The Boston Red Sox are playing their worst baseball of the season right now.
After leading the American League East for several months, the team is now battling just to stay alive in the Wild Card race.
Everyone on the roster deserves a chunk of the blame, but catcher Christian Vazquez has been especially disappointing lately.
It feels like he’s no longer playing like he has something to prove, and that was a characteristic that made him incredibly fun to watch in past years.
Today, we’re going to evaluate Vazquez’s performance lately, and we’re also going to take a look at whether the Red Sox should consider other options at the catcher position.
Let’s get started.
Vazquez’s Production Is Dwindling At The Plate
Vazquez looked good offensively in 2019 and 2020.
He finished both years with an OPS+ around .800.
But this season, his offensive production has fallen off.
He’s batting .254 with an OPS of .646 and OPS+ of 74 (which is 26 percent worse than league-average).
For a Red Sox team that has struggled to put runs on the board lately, Vazquez’s production is particularly hard to swallow.
He hasn’t struggled like this since the 2018 campaign.
That year, he appeared in 80 games, and he finished the year with a very poor slash line of .207/.257/.283.
Can he turn things around before this season ends?
Effort Has Emerged As A Major Concern
Effort is arguably the biggest issue with Vazquez right now.
The Red Sox—who have lost 16 of their last 24 games—are obviously in the thick of it.
They can’t afford to have players in the lineup who aren’t giving it their all.
Vazquez has gotten complacent at times lately.
For instance, he fell asleep during a play at the plate on Saturday and essentially allowed a run to score by not diving for the tag.
If you have a rooting interest in the Red Sox you probably would have liked to see Christian Vázquez lay the tag on this runner in time for the out pic.twitter.com/X1PnMYOK48
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 21, 2021
— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) August 21, 2021
It also seems that he has developed a habit of not getting in front of pitches in the dirt.
He let two very blockable pitches get past him in Saturday’s game.
The 31-year-old is going to have to kick those habits if he wants to keep the job.
Vazquez is asking to be benched now.
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) August 22, 2021
Kevin Plawecki Is Readily Available To Take Over Behind The Plate
Boston’s decision to potentially bench Vazquez could be made even easier by the fact that backup catcher Kevin Plawecki has been great this season over limited opportunities.
The 30-year-old showed promise in 2020, and he has followed it up with an impressive campaign this year.
He is batting .302 with a .746 OPS and 103 OPS+ over 47 games.
Those OPS numbers might not jump off the page, but you have to keep in mind that it’s rare for catchers to produce great offensive numbers.
Plawecki is producing at an above-average clip offensively, and that’s what makes him such an intriguing option.
Here’s the only thing: Plawecki is a defensive downgrade from Vazquez.
This season, Plawecki has a -0.4 defensive WAR and a Runs Extra Strikes of -1.
Meanwhile, Vazquez has a 0.9 defensive WAR and a Runs Extra Strikes of 1.
Are the Red Sox willing to accept that tradeoff?
Time will tell.NEXT: Red Sox Have Officially Blown Massive Lead Over Yankees In Standings