Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox: Jarrod Saltalamacchia Might Not Be Great but He Is Good Enough

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Adam MacDonaldAnalyst IIMay 23, 2011

The Red Sox’s catching tandem of Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been terrible so far in 2011.

Between them, "Saltek" have a .220 batting average, three home runs, nine doubles and 17 RBIs. They have 13 walks, 46 strikeouts, an OPS of .620 and the second-worst strikeout percentage of any team’s catchers, whiffing in 28.9 percent of their at bats.

It is not even as if the luck dragons have been eating away at their average.

Their BABIP is .291 (the MLB average is always almost exactly .300) so they have not been unlucky; they have just been bad.

Of the two, though, Saltalamacchia has clearly been the better with the bat. His BA is 40 points higher, he has three home runs to the captain’s zero and he has twice as many doubles. On the other hand, Tek has been better defensively. Salty had a game in April in which he allowed three wild pitches, three stolen bases and had a passed ball.

All in all, then, it seems that the Red Sox have to do something about the catching situation. The unfortunate truth is that there is no one available who would be attractive to or good value for GM Theo Epstein.

But is it possible that Saltalamacchia is underrated? And that he is not having as disastrous a season as it first appears?

The average catcher in the American League is batting .230; Salty is hitting at a .237 clip. He is likewise better than the average AL catcher in other categories, too.

Of all his hits, 41 percent are for extra bases—five percent more than the AL average. Saltalamacchia has three homers on the season, two below average but he has had only 93 at bats. He is homering every 31 at bats, three fewer than the average.

Adjusting for the difference in plate appearances, Salty would have more doubles, too.

He strikes out more often (every 3.7 ABs, AL avg. is 4.8) and does not walk a great deal (every 16 PAs, AL avg. is 11) but overall, he compares quite favourably to the league mean.

Of course, let’s not lose sight of the obvious: these are terrible numbers. A .234/.290/.398 line is woeful and two of his three long balls came in the last series against the Chicago Cubs.

But everything is relative.

Saltalamacchia might be having a very poor year offensively, but so is almost every other catcher in the league.

Only one catcher with at least 60 PA has a batting average over .275: Detroit’s Alex Avila. Only five have hit at least five home runs: Avila, Texas’ Mike Napoli, Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, J.P. Arencibia in Toronto and the Yankees’ Russell Martin. It should also be noted that Napoli and Santana have not caught full-time and also play a fair number of innings at first base.

When you put it all together, Saltalamacchia is probably a touch above average as a backstop. With a lineup as offensively potent as Boston’s promises to be, getting slightly above average production from the catching position is all you really need.

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