Would the Red Sox be wise to revert back to last season’s plan?
Photo Credit: Boston Globe
It was not much of a surprise for Red Sox fans when it was announced that Dave Dombrowski had decided to move on from veteran catcher, Sandy Leon. He was the oldest of the three on the active roster and was coming off one of the worst offensive performances in a single season.
Additionally, there would be very little ramifications in moving on – at least so they thought.
Through 12 games, the Red Sox possess a putrid 6.35 ERA. The true oddity is that this pitching staff is returning the entire starting rotation from a World Series championship seaspm and is fully healthy.
What has been the difference?
There are questions of Chris Sale‘s velocity, a lack of execution from the rotation, and an overall sense of rust. However there may be the contributing factor of the game management from the Red Sox’ backstops. Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart are an offensive upgrade over Leon, but represent a step down in other areas – especially catcher ERA. Let’s take a look at the 2018 numbers.
Sandy Leon: 3.28 ERA in 685.2 innings
Christian Vazquez: 3.84 ERA in 604 innings
Blake Swihart: 5.32 ERA in 154 innings
There’s a stark difference in these numbers, but let’s take a further look and see how the two primary catchers – Leon and Vazquez – have handled the Red Sox rotation over their careers.
Chris Sale w/ Leon: 2.42 ERA & 7.76 K/9
Chris Sale w/ Vazquez: 4.58 ERA & 3.79 K/9
David Price w/ Leon: 2.83 ERA & 6.25 K/9
David Price w/ Vazquez: 4.39 ERA & 3.44 K/9
Rick Porcello w/ Leon: 4.14 ERA & 4.74 K/9
Rick Porcello w/ Vazquez: 4.34 ERA & 3.16 K/9
Eduardo Rodriguez w/ Leon: 4.00 ERA & 2.76 K/9
Eduardo Rodriguez w/ Vazquez: 4.38 ERA & 2.94 K/9
Nathan Eovaldi w/ Leon: 3.86 ERA & 6.25 K/9
Nathan Eovaldi w/ Vazquez: 2.95 ERA & 3.25 K/9
The immediate numbers are telling in the sense that Red Sox pitchers typically experience more statistical success when throwing to Sandy Leon. There are statistical sample sizes that must be remembered as some pitchers (ie: Nathan Eovaldi & Chris Sale) haven’t thrown to each catcher in equal amounts; however there’s a noticeable trend.
Red Sox pitchers are usually striking out more batters when throwing to Leon and having more overall success. The current issue is that the Sox have financially committed to Christian Vazquez and the development of Blake Swihart for the early parts of this season. Struggles have been prevalent, but it may too early for Alex Cora and Dombrowski to eat the metaphorical crow and add Leon back to the 40 man roster.
In the long term, the Red Sox may ultimately need to find a solution, but for now it appears that management wants to see the experiment unfold. As the sample sizes continue to grow, keep an eye on the numbers, they can often be quite telling.