The Boston Red Sox have a dilemma when it comes to their catchers. Both offer great skills that make it hard to settle on just one of them on a given night.
Going into this season the Red Sox were carrying the weight of three catchers but thanks to some maneuvering they were able to get the roster down to two. As the season has progressed there has been some debate about which catcher truly is the best option to set Boston up for victory. And thus we find ourselves with the great debate of Christan Vazquez vs Sandy Leon.
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The big argument that Leon has in his favor is that both Chris Sale and Rick Porcello have astoundingly better ERA‘s when throwing to him versus Vazquez. Like, it isn’t even close. Not even the same ballpark. When pitching to Vazqy, Sale is tossing an astronomical 6.68 ERA while having a much more palatable 2.96 when pitching to Leon. The numbers are a big jump for a pitcher the caliber of Chris Sale.
A similar argument in the favor of Leon can be made for righty Rick Porcello. When tossing to Sandy his ERA is a solid 3.95. It’s nothing to write home about but it’s far better than the nearly doubled 7.42 ERA when Vazquez is behind the plate.
Sandy clearly has great relationships with both Sale and Porcello as both pitchers were big advocates of his when Dave Dombrowski was trying to iron out the catcher trifecta this winter. Leon would get DFA’d as the odd man out but when third-string catcher Blake Swihart was sent to Arizona he’d get the call back to the big time.
As for the other two pitchers in the rotation both David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez are seeing closer numbers between the two catchers. Price has a 0.00 ERA in 5.2 IP w/ Leon and a 3.48 ERA in 77.2 IP w/ Vazquez. Rodriguez is pretty level with a 4.34 ERA in 18.2 IP to Sandy and 4.41 ERA in 79.2 IP to Vazqy. So only half of the rotation is truly seeing a massive disparity in the runs while the other half seems more level no matter who’s behind the plate.
As far as being game managers it’s clear that each scenario is providing different samples to analyze. The obvious is that both Sale and Porcello tend to shine when it’s Sandy behind the plate calling the pitches. What is really making the decision on which catcher to lean on comes when they get into the batter’s box.
Vazquez is having a career year and that’s not even trying to be dramatic. He’s sitting on a .299/.322/.520/.852 offensive line with all four metrics being career highs for the righty. Not to mention that he has 14 homers so far this season when he had only 10 for his entire career going into 2019. Vazqy has also knocked 41 RBI at the halfway mark of the season which is 25 more than all of last season and 9 above his career high.
The other side of the coin is when Sandy has to step to the plate and the results just aren’t as beneficial to the Red Sox. Leon owns a .200/.274/.284/.558 line with just 2 homers and 11 RBI. A drastic dropoff from what Christian is putting this season and a big leader why Vazqy is seeing the lion’s share of the playing time. Leon can always get hot and go on a streak but at the moment it just feels like he is more likely an automatic out.
It may be foolish to sacrifice Sale and Porcello but some of the weight needs to be on their shoulders as well. They’re world-class pitchers and have thrown enough innings to both that the ERA difference shouldn’t be so dramatic. The offense is what I’m highlighting, pitchers need run support and that’s what Vazquez if offering. If I have to choose between the two I’m going with Vazquez as he offers more in a complete sense of the game.
Boston has a steep hill to climb when the second half kicks off at the end of the week as they’re 9.0 games back in the AL East and 2.0 games back in the Wild Card. The Red Sox have a schedule that can turn their season around though as 21 of their next 24 will be against the AL East with 14 of those 24 games at Fenway Park. Both Leon and Vazquez can and most likely play a big factor in turning this season around. With some high stakes coming up in the near future both catchers are going to have to be on top of their game.