By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Vazquez is my least desired option. Ever since he arrived at Fenway, fans and media have raved over his “defensive wizardry,” and quickly anointed him “the catcher of the future.” However, to be completely frank, he’s an absolute BUST. He can’t hit. Not only can he not hit, he even had his offensive struggles when he was sent back to Pawtucket early last summer. The pitching staff struggles MIGHTILY with Vazquez behind the plate. To be more specific, his pitch calling is horrendous. Price, Porcello, and Buchholz all had staggeringly high ERA’s the first two months. Their saving grace was the robust Red Sox offense. The only part of Christian Vazquez’ skill set that impresses me, is his ability to keep runners from stealing. His arm is a cannon. He might blow it out again, but it’s definitely a cannon. Unfortunately, that’s still not enough to justify a spot on the big league roster. The cold hard truth is that he’s simply not a big league player in any aspect. If anyone tries to jerk you off by telling you how rosy his future in Boston is, that’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing. I, however, am not.
I’m fond of Swihart. He definitely got off to a rough start defensively behind the plate last season, and became a prime example of how Boston fans can have short memories. Only one season prior (2015), he posted a sturdy .274 batting average over the course of a healthy 84 game sample size. What was the difference between 2015 and 2016? Lovullo managed him for the bulk of his 2015 stint, while Farrell managed him for 2016. Under Lovullo, he without a doubt lived up to all of the hype he garnered throughout his run in the Red Sox farm system. Not only did he prove himself in the batter’s box, and demonstrate exceptional base running speed for a catcher, he worked very well with the pitching staff. Joe Kelly at one point had an 8-0 streak with Swihart catching him that year. Rick Porcello had a bounce back upon returning from the DL. And even cowboy Wade Miley managed to salvage his season in the last couple months. Unfortunately for Swihart, John Farrell returned to the helm for 2016. Farrell’s job was on the line from the very outset in April, and Swihart wasn’t given a fair opportunity to work through some of his defensive woes. Had Lovullo been calling the shots, I believe Swihart would have kept his job, and ultimately rounded into form. His future as an all around catcher is very bright nonetheless, and could potentially be an all star in his career several times over. But whether that takes place in Boston remains to be seen.
Sandy Leon is my hero. In fact, he’s everyone’s hero. Many just aren’t smart enough to realize it. Going back to when he arrived in Boston in 2015 after being acquired by the Nationals, I started noticing his value behind the plate immediately. Clay Buchholz was having his usual disastrous start to 2015. But after Leon was called up, his ERA started dropping rapidly. Leon also worked very well with Rodriguez in spurts. In 2016 it seemed like Leon’s days in Boston might well be over. Vazquez and Swihart were both already in Boston, and if you believe everything our beat writers tell you, both prospects were here to stay for years to come. However, due to the events and mismanagements listed above, Leon caught a break and thrived BIG TIME. Right out of the gates he was hitting well over .400 (though admittedly an anomaly) for a prolonged period, which fit in nicely with our already torrid offense. But perhaps not so noticeably, he slowly but surely turned the pitching staff around. Rick Porcello had an ERA over 4.00 for the first ten weeks of the season before going on a career best run. Price was having his ups and downs, but also eventually strung together a run that resembled his dominance of old. Leon walked the tight rope with Pomeranz keeping him competitive in games. Most impressively and impossibly of all, he once again guided Buchholz and Rodriguez to stunning turn arounds. Rodriguez was flirting with no-hitters, and Buchholz had an ERA of well under 3.00 in the final weeks of the season. The Red Sox would not have even made it to the playoffs had it not been for Leon’s steadiness and stability. And for that matter, Rick Porcello absolutely without a doubt would not have won the 2016 AL Cy Young award had Leon not been behind the plate. Furthermore, the chances of another Red Sox having a back to back Cy Young winner again in 2017 rise exponentially if Leon stays on as catcher. All the potential is in our rotation for it to happen.
I love Sandy Leon. He’s my guy.