Often things like catching ability become more about reputation than whether it’s true or not and once they are established they are very hard to change. Christian Vazquez has a reputation for amazing defense behind the plate, a great arm that appears to still be there and also an ability to call a great game and frame pitches better than anyone on the roster right now. While he’s only caught 55 games previous to this season it might be possible to see if he’s having any effect on the pitchers by looking back to his 2014 season.
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Jon Lester and Jake Peavy did not pitch to Vazquez in 2014, but he did have a good amount of innings catching the rest of the starting pitchers. It’s a bit of a mixed bag though in terms of bettering the staff. Clay Buchholz is one pitcher that had a nice effect from the catching of Vazquez. His K/BB increased slightly and his tOPS+ shows he was much better in those 76.2 IP.
On the other hand John Lackey had a much worse K/BB, but still had great results with a tOPS+ of 68. That’s just a factor of the small sample size though. Twenty innings is not enough sample to evaluate his K/BB or his tOPS+. In the same boat was Brandon Workman who only threw 28.1 innings to Vazquez and was effectively the same as his other innings pitched.
The last pitcher with a solid number of innings was Ruby De La Rosa who threw 62.1 innings to Vazqez, but struggled with a worse K/BB and a tOPS+ that was significantly higher. As a young pitcher though it’s probably tough to judge them both on these numbers.
All those individual numbers are tough to assess what Vazquez might be adding to the pitching staff so we can also do some break down of the full stats. As far as ERA goes he caught the best of the group, but ERA is not a great judge and total K/BB is also the worst of the catchers, but that’s fully dependent on who he caught. The best way to judge his ability is tOPS+ which he was 98 which was only topped by David Ross who many consider a very good defensive catcher. He was clearly better than A.J. Pierzynski, but honestly who isn’t.
tOPS+ And changes in K/BB will try to tell us if Vazquez is able to improve pitchers by calling a better game or framing pitches well. What it might not tell us is the one skill that Vazquez is clearly very good at is throwing out base runners. In 2014 Vazquez threw out 15 batters out of 29 attempts for a 52 percentage of runners caught. The rest of the staff only had a throw out rate of 20 percent.
It’s clear Vazquez has a great arm and there are some early signs he’s a better than average catcher when it comes to improving the pitchers. Is it enough to move Blake Swihart from behind the plate and attempt to adjust him to another position? In my opinion no. If you can get a bat like Swihart’s behind home with average defense then you do it. That said Vazquez should be catching right now cause at a minimum he builds trade value showing his health at best he shows he can hit and the Red Sox have a very thought decision.