Jarrod Saltalamacchia is putting together a fine season for himself.
The 27-year-old catcher from West Palm Beach, Florida has taken over the rather difficult task of filling the shoes of a Boston icon in Jason Varitek. Varitek was highly regarded by the Boston pitching staff, adored by the Red Sox pitching staff and respected across Major League Baseball.
Salty appears to be succeeding in all three of those categories. Though he was the primary catcher during 2011, Varitek was still on the club, mentoring and working with both Saltalamacchia and the pitching staff.
This year, Salty's on his own.
The task of catching for the menagerie of diva pitchers Boston has to offer is a daunting one. However, Saltalamacchia has answered the call in a brilliant manner.
In his final four seasons before retirement, Varitek's highest batting average came in 2010, where he only played in 39 games while batting .232. He managed 26 hits in just 112 at-bats.
True, the value of Varitek was more intangible than just batting lines. Though Boston fans longed for the 2003-2005 era of Varitek's bat over the last few years of his career, they accepted his offensive short falls in exchange for his ability to work with the pitching staff.
Here we are in 2012 with no Varitek to be seen, yet the pitching staff is being handled well, the Red Sox catcher is increasingly adored in Boston while his credibility throughout the league is growing as well. Of course, the biggest difference is the boost in offense from the catching position that the Sox are surely enjoying.
Is it safe to say that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has arrived?
In the American League there is only one catcher who has played in 55 or more games with a higher OPS than Salty's .840, that being Minnesota's Joe Mauer and his .848 OPS. It is worth noting that Mauer has played in seven more games than Salty as well.
Salty leads all AL catchers in slugging with his .539 average. While eighth in OBP, Salty is just fourth in batting average among his AL catching peers.
That's not all. Salty has put on quite the power display this season, racking up 14 home runs so far, which leads all AL catchers. He also leads all catchers in extra base hits, with 28. Only Matt Weiters is close with 24. That said, Weiters has also appeared in eight more games than Salty.
While it is difficult to catch Joe Mauer's 77 hits this season, Salty has put up a respectable 49 of his own.
The problem for Salty is that though he is having one of his best years in the majors, it may not be good enough to make the All-Star team.
If this proves to be the case, it seems like a travesty.
Texas' Mike Napoli currently leads the fan voting. Understandably so, he is a fantastic catcher on the best team in baseball.
Behind him, one can imagine that Joe Mauer will still manage an All-Star nod. Realistically speaking, who else is Minnesota going to send as a representative?
Then there's Matt Weiters, who is playing great baseball and is widely considered one of the best catchers in the game, let alone in the American League.
The fact that Salty has been climbing uphill this season may be the obstacle to keep him off the All-Star team.
Suffice to say, fans will not take a look at statistics in general when voting for the All-Star team. The first thing they'll do is vote for their favorite player, then gravitate towards names they know over actual performance.
Sadly for Salty, being a member of the "collapse" Red Sox in 2011, certainly isn't helping his plight all that might either. Fans are more likely to scoff at the Red Sox than vote for them.
For a man who's been a consistently solid contributor to this 2012 Red Sox team, it would be a shame for him to be deprived of this honor.
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