In adding to the wild ride that is 2020, we ask you this: Where would the Boston Red Sox be without Christian Vazquez?
Two regular-season baseball games typically don’t mean much, but in a 60-game campaign, the 1-4 Red Sox were in desperate need of help. They got that from Vazquez, who put the club on his back this week against the New York Mets and, for now, has provided hope in a season that looked bleak after just five games — or nearly 10 percent of the campaign.
Vazquez was the best player on the field Thursday night, hitting two home runs, throwing out a base runner and masterfully handling a scotch-tape pitching staff, as the Red Sox held on to beat the Mets, “sweeping” a two-game set at Citi Field.
From the “take this very much for what it’s worth” department, Vazquez is second only to San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski in Fangraphs’ wins above replacement among hitters with at least 20 plate appearances this season. Vazquez’s four home runs are tied with Toronto’s Teoscar Hernandez for most in baseball (despite having 11 fewer plate appearances), and his 315 wRC+ is second to only Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
In a very limited sample size, Vazquez has been one of the best players in baseball, while further solidifying himself as one of the four or five best catchers in the sport. So far this season, he has looked like the best.
Vazquez won’t sustain his pace of a dinger every five at-bats, but this offensive explosion isn’t out of nowhere, either.
After hitting just 10 home runs with a paltry .632 OPS over his first four seasons, Vazquez was fed up. He had an offensive renaissance of sorts last season, hitting a career-high 23 home runs while driving in 66 runs for Boston.
“I was tired of hitting ninth,” Vazquez said Thursday night of his power-up.
And while his numbers might not have been as good as, say, Gary Sanchez or Mitch Garver, his defense is far better than those catching contemporaries.
He showed that Thursday night, throwing out Michael Conforto — from his knees.
From the knees? Cannon. pic.twitter.com/vxjQ67mLXn
— MLB (@MLB) July 31, 2020
All in all, Vazquez’s evolution is evident right before our eyes.
“I think my work in the offseason is paying (off) now,” he said. “It paid last year, it’s paying this year. I need to continue to be consistent with my hitting and my catching. I know my defense is there always, but my offense needs to, I need to try to do my best to help the team win.”
So far, so good, and it’s come at a time when Vazquez’s best is exactly what the team needs to win.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images