Many things have gone right for the Red Sox in the early part of the season allowing them to get off to a flying start with the best record in the American League into June.
The excellent play of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is one of the things that needs to be mentioned, but it hasn’t really gotten the attention it deserves. That may be due to the defensive difficulties Salty sometimes experiences. They seem to diminish his overall stature as a player.
But with the bat, Saltalamacchia has finally developed into the player everyone thought he could be in his minor league days in the Atlanta Braves system.
In a word, Salty has shown the ability to mash. It started last year when he slammed a career high 25 home runs in 405 at-bats. What held him back from getting recognition for it was his not-so-great .288 OBP.
This year, it’s been more of the same bashing only with an improved .341 OBP and a .273 BA. That’s what the Red Sox have been waiting to see and what has really catapulted Salty to an elite level offensively.
With his ability to hit for power, and now showing the ability to get on base, Salty has suddenly made the catching position an offensive strength in the Sox lineup. It’s something they need considering how disappointing Jacoby Ellsbury has been with the long ball.
Getting this kind of offense from a traditionally defensive position is a huge bonus for manager John Farrell and takes pressure off some of the other role players like Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, who now don’t have to press and feel like they need to hit a lot of home runs.
Salty’s play has also quieted talk about the uncertainty of the Red Sox catching position.
Coming into the season there was talk Salty would get reduced playing time because of his so-so defense and the importing of the defensively sound David Ross.
But Salty has hit so well that he has forced Farrell to get his bat in the lineup as often as possible, despite the fact that he does still struggle at times defensively and with throwing out runners.
The Red Sox will live with his defensive shortcomings if Salty continues to pound the baseball. With two long homers over the weekend in game three of the Angels series, he shows no sign of letting up.
Saltalamacchia continuing to be an offensive force will go a long way toward getting the Sox to their goal of playing October baseball. It’s time we all took notice.