He dealt with a thumb issue early in October and fought through illness during the Royals' road to the Fall Classic. Through it all, Perez remained behind the plate.
"Sal is suited perfectly for it," Yost said. "He's a big guy, he's extremely tough and he can take a beating."
This past season, Perez led qualified AL catchers with five Defensive Runs Saved and was second overall to only Baltimore's Caleb Joseph (eight). According to Fangraphs, Perez's overall defensive rating of 12.2 was second to only Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (12.5) and he led the AL in assists (90). Along the way, K.C.'s catcher threw out would-be basestealers at a 31-percent clip.
Perez edged out Martin (Blue Jays) and Jason Castro (Astros) for this year's Gold Glove.
"Everyone knows how tough a position it is," Hosmer said of Perez. "It's really impressive to see what his workload was and how he, each and every day at the field, had his routine and just really to see how much work he put into it. As a catcher, to catch as many games as he did, especially at the quality he's doing it at, it's so huge to have for a team."
Hosmer, who beat out Mike Napoli (Rangers) and Mark Teixeira (Yankees) for his third straight Gold Glove, was a part of the most double plays (110) by a first baseman and finished with the most assists (101) at his position this past season. Hosmer logged the most innings (1,354 2/3) and was tied for the highest fielding percentage (.997) in the AL this year as well.
"Hos is going to be a perennial Gold Glover," Yost said. "Having Hos at first base for the infielders, it just frees up our infielders to make dynamic plays."
Escobar earned his first Gold Glove after ending the season ranked second in the AL among qualified shortstops in overall defense (13.9), according to Fangraphs. The shortstop ranked third in UZR/150 (6.7) and was fifth in Defensive Runs Saved (minus one) in 1,306 2/3 innings. Escobar (the MVP of the AL Championship Series) won the honor over Didi Gregorius (Yankees) and Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox).
"This caps off a great year for him," Yost said. "He had a tremendous regular season, a tremendous postseason, made the All-Star team, and now, finally, to be recognized with a Gold Glove, it's just special.