After signing a two-year deal last offseason, Boston Red Sox 36 year-old catcher David Ross only played 36 games this year, due to a couple concussions. Nevertheless, he’s started two games in each of Boston’s playoff series. In his own way, Ross is a major factor in Boston’s success.
David Ross is criminally underrated. Only once has he received 300 or more plate appearances in a season, and that was back in 2007. He succeeds in areas of the game where traditional statistical analysis has been slower to value. While he possesses a pedestrian .237 batting average, his ability to draw walks and hit for power gives him a career 99 OPS+, a good mark for a catcher.
Also, he possesses a very strong arm, and has thrown out 39% of baserunners over the course of his career, more than ten points better than the league average. He does a solid job of blocking pitches.
Perhaps most importantly, Ross is an excellent pitch-receiver, using his quick hands and subtle movements to gain strikes for his pitchers. Framing studies rank him alongside gurus Jonathan Lucroy and Jose Molina.
Overall, David Ross is a catcher who has a career OPS+ on par with Yadier Molina. He throws out runners at a slightly lower frequency, but does a better job receiving. I know I’m overstating my case, but you get the point, David Ross is a good catcher.
Thursday night against the Detroit Tigers, his skills were on display. Ross collected two hits, including a double. He helped guide Jon Lester through a tough outing, and a look at the strikezone map confirms my suspicion that he stole a few strikes for his pitchers. He also laid down a very well-executed sacrifice bunt which allowed Will Middlebrooks to move from first to third.
Oh, I forgot to mention, that’s another thing David Ross does well. You might not expect a catcher who didn’t steal a base for the first ten years of his career to be a good bunter, but Ross has had more success bunting for hits than Brett Gardner.
And their 36 year-old catcher might just be better than any backstop left except Yadi.