Matchup to watch: Gomes & Perez excel

The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals don’t often find themselves under the "Sunday Night Baseball" spotlight. One of the other common bonds between these teams is how important the catchers are to their respective success this season.

Indians catcher Yan Gomes and Royals backstop Salvador Perez are two of the key players to watch tonight. Here’s a primer on the topics likely to come up on the game telecast:

The best in the league

With Joe Mauer having moved to first base, Brian McCann struggling for much of the season and Matt Wieters injured, there has been a lack of success from catchers with notable names. Gomes and Perez are in their second season of significant success.

Most Wins Above Replacement
AL Catchers In 2014

Gomes and Perez rank 1-2 in the American League in wins above replacement, with Gomes a hair better (4.0 to 3.7). They rank tied for third and tied for fifth, respectively, in that stat among all catchers, with Jonathan Lucroy (5.3) and Russell Martin (4.6) in the top two spots.

Gomes has already almost matched his 2013 total of 4.2 WAR (done in only 88 games). Perez is on pace to match or exceed his 4.3 WAR from last season.

What to know about Gomes

Gomes has swung a really good bat lately. He is hitting .333 with a .901 OPS, four home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 22 games.

That’s upped his season OPS to .800, making him one of three catchers with an .800 OPS this season, along with Lucroy and Buster Posey.

Gomes thrives against pitches in the lower half of the strike zone. His .346 batting average against pitches to that area ranks fourth among batting-title qualifiers, trailing only Victor Martinez, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. Also of significance with the Royals starting southpaw Danny Duffy tonight, Gomes has the ninth-best batting average in the majors against left-handed pitching (.351).

Additionally, he is the lone defensive standout on a team that ranks last in the major leagues in defensive runs saved. Catcher is the only position at which the Indians have a positive value in that statistic.

Gomes is a slightly above average catcher in 2014. He has four defensive runs saved this season, due mostly to his ranking in the top 10 in caught-stealing rate (31 percent).

What to know about Perez

The Royals have put Perez to frequent use behind the plate this season and for good reason. They are 68-49 when he starts at catcher, 6-12 when someone else starts.

Most WAR Through Age-24
Catchers to Debut Since 1980

Perez is valuable on two fronts. Though his on-base percentage is only .299, he is an important offensive player, one who ranks tied for second on the team in home runs and is third among their regulars with a .713 OPS.

He ranks as one of the game’s most eager hitters. His 41 percent chase rate (how often he swings at pitches out of the strike zone) ranks second in the majors, behind Pablo Sandoval’s 43 percent. Perez does this because he’s good at it. His .247 batting average against pitches out of the zone is ninth best in the major leagues.

But where Perez really earns his accolades is on the defensive side. He leads the majors with 10 defensive runs saved this season. Those have been notched on the strength of his ability to deter baserunners (caught 19 of 63 but also has five pickoffs) and his handling of the pitching staff. The Royals have a 3.23 ERA with Perez behind the plate this season and a 5.64 ERA when their other players catch.