After the best offensive season of his young career, Christian Vazquez has solidified himself as the mainstay behind the plate. All he needs to do in order to ascertain the starting role is to keep this momentum going. In addition to playing with a fire attitude, Vazquez has one of the best clubhouse and on-field personalities on the Red Sox. His excitement is on display on every pitch he catches. Just watch how fired up he was after hitting a walk-off home run:
The point of this article is not to bash Sandy Leon. Instead the intention is to point out why Vazquez should receive the most time behind the plate.
The “personal catcher problem” began in Boston with Jon Lester and David Ross. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was behind the plate to catch a significant amount of Jon Lester’s starts. In my opinion, the only time a personal catcher situation is acceptable is for a knuckleball pitcher and catcher. As Red Sox fans, we saw what Tim Wakefield was like when Doug Mirabelli was not with the team. As Chris Sale and Rick Porcello continue to be accustomed to Sandy Leon being behind the plate or their games, Alex Cora needs to take a firm stance behind Vazquez and not coddle the pitchers.
Sandy Leon is a good defensive catcher. However, watching his effort, or lack thereof in the playoffs, it is clear his playing time should take a hit. Leon would walk to fetch balls that sailed past him, even though there were runners on base. Vazquez will give a 110% effort on every single pitch. Sandy Leon had the best offensive season of his career in 2016. Leon hit .310 with an OPS of .845. In addition to the fact his season his numbers fell off to .225 and an OPS of .644, his effort behind the plate also fell.
Furthermore, I do not believe that Vazquez can keep up the numbers he put up this season. However his defense and knowledge of the game are more than enough to make him the mainstay. Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez can become one of the best catching tandems in Red Sox history. The pair has the highest caught stealing percentage of catchers since 1987, with a minimum of one hundred starts. Vazquez owns a career percentage of 46.4 percent, also Leon’s career percentage is 44.3 percent. Also Ivan Rodriguez’s career percentage is 41.7 percent.
I am arguing for Christian Vazquez to receive the majority of playing time going forward. Likewise, I believe Sandy Leon will continue to be an important part of the Red Sox. Having both of these guys fighting for playing time is a good situation for Alex Cora to have. A catching battle can only benefit the team as the pitching rotation continues to get comfortable with both of them.
Follow Matt McGurn on Twitter: @MickGurn