Sandy Leon has been on an offensive tear of late for the Boston Red Sox. That, combined with his defensive abilities, makes him a must-start.
So, who leads the Red Sox in batting average?
You guessed it: Sandy Leon, the near .500 hitting catcher who’s saving Boston’s season. Okay, maybe that’s going too far. After all, ‘The Sandyman’ has only had 44 at-bats over 16 games. It’s just a hot streak. Or, maybe Leon has figured something out that is contributing to his recent success.
The Red Sox struggled during the month of June, and it wasn’t just in the pitching department. Boston’s offense struggled as well. During their ‘June gloom’, some factors became apparent. The Red Sox have been crushing bad teams with bad pitching, and losing to good teams with good pitching. Also, the catcher’s spot in the lineup, when occupied by either Christian Vazquez or Ryan Hanigan, could be equated to a black hole of offense.
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But, that was the Red Sox before Sandy.
The Sandyman has supplied the Red Sox with offense in droves. He has had timely hits and, on a few occasions, single-handedly smacked the opposing team around with the baseball bat.
To put it in numbers, Leon hit .156 over 20 games in 2014, and .184 over 41 games in 2015. In 16 games this season, he’s batting a cool .477. For the entire 2015 season, Leon had 21 hits and 8 Runs and 3 RBI over those 41 games; He already has 21 hits, 8 runs, and 9 RBIs this year.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed. Both players and coaches alike have seen how the offense has thrived seemingly every time Leon is behind the plate. Of course, his playing time will only continue to increase if he can keep up this production.
"“He’s catching twice every fifth day,” Farrell said, per MassLive’s Brandon Chase. “We always view the catching position as a two-man job, but the way he’s producing offensively, the way he’s handling from the defensive end … the potential to throw people out, yeah, he’s earning more playing time as we go.”"
What makes it even better is the fact Sandy Leon is a glove-first catcher. In fact, coming up the Washington National’s system, he was labeled a “defensive whiz”. And, so far this season, runners have only successfully stolen 6 bases, while being thrown out 5 times trying to steal on Leon. Compare that to Hanigan’s 14 allowed stolen bases, to the 6 he’s thrown out. Or, Vazquez’s 14 allowed to 8 caught stealing. Leon was also great last year, throwing out 10 runners while only allowing 10 successful attempts. Furthermore, he rarely lets by a passball-only 5 in the 57 games since joining the Red Sox-and calls a solid game too.
Sandy Leon has been the best of both worlds. With him, Boston hasn’t had to chose between the defense of Vazquez and his atrocity at the plate, or Swihart’s offensive potential that comes at the expense of game calling experience and defensive ability. With Sandy behind the plate, they’ve gotten it all. And, he’s just 27-years-old.
There might be reason to think he could keep his offensive production up. There will certainly be obvious recession in his statistics; however, if you look at his numbers so far this year, there are a few that stick out. Both his walk and strikeout rates have improved this year, but the stat that really stands out is his 28% line drive rate and 30% hard contact rate. Those two percentages are up from 19% and 14% respectively. Granted, these stats have been compared in small sample sizes and tend to even out over time, but they do give reason to buy into something bigger. Just look at Daniel Murphy and how it seemed last season and through the playoffs, everyone wanted to point to sample size.
Well, we know the story this year. Maybe Leon has figured something out as well. The only thing that is without doubt, right now, every game The Sandyman is in the lineup is much watch television.