Jul 12, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) waits in the on-deck circle during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Middle Innings: Grading the Red Sox at Catcher and DH

It has been a frustrating first half of the season for Red Sox fans. With the team still below .500 and trailing in the AL East and Wild Card races, the next couple of weeks will have a major impact on the state of the franchise through the end of the 2014 season and beyond. The BoSox Injection staff looks back at the first half of the season: from the young guys taking their first hacks, to the veterans who may have overextended their welcome.

Previously: BullpenRotation, Outfield

Catcher and DH are two areas where fans got pretty much what was expected in the first half of 2014, but it wasn’t enough to calm the concerns of gaping holes throughout the Red Sox lineup.

David Ortiz appears to have started on a gentle downward slope, going from “out-of-this-world” to just “very, very good” at age 38.

37-year old A.J. Pierzynski arrived with 16 years of hacking on his resume, continued to do so, was roundly criticized, released and flamed for not hitting 20 homers, enjoying Creed, and looking at his cell phone a lot. David Ross has done David Ross things, like handling the pitching staff, occasionally hitting bombs and striking out once every three at-bats.

How do they rate?

Designated hitter: Despite the fact that he’s been the only consistent bat in the lineup from Opening Day, Ortiz has been subject to much criticism this year, particularly on social media:

Let’s be real, were we still expecting .300/30/100 David Ortiz at age 38? The contract extension he signed isn’t paying him for that; no matter how amazing his exploits at an advanced age, they’re paying him for the past. This goes against the grain for the current Red Sox management, but in some cases, you have to do what you have to do (like pay Jon Lester). That said, Matt Collins at Over The Monster points out Big Papi’s wRC+ is 123, which means he’s creating 23% more runs than the average player, a stat that ranks 18th in the American League. He’s earning his keep. Despite the low batting average,Ortiz is projected to finish with 33 homers and 108 RBI. Not too shabby.

The problem for Ortiz is that his perceived decline has coincided with a team decline and thus a grumpier-than-usual first half. Ortiz has always been a firecracker and a belly-acher, chucking bats from the dugout onto the infield, politicking for RBIs and demolishing bullpen phones. With the team losing, his ill-timed vocalizations have been magnified. Irritating, sure, but not a performance indicator.

Grade: B

Catcher: Pierzynski is gone. David Ross remains, hitting .175. He has six homers, which is great for a backup catcher, and means he’s doing exactly what is expected of a reserve backstop in the Doug Mirabelli mold: occasionally clubbing the ball and striking out at a Bellhorn-like clip. The defense is great, and a couple of those home runs have been in big spots, so that’s encouraging.

But Ross should have a reduced role in favor of Christian Vazquez. The 23-year old has arrived with a flourish: five hits in 13 at-bats. He collected all of those hits (along with five RBI) during the Houston series. Vazquez’ ascent foreshadows the promotion of Blake Swihart, the best catching prospect in the game. Though he’s still down at Portland, the future at the position in Boston is reason for excitement.

But right now, it’s just passable.

Grade: C-

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Tags: Boston Red Sox David Ortiz Midseason Grades

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