Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez nearing franchise home run record at his position
By Sean Penney
Christian Vazquez is closing in on the single-season Boston Red Sox franchise record for home runs by a hitter who primarily plays the catcher position.
Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez was never much of a power threat, entering this year with only 10 career home runs over parts of four seasons. He’s more than doubled that total in his breakout campaign.
Vazquez led the Red Sox to victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday with a three-hit performance that included his 22nd home run of the season. The three-run blast in the first inning gave Boston a comfortable cushion in a game they would hang on to win 7-4.
Vazquez has set career-highs in several categories this season, including a .473 SLG, .790 OPS, 63 runs scored, 69 RBI, and 26 doubles.
But nothing stands out more than his 22 home runs. Vazquez is approaching historical territory for home runs from a catcher, a position that isn’t typically associated with big bats.
If we exclude the 1940 season when first baseman Jimmie Foxx moonlighted as a backup catcher for 42 games, Carlton Fisk holds the franchise record for home runs by a catcher with 26, a record he set in 1973 and matched in 1977.
Jason Varitek‘s 25 home runs in 2003 represent the only other instance where a Red Sox catcher topped Vazquez’ current total. Varitek (2005) and Fisk (1972) each have a 22-homer campaign on their resumes. That places Vazquez in a three-way tie for the fourth-most home runs by a Red Sox catcher in a single season.
The Red Sox only have seven games remaining, which makes it a long shot that Vazquez will catch Fisk for the record. He’s close enough to warrant keeping an eye on the situation though. Vazquez has three homers in his last seven games. A similar stretch over the final week of the regular season would put him on the verge of franchise history.
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A daunting task, no doubt. But when that week includes three games at hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Texas followed by three against a Baltimore Orioles pitching staff that set an MLB record for home runs allowed, we can’t rule out Vazquez collecting the four more he needs to match Fisk.
Vazquez has expanded his versatility this season, manning first base for 10 games, covering the hot corner four times plus a pair of games at second base. The vast majority of his time, 116 games and 100 starts, has still been behind the plate. The power he’s displaying is rare for the position. Vazquez has inserted himself alongside Fisk and Varitek, the two best offensive catchers in franchise history. He’s the first Red Sox catcher with 20+ home runs since Victor Martinez in 2010.
Home runs are flying out of the park more than ever this year so that certainly has played some part in Vazquez’ power boost. He still stacks up well against his peers at the position though. Only six major league catchers have more homers than Vazquez this season. Even in the year of the juiced ball, 20+ homers from a catcher is impressive.