It is more than two-thirds through May and Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has a higher batting average than teammates Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Andrew Benintendi. If I were to tell you that at the beginning of the season, I would be called a lunatic.
That is one of the many reasons I love baseball. No one ever knows what is going to happen. Christian Yelich is not supposed to be able to hit homers left and right, Cody Bellinger is not supposed to be hovering around the .400 mark two months into the season. But baseball is baseball. Granted Vazquez hitting .305 is no anomaly like Yelich and Bellinger, but the catcher’s 2019 performance has gone overlooked for far too long.
Red Sox fans have always been let aware about how great of a defender he is behind the dish, but Vazquez’s hitting has helped Boston more than it is being let on. The veteran backstop has added depth to a lineup that has badly needed it at points. With combinations of Jackie Bradley Jr., Steve Pearce, Eduardo Nunez, and Tzu-Wei Lin gracing the bottom of the order, it is hard for the Sox to get the offense going at points. Vazquez has helped with that. His ability to hit towards the bottom lengthens out the lineup. Boston’s squad still has a top heavy lineup, but Vazquez has helped in trying to hush that narrative with his 2019 performance.
Vazquez has generally been known as a singles hitter (if he gets lucky enough to make contact), but this season has been a different story. According to Baseball Savant, Vazquez’s hard hit rate has reached 43.4% this year after making hard contact only 28.6% of the time last year. That jump is a good explanation as to why the catcher has already passed his career high in homers already.
Part of the reason that the Red Sox themselves wanted to hang onto catcher Blake Swihart was because of his ability to hit. It was thought that having Swihart on the team would give them an advantage over other squads when they had the ability to pencil in a capable hitter at catcher. There was very little faith that the tandem of Vazquez and Sandy Leon would be able to hit better than the .384 combined average they had last year. But baseball is baseball, and Vazquez is playing great.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)