After seven games the Red Sox pitching staff has a pathetic lead leading 7.32 ERA. Numerous pundits, my esteemed editor among them, are saying Blake Swihart is the problem.
They could not be more wrong.
Yes Swihart has had the unfortunate task of being the receiver for the Red Sox pitching staff. Swihart has been the recipient of the not-ready-for-prime-time since the day he arrived last year. Yet despite that he ended up being the 4th best catcher in the American league last year batting wise.
I would actually rank him third for his 2016 batting stats so far.
Most of the critics are saying his still improving pitch framing ability is holding the staff back. Yes, I won’t deny there is room for improvement as he is not yet among the top in the league in this skill. That said, he is improving and holding his own against the competition.
His current 2016 pitch framing ranking is a -0.29 a game which means he is only losing about a quarter of one called strike a game. This is also consistent with where he was for last year. Not to make excuses but the strike zone in almost every game this year has been somewhat off, as I have seen an unusual amount of balls on the low and slightly outside range being called inconsistently in the Red Sox games this year. So the only true test I can think of is to judge him against the same catchers who the Sox have competed against so far this season and have had some of these same umpires. The Orioles Matt Weiters has a -0.30, Cleveland, Yan Gomes a -1.54, and the one catcher known for his pitch framing, Toronto’s Russell Martin has a -0.61. Swihart is doing better than all three so far this year.
If the Sox pitchers were only giving up three runs a game or less than maybe you should look to blame a catcher for one or two of those runs but right now they are averaging over seven a game. Bad pitching is just that, bad pitching. League worst bad.
Fans have been clamoring for Christian Vazquez since day one of Spring Training. He is still recovering from Tommy John surgery by strengthening his arm and sharpening his skills at Triple AAA. The Red Sox staff has made it known that they want him to be able to catch four games in row without pain before they consider bringing him back up. That actually could occur as soon as the end of the month if all continues to go well. When that happens the Red Sox will need to make a decision to roster three catchers at the major league level or trade one.
But that day is not here yet.
Numerous articles are stating that Vazquez is ready now cause he has played four of the last five games for the PawSox and is batting .462. What they haven’t stated is that he DHed one of the games and went 3-4, he didn’t catch all four and is still untested when it comes to taking a full workload.
We all know it is much easier for catchers to hit when they aren’t concentrating on catching and the pitching staff that game. Just ask Blake Swihart whose batting average fell drastically last year after suddenly being thrown up to the big leagues and having to handle a major league pitching staff when Vazquez and Hannigan got hurt. t took a few months for him to be able to bring his hitting stats up to where when he was in the minors.
Vazquez with all his aura of his pitch framing greatness if not off that great of start with the Pawtucket staff either. He has caught 4 games in which the pitchers have given up 18 runs. Including the 1-9 clunker on Tuesday night, so he too needs time.
It’s the pitcher’s job to execute, so don’t blame the catcher for the rotation’s mistakes .