Sports fans always seek a scapegoat to explain failed expectations and mediocrity from their team. In 2012 for the Boston Red Sox, it was none other than Bobby Valentine. He was known for his lack of leadership and was rigorously scrutinized for every decision he made that did not pan out. A year removed from the “Bobby Valentine curse,” the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. There was no need for a scapegoat, but instead joyous celebration. However, this year there is no Bobby V. to hold accountable for the Red Sox’ inconsistency. No, and don’t even think about holding anybody culpable who helped Boston win a World Series last year. It has to be the new acquisitions. Namely, A.J. Pierzynski.
Everyday I witness countless Red Sox fans on Twitter attack Pierzynski like piranhas. They feed on every misplay, strikeout, and early swing, while simultaneously venting their frustration towards Ben Cherington for not re-signing the “beloved” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Ironically, they would do the same thing to poor Salty when he was in a Red Sox uniform.
To rub salt in the wound, Saltalamacchia got off to a torrid start with Miami. That said, he’s significantly cooled off since, and against what a vast majority of fans believe, he’s not doing much better than Pierzynski. In fact, there is a viable argument to be made that Pierzynski is having a better season than Saltalamacchia. And that is exactly what we’re going to delve into.
First, let’s comparatively examine their basic offensive statistics.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: .237/.335/.404 slash with a .326 BABIP, 1.0 fWAR, and 106 wRC+
A.J. Pierzynski: .277/.309/.401 slash with a .308 BABIP, 0.8 fWAR, and 91 wRC+.
Obviously looking at the above you can see Saltalamacchia is the better of the two based on those numbers. It’s worth noting he is playing half of his games in a much tougher hitter’s ballpark than Pierzynski, too. Nevertheless, this doesn’t paint the full picture.
Situational hitting is snubbed in the world of sabermetrics. I, for one, believe it is a vital part of the game, and it can’t be ignored. So, below is a table comparing Pierzynski and Saltalamacchia in clutch situations.
Runners on: .186/.280/.271 — .551 OPS
Runners in scoring position: .156/.231/.200 — .431 OPS
Scoring position with two out: .053/.182/.105 — .287 OPS
Runners on: .284/.330/.432 — .762 OPS
Runners in scoring position: .333/.382/.500 — .882 OPS
Scoring position with two out: .360/.448/.520 — .968 OPS
Okay, that’s a substantial difference that has substance to it. The ability to drive in runs and hit in clutch situations is crucial in the game of baseball, and that is exactly what Pierzynski does and Saltalamacchia doesn’t.
Further, Pierzynski has thrown out 28.1% of runners this season, compared to Saltalamacchia, who has thrown out 16.7%.
Give A.J. Pierzynski a break. He’s just as good as Saltalamacchia — if not, a tad worse this season.
With a team that has the worst outfield in Major League Baseball, an inconsistent rotation, struggling veterans, and injuries, it’s ludicrous to blame Pierzynski. And there are plenty of other sensible players to blame for a pedestrian season to this point.