Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Saltal-itek - A top ten catcher?

I never thought I'd write this coming in to the season, but the Red Sox catchers have quietly contributed offensively. In March, I would have happily taken "not a complete black hole", given the poor showing by both Varitek and Saltalamacchia down the stretch. Red Sox catchers are now 6th in OPS, driven primarily by very good power. They've hit the third most home runs, are fourth in slugging, and second in isolated power (slugging percentage - batting average). The two combined still have an OBP of .311, which is very poor overall and mediocre for a catcher, but the power makes up for the poor on base skills. Given how slow both players are, maybe it is good that they're not "clogging up the bases".

Amazingly, Red Sox catchers in 2011 are actually out performing Red Sox catchers in 2010. While the overall line is a bit down, when you account for the decline in offense around the league, the 2011 combo come out ahead using Fangraph's "runs created plus" statistic (107 to 105), with 100 being league average production. Neither Saltalamacchia nor Varitek are as good as Victor Martinez, but they're having a better season than the three of them combined for in 2010.

It will be interesting to see how the Red Sox handle Jason Varitek this offseason. He is a free agent, and negotiations haven't always gone smoothly between Tek and the front office. Also, Ryan Lavarnway's impressive 2011 season forces the Red Sox hand a bit; even if he's only barely a passable catcher, you ought to see what you have in a guy who hit 31 bombs between AA and AAA in a year. That is more power than top catching prospects Matt Wieters, Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, or Jesus Montero ever showed.

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