Apr 16, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski (40) during the first inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Fox Hole: Red Sox Nation sours on A.J. Pierzynski


He’s been called the “Most Hated Player in Baseball.” And now Boston Red Sox starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski is starting to irritate Red Sox Nation. Sox fans, on social media in particular, have not been shy in suggesting David Ross, who homered on Patriots’ Day, handle the bulk of the catching duties. Or, that Pierzynski absolutely stinks. When the 37-year old veteran grounded out in the eighth inning of a tied Sox-Orioles game on Easter evening, social media was not shy in expressing its disdain.

 

 

 

Pierzynski’s signing in December clearly represented a bridge from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the free swinging backstop of the 2013 champs who likely hit his ceiling last year, to the next generation of Red Sox catchers: minor leaguers Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez – ceiling undiscovered. Backed by Ross, Pierzynski presumably gives the Sox a steady veteran hand while not blocking the path to Boston for the kids.

Only, Red Sox Nation is ready to throw him overboard. A 1-for-4 showing Tuesday against the Yankees leaves him at .236/.283/.309. But it’s also April 23rd. Consider first the track record, then the alternatives.

For a guy voted “most hated,” Pierzynski has won over fans wherever he’s played. White Sox fans (for whom he won a World Series championship in 2005) gave him a nice ovation last week. And that wasn’t his first time back to U.S. Cellular Field — he returned last year with the Rangers.

He boasts a .283 career average and projects to around 15 home runs. To put that in perspective, only one Red Sox backstop in the last ten years, Victor Martinez, has been able to do both.

Pierzynski was actually hitting over .300 until just last week, when he spiraled into a 2-for-20 slump. Slumps happen to everybody, even darlings Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley. Further, Pierzynski has been lauded for his ability to jump in and handle the pitching staff thus far.

There is a reason David Ross, over 13 Major League seasons, has cracked 200 at-bats just twice, just as there is a reason the Red Sox let Saltalamacchia collect an unimposing three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins. Perhaps you don’t remember Salty’s twin seasons (2011 and ’12) with a .288 OBP in a Boston uniform?

And when two of your top ten organizational prospects are catchers, you don’t sign a 30-year old backstop whose playing time has diminished the last three seasons (McCann) to a five-year deal.

Pierzynski might be challenged to beat Edgar Renteria in a popularity contest in Boston, but mark my words: he will hit and do his job behind the plate. And then, he will turn it over to Swihart and Vasquez. Isn’t that what we asked him to do?

The Fox Hole features information @sylverfox25 learned on Twitter in a given day.

Tags: A.J. Pierzynski Boston Red Sox

  • Rick M

    You lose you look for goats. Right now there is a whole herd of goats on this team. Give it time. Six game win streak cures all.

    • Sean Sylver

      Somebody get Bob Lobel on the line! It’s time to hit the panic button!

  • Patrick Green

    David Ross owns even splits vs. RHP and LHP, plays better defense, and handles a staff better. Also, Ross was stuck behind McCann in his prime (Braves’ tenure), hence why he never was a full-time starter, and was stifled by concussion issues last year. That being said, I would like to keep Pierzynski but in an inferior role. I’d like to see Ross play 90-100 games and Pierzynski 60-70.

    • Sean Sylver

      I like Ross, but he only played with the Braves for four years. What about the other nine? He has even splits, but they’re not good splits. That’s why he doesn’t get off the bench. If this is still an issue on Memorial Day, you win. But we’re looking at a guy who’s in a 2-for-20 slump with 60 total at-bats in a Red Sox uniform. Let him play through it.

      • Patrick Green

        They’re not bad:
        Ross’ career splits.
        vs. LHP .771 OPS
        vs. RHP .760 OPS

        Pierzynski’s career splits:
        vs. LHP .689 OPS
        vs. RHP .766 OPS

        Ross is actually a better career hitter than A.J. is. It may not seem that way because of how banged up he was last year, but it’s the truth. I think we can both agree Ross is a superior defensive catcher and handler of the pitching staff.

        Pierzynski is not close to being the lone Red Sox enduring struggles, so I do not hold that against him one bit (although, it does convince a lot of people). I’ve hated this signing since day one because of the alarming trends (BB% and O-Swing%). Again, we already paid $8 million for him, so might as well keep him. However, Ross deserves more playing time because he is the better player.

        • Sean Sylver

          You backed up your point. Good job. Guess we’ll see – if Ross gets the opportunity, can he handle the workload or will those splits suffer?

          • Patrick Green

            I think he can but he is older so I would expect his offense numbers to take a snag. I grade both equals on the offensive side of the ball but defense and intangibles (Bill James forgive me) favor Ross.

  • LittleOtterPaws

    Jason Varitek hit above .280 and mashed more then 15 HR twice between 2004-2014

    • Sean Sylver

      But did he do both after 2004? Nope. That’s what I said.

      • LittleOtterPaws

        Yes he did. In 2004 he hit .296 with 18 homeruns, and in 2005 he hit .281 with 22 homeruns.

        • Sean Sylver

          I was not referring to 2004. The statement was that the Red Sox have had one catcher (Martinez) hit .283 (not .281) and hit 15 homers in the same season, in the last ten years. The point is that this kind of offensive production from a Sox catcher has been rare since Varitek’s prime.

          • LittleOtterPaws

            That’s fine, and I agree with your point, but 10 years ago was 2004, so Varitek counts haha, I’m not giving up.

          • Sean Sylver

            Good job.