Catcher is likely the toughest defensive position in baseball. You are involved in every play, control the game, and put a tremendous amount of stress on your body. Having a steady catcher behind the plate is extremely important for major league teams. It’s so important in fact, that most teams would choose a strong defensive catcher with average offensive abilities over a defensively average catcher who can hit.
This is evidenced by the fact that in 2018, very few catchers in the big leagues really put up strong offensive numbers. Many in fact, are a liability on offense. It is their defense and their ability to call a game that earns them a starting role. A backstops ability to call a game can help pitchers greatly, and can have a huge impact on the game each and every day.
AP Photo: Charles Krupa
Sandy Leon has become the primary catcher for the Sox since Christian Vazquez went down with injury. Although his hitting isn’t much to talk about, his presence behind the plate has definitely made a difference. This year, Leon has made only one error in 580 2/3 innings caught. He has an incredible .999 fielding percentage! Leon’s lack of mistakes has installed more confidence in Sox pitchers, allowing them to throw some riskier pitches that might get away from other catchers.
Red Sox pitchers have pitched substantially better with him catching this year. Through Friday’s games, 2018 Sox pitchers have an ERA of 3.08 with Leon behind the plate, compared to 3.53 overall as a team. This compares to the league average of 4.15. This trend isn’t only for 2018 though. Sandy has had a lower ERA than both the overall Red Sox ERA and major league average ERA every year since 2015. Leon’s veteran status has allowed him to get familiar with the individual strengths and weaknesses of major league hitters for years, and his wise pitch choices are another part of the reason for the Red Sox high level of success.
David Price has benefitted the most with Leon behind the plate. Price struggled to start the season, but has been incredible over this last 48 innings with Leon catching. In those innings, he has allowed only 8 earned runs and has a 1.50 ERA! There are a couple of reasons for the improvement in Price’s game, but it is quite apparent that there is a definite correlation with Sandy being his catcher.
Leon might only be hitting .200 on offense, but his ability to control a game and lead both veteran and young Sox pitchers makes him a valuable asset to the team. He might not get the recognition he deserves outside of the clubhouse, but Sox pitchers and field players alike know just how much he contributes every time he puts on the gear.