The Red Sox offensive abyss at catching

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26: Sandy Leon /

The  Boston Red Sox catchers simply are not providing any relief on offense. Both have returned to their previous incarnations of good field and no hit.

Just how bad is the gaping lineup hole at catching for the Boston Red Sox? Through 4/27 the Red Sox catching duo of Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez had a startling -0.7 fWAR for last among not only the American League but all of MLB catchers.   Maybe a reality check is in order.

The baseball pundits knock on both catchers centered around their offensive limitations.  Leon was viewed as a barely acceptable backup with a sub .200 batting average until magic struck.  Was it some deal with a baseball devil?  Did Leon commune with Mister Applegate of “Damn Yankees” fame?

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In mid-season of 2016, Leon was brought back to Boston and commenced to spin a legendary turn around and hit .310 for half a season.  The switch-hitting veteran had found his groove, or did he? My doubts circled around a .213 September that showed what Leon had always been with the stick.

In 2017 Leon hit .225 and this season it is just .107. There are several pitchers in the National League that have done far better with the stick.  And to make bad news into the worst news category Vazquez is in the doldrums with a .183 average. Combined the duo has four RBI – that is what Mookie Betts can do on a good afternoon or evening.

Vazquez was apparently an offensive illusion – a baseball tease who hit a resounding and quite surprising .290 in 2017.  Both Leon and Vazquez would also send the occasional pitching mistake to the baseball graveyard with a combined 12 home runs in 2017. This season both have vanished with average and power.  A baseball black hole where opposing pitchers can grab some no fear R & R.

But what about defense? The Red Sox tandem is now ranked 12th in the American League. So far, baserunners have swiped 10 bases in 12 attempts, but there is more to catching than just cutting down a runner.  The pitching staff has performed remarkably well and catching is most certainly a contributor, but sooner or later the lost runs will take a toll.

The Red Sox have Blake Swihart and Swihart is simply a better hitter than either catcher. But with Swihart comes an issue of defense and that is where a give back will potentially take place.  Do the pitchers feel comfortable with Swihart?  Will his catching have a respectable catchers ERA? Will Swihart manage to frame pitches on the plus side? Can Swihart approach league average of runners caught stealing?

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The risk of Swihart is now worth it. The recent slump only magnified the inability of Leon and Vazquez to generate offense. The Red Sox may be in a situation where they could look elsewhere for a competent backup or go with Swihart and more than just once or twice a week.

Sources: Fangraphs