Boston's rotation may or may not need saving. Ground balls are good, the Red Sox rotation will get ground balls, and their infield is good enough to turn them into outs. Even without a traditional ace, they should be able to keep runs off the board.
Still, if you're not buying into their synergy-first strategy, there's another player to give you some hope, and he doesn't even pitch. The last time the Red Sox had a defensively competent catcher log the most innings behind the plate was 2009, when Jason Varitek racked up 924 of them. That was the year they traded for Victor Martinez, and since then it's been Martinez, Saltalamacchia, and Pierzynski. That's one ugly bunch of gloves.
Now the Red Sox have gone about as far in the other direction as possible. Christian Vazquez isn't just competent, but superlative. Before he even reached the majors, there were some saying he would be one of the best the second he was called up. The 458 innings he played with the Red Sox last season have done nothing but reinforce that idea.
Yes, he's got the stolen base numbers--he caught more than half of the baserunners who tested him last year--but that's just one piece of the puzzle. For another piece, let's turn to Mark Simon of ESPN:
One more catcher leaderboard. Estimate on called strikes above average per 9 innings leaders from 2014 pic.twitter.com/JTazzL0IUS
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) December 18, 2014
It sounds like a small thing, changing one ball into a strike in every game. It can change a walk into an out, but it could also turn a walk into a 3-1 count that winds up being a walk anyway. It turns out, though, that if you put enough of those together over the course of a season, it can make a legitimate difference in terms of runs allowed.
Every member of the infield is going to be important with the Red Sox relying on ground balls as much as they will, but the catcher is always the most important defender on the field. It's more than just fielding bunts (swinging or otherwise) and throwing out runners. A team's starting catcher will be involved in a greater portion of the season on a whole than any other player thanks to their role in game-calling and framing.
For years, the Red Sox have let their most important defensive position be filled by glorified first basemen. Now, when the rotation needs the help the most, we'll get a full year with one of the best young gloves in the game starting behind the plate. And if the Red Sox rotation surprises you this season, Vazquez will probably deserve quite a bit of the credit for it.