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Long-Standing Home Run Records Are Falling in 2021

Salvador Perez home run

Salvador Perez and Ryan Mountcastle have both reached home run feats not seen in decades, bringing joy to otherwise lost team seasons.

Records are meant to be broken, and that is especially true when it comes to home run records.  Hank Aaron hitting his 715th home run to claim the all-time record is one of the most remarkable and memorable moments in baseball history.  Despite the use of performance-enhancing drugs, the single-season race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped baseball heal following the 1994 strike.

Record-breaking and record-tying home runs are times for celebration across the league.  We had two such moments on the same day, when Salvador Perez tied the single-season home run record by a catcher, and Ryan Mountcastle broke the Baltimore Orioles’ rookie home run record.  Both records had stood for many decades, and so both accomplishments deserves their time in the sun.

Salvador Perez

In 1970, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench was only 22 years old when he his first of two MVP awards and led the Cincinnati Reds to a National League pennant.  He led the majors with 45 home runs and 148 RBI’s, setting the record for home runs by a catcher in a season.  That record stood for over 50 years, until Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez tied him:

Perez turned around an 0-1 hanging slider from Paul Blackburn and got an immediate standing ovation from the home crowd and lots of hugs in the dugout.  Perez has been one of the more likable players for years and a fan favorite in Kansas City after leading them to back-to-back World Series.

It is wonderful to see such a great career comeback from Salvy after he missed all of 2019 due to injury.  Catchers in general break down quickly, but coming back from injury often tanks their offensive production.  But Perez rebounded with a .986 OPS in 37 games during the shortened season, and now he is on the verge of breaking a record that stood for half a century.

His historic home run season comes from an absolute tear in the second half.  He hit 21 home runs in 89 games to earn his seventh All-Star bid and a spot in the Home Run Derby.  But since then, he has a Barry Bonds-like power output, with 24 home runs in just 56 games.  Clearly Perez can keep hitting into his 30’s, and he earned a five-year extension as a result to see the Royals back into contention.

Ryan Mountcastle

Anytime someone beats a Cal Ripken record, you know it is impressive.  No, Mountcastle is not anywhere close to the consecutive games played record, but he is now the team rookie home run leader after tying Cal earlier in the week.  The Iron Man hit 28 home runs in 1982 when he won Rookie of the Year, and now Mountcastle is up to 29 (5:37 mark):

Yankees vs. Orioles Highlights (9/16/21) | MLB Highlights – YouTube

He got a 2-0 fastball over the middle from Jordan Montgomery and hit a no-doubter.  He gave the sparse crowd something to cheer for on a rainy night in a dreary season for the Birds.  The Orioles’ record is clearly worse than expected coming into the year, but Mountcastle is living up to his potential.  The 36th overall pick in 2015, Mountcastle was a Top 100 prospect after winning the International League MVP award in 2019 and hitting .333 in 35 games last year.

At the beginning of the season I wrote about the wide range of possible outcomes for Ryan giving his clear hitting ability but lack of plate discipline.  We have seen some of those come true as Mountcastle got off to a slow start swinging out of his shoes, but he has turned it on in the summer months.  His April OPS was a measly .515, but it was over 1.000 in June and over 1.100 in August.  His type of offensive profile will lead to these wild swings, but he is a sure bet now to produce a strong line over a full season.

Home run records do not come around every day, so we should appreciate them when they happen.  Congratulations to Perez and Mountcastle for making history Thursday.

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