Sox Should Trade Blake Swihart

After moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen and demoting Joe Kelly to Pawtucket, the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. Their starters have been battered to the tune of a 4.79 ERA and .748 OPS this year, which isn’t a recipe for a successful season. Boston’s won anyways because the offense has been crushing it, but when happens when the lineup slumps? The Red Sox don’t really have much minor league talent ready to make an impact in the rotation, so the quickest and most direct way to an upgrade is through the trade market. To accomplish this, the Sox should trade Blake Swihart.

Not too long ago, such a proposal would have seemed outrageousSox Should Trade Blake Swihart. Swihart is a prized prospect, an athletic 24-year-old catcher who can switch-hit and provide plus offense at a premium position. Teams love to build around guys like that. He seemed destined to become the next Jason Varitek or Carlton Fisk.

Now, his future in Boston is uncertain. The team has committed to Christian Vazquez, another talented young backstop, due to his superior game management and receiving skills. Swihart was demoted in April despite a strong start at the plate, learned to play left field, and is now back with the big club in a part-time role. The problem is, his bat plays much better behind the plate, where he’s a clear offensive plus. In left, however, his hitting is average at best.

So therein lies the problem. Swihart is a great player without a clear role on the Red Sox, which limits his value to them at the present. He’s still very attractive to other teams, however, where he would represent a clear improvement at catcher. Ipso facto, Swihart is worth more to other teams than he is to the Sox, which is why they should move him now while his perceived value is still high, before a prolonged slump or injury potentially drags it down.

Swihart alone should net a pretty sweet return, and if Boston packages him with some prospects they could land another top-shelf starter to pair with Price (Sonny Gray, perhaps?). The Red Sox should trade Blake Swihart soon, however, because if they wait until late July it might be too late.

Middlebrooks Gone, Red Sox Get Ryan Hanigan

ryan hanigan

In need of a backup catcher, the Boston Red Sox were able to kill two birds with one stone.
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First of all, Will Middlebrooks posed a bit of a problem for the club. He hit .254 in his first 169 big league games and smacked 32 home runs, making it clear that he was going to be one of the best power hitting third baseman in the game.

In 63 games in 2014, Middlebrooks hit just two home runs in 63 games with a dismal .256 OBP, putting his future with the Red Sox organization in peril.

Also, the Red Sox needed a backup catcher and were able to get one by trading Will Middlebrooks to the San Diego Padres. In return, the Boston Red Sox will obtain catcher Ryan Hanigan who the Padres will get in the Wil Myers deal when it is all said and done.ryan hanigan

Hanigan, who never has and most likely never will play in a big league game for the San Diego Padres, spent 2014 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and hit .218 with a .318 OBP in 84 games and clipped five home runs. It was a down year for Hanigan and the Red Sox will bank on him being better than he was this past season.
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Plate discipline has always been a big part of Hanigan’s game. He has walked 220 times and struck out on just 198 in his career, showing his knowledge of the strike zone. As a result, Hanigan puts a lot of balls in play and is good for a few sacrifice hits a season.

Defensively, Hanigan has thrown out 38% of attempted base stealers in his career and lead the league gunning down 48% in 2012 and 45% in 2013.
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Typically, Hanigan serves his team as a platoon catcher, playing more than a backup but less than a starter. Expect Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez to catch at around 60%-67% of the time next season while Hanigan will see around 33%-40% of the reps if all goes well.

Now that the Red Sox have Hanigan who is signed for the next two years, trading Blake Swihart is a definite possibility. Although many people may not want to trade him, the return would be rather large and could set the Red Sox up for a championship next season.
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The 34-year-old Hanigan is a graduate of Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts. Welcome back Ryan Hanigan, welcome back.

Defense First For Red Sox Catcher Christian Vazquez

vazquezIn the field in baseball, defense is important however, it is not as important as hitting. Hitting is what gives a player pride; it’s what makes David Ortiz so great and makes the difference between a lifelong Minor League player and a lifelong Major League player.

Fielding is important, depending on the position. As a catcher,for example, defense is quite important and sometimes it can even outweigh a player’s dismal performance at the plate. Gunning down attempted base stealers, calling the game, and catching every single ball thrown are responsibilities of a catcher. This job is important and can effect the outcome of a ball game.
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For Boston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez defense is his specialty. His bat lags behind as he is slashing .225/.287/.275 while posting a dismal .561 OPS in 102 at-bats. Not only this, but Vazquez is two for his last 17 and is on pace to finish this season hitting below the Mendoza Line (.200).

Behind the dish it is a completely different story for Vazquez—gunning down nine of 20 would-be base stealers good for 45% caught stealing. As a game caller, he is advanced for a 24-year-old and is one of the top defensive catchers in the game.
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No, he is not the fourth Molina brother, but he works out with them in the winter in Puerto Rico and is just as good defensively.

Next year, it is assumed Vazquez will be seeing the lion’s share of playing time at catcher for the Red Sox — even if it is in a platoon. Boston is willing to take the good with the bad and will let Vazquez continue to catch for them despite his obvious flaws. To meet the standards of being the starting catcher, Vazquez will need to keep playing his tremendous defense and get his OBP up to a number which starts with a three.

No, he is not the next Ivan Rodriguez, but Vazquez could be just as good defensively while he lacks the bat of the future Hall of Famer.
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With the anticipated emergence of Blake Swihart, Vazquez will have competition in the future. Still though, Vazquez is here to stay and may find himself in a platoon with Swihart by around the halfway mark next year. All would need to go well for Swihart for that to occur while Vazquez must keep his average above the Mendoza Line.

As always, defense comes first for Christian Vazquez. It is the reason why he is the starting catcher of a big league club and it is the reason why he is getting paid. No matter what else happens next year, Boston will be sound at catcher as long as Christian Vazquez stays healthy.

Red Sox First Half Report Card by Position: Catcher

Red Sox first half catchers

With maybe the Red Sox’ biggest free agency signing of last offseason gone in A.J. Pierzynski, the team has caught a good glimpse of who may be their future catcher—Christian Vazquez. Pierzynski replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who posted solid numbers last season which included a slash line of .273/.338/.466. The most hated player in the league just wasn’t putting up the numbers that would warrant him staying with the team though. With just 15 extra base hits and nine walks through 72 games, the “offensive” catcher may have trouble finding a new job elsewhere.

David Ross isn’t quite doing his job as well as last year either. Base stealers have been successful 74% of the time, up from 59% last year. While we don’t expect much at the plate from him, his .176 average needs to improve a bit. With all this being said, it is clear that he has a connection with some of the pitchers on the team, including the ace, Jon Lester.

Ross isn’t the only catcher on the team that knows how to call a game anymore though.

If there wasn’t anyone waiting in the wings, the Sox may have had to stick out the rest of the season with Pierzynski. Luckily, Christian Vazquez appears as if he is ready to play in the big leagues. He has already shown his quickness behind the plate, making some confident snap throws down to first, which is something that not all rookies would do in their first few games. At the plate, he’s gone 5-11 in his first three games, with three doubles and five RBIs. He wasn’t brought up for his bat, but the 23-year-old hit .289 in Portland last season and was hitting .279 in Pawtucket at the time of his call-up. It would be great if Vazquez could provide similar numbers in the majors, which I don’t think any Sox fan would complain about.

A.J. Pierzynski- Grade: D

David Ross- Grade: C

Christian Vazquez: Incomplete (A so far)

Is It Time To Let David Ross Go?

David RossRight now, Boston Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been taking a lot of criticism for no reason. The Red Sox starting catcher is hitting .257 with a .288 OBP in 64 games for Boston clipping four homers. In the field, he has gunned down just 20% of runners which is below the league average. Still, Pierzynski is the best catcher on the Boston Red Sox roster and gets starts almost too often. His backup, David Ross on the other hand, is not having a good season. The slightly younger 37-year-old catcher is hitting just .176 in 27 games while smacking four homers and posting a dismal .235 OBP. Defense, which was once the specialty of David Ross, is now his Achilles heel. Throwing out just 23% of runners despite being well rested when he goes behind the plate is not what Boston is looking for at the moment. If the Red Sox want to improve, they will need a better catcher than what they have.
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Luckily for the Boston Red Sox, there is a solution. His name is Christian Vazquez and he is the starting catcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox. At 23-years-young the catcher is 14 years younger than both David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski. On the year, Vazquez is hitting .275 for the Pawtucket Red Sox posting a .331 OBP while clipping 19 extra base hits. Although this does not sound impressive, what Vazquez does behind the plate is impressive. Calling a great game and gunning down 39% of would-be base stealers, Christian Vazquez is the breath of fresh air the big league club is looking for right now. He could split time with A.J. Pierzynski, giving Pierzynski a break allowing him to be physically ready to catch when the time comes.

The reason why Boston needs to let David Ross go is simple: value. At this point it is clear that David Ross is not having a good season and he cannot catch on an everyday basis. He would be worth keeping if Pierzynski had trade value, but no teams are looking for an old mediocre catcher. Granted that neither catcher would yield any return in the trade market, Boston would be best to cut ties with their backup catcher: David Ross. This would clear a spot on the 40-man roster as well which would allow Boston to call up a player they currently do not have access to if need be.
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Overall, the choice is clear. Despite being the more popular of the two catchers, it is time that the Boston Red Sox part ways with David Ross. He had a solid career, but it is time for him to throw in the towel. Giving Christian Vazquez a shot in the big league could pay dividends to the team in 2015. Since Boston will be looking for two new catchers in 2015, Vazquez could potentially be one of those men with a convincing performance this year.

Saltalamacchia Not Much Better Than Pierzynski

A.j. Pierzynski vs Jarod Saltalamacchia

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.

Saltalamacchia:

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

Pierzynski:

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.