Sunday, November 11, 2012

Salty Tears

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a prime example of a player that some in Red Sox Nation tend to overvalue.  Youk has reached this status now in the Nation, with some who wish to see the Sox bring the aging veteran back to Boston to play first base despite every his age and stats pointing to the fact that his career is on a downward slide.  And Jason Varitek's career was extended 3-4 years beyond when it reasonably should have ended because of his cult, overvalued status.  But at least Youk and Tek had spectacular seasons before now to earn their cult following -- Salty hasn't done shit.

The only thing that Salty fans can point at to justify his spot on the Red Sox roster is 25 HR last season.  Salty also had the most playing time of his career last year, having 405 AB in 121 games.  Before 2012, Salty played in over 100 games once and never had more than 400 AB in a season.  In this respect, we need to view Salty as a prospect who's finally getting a chance at the MLB level -- he's 27 years old, and he's played in the Bigs since he was 22 but before coming to the Sox, he split a lot of that time between the minors and majors.

Given Salty's lack of experience and status as a graduated prospect, we need to assume that other MLB teams didn't have great scouting reports on him until now.  And if Salty's only bright spot is that he hit 25 HR when he was 27 years old, therefore he might finally be blossoming as a hitter, I'll counter that with the assumption that team scouting reports will instruct pitchers to give him less pitches on the lower, outer portion of the plate that allows Salty to extend his arms out to generate full power from his 6'5" frame. 

In fact, this is how I see teams pitching to Salty next season: inside strikes that he'll only be able to foul off, and sliders a few inches off the outside part of the plate that he'll chase.  

How will Salty recover from being pitched to differently next season and getting less outside pitches to hammer?  Not well -- Salty just isn't a good hitter.  Looking beyond his wretched .222 BA and sub-.300 OBP last season, Salty struck out once every 3.22 plate appearances last season.  Comparing that to Adam Dunn, the prototypical homer-or-K slugger who whiffed 222 times last season, and Dunn racked up a K per 2.92 plate appearances.  While Salty had 139 strikeouts, Dunn had 649 PA to Salty's 448.  But Dunn is able to knock out over 40 homers, and hitters with 40+ HR power bring a certain presence and aura to the plate that forces pitchers to throw strikes to the hitters in front of them; trying to challenge weaker hitters so they don't get on base.  Salty does not, and will not ever, provide a MLB line up with this kind of aura that improves the hitters in front of him. 

So is it worth it for the Sox to keep a hitter who strikes out nearly as much as Adam Dunn, cannot provide power to make those Ks a sacrifice that's worth it, and hasn't shown the ability to become a better hitter and make adjustments when pitchers are sure to have revised their strategies against him next season?

No, it's not worth it for the Sox to keep this type of player.  Additionally, given the horrible pitching last season, Salty showed absolutely no ability to handle a pitching staff and do the kind of in-game coaching and correcting errors with pitcher's mechanics that we saw Varitek do for over a decade. 

Salty had two seasons to prove to the Red Sox that he's their catcher for the future, and he failed.  The Sox cannot afford to shift Salty to first base with the arrival of David Ross, either.  They must trade Salty now while his value is high, or else get tagged with an unhappy player sucking down a couple million to ride the bench. 

Trade Salty.  Now.

No comments:

Post a Comment