The White Sox played their 87th game of the season Saturday night, a 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals that isn't worth much discussion. But here is something about the catching situation on this team that is food for thought:
The Sox beat Kansas City in 14 innings Friday night. Pierzynski caught all 14 innings, so it was a no-brainer to give Flowers the start Saturday night. The Sox have to be careful with Pierzynski's 35-year-old legs. There is a tight pennant race and a lot of big games ahead, and the Sox are going to need their should-have-been-an-All-Star catcher to be as fresh and productive as possible.
Flowers went 0-for-3 in the Saturday loss and saw his batting average plummet to .156. Here's my concern: Even when Pierzynski gets a day off, he doesn't really get a day off. The Sox summoned him to pinch hit in the top of the eighth inning Saturday. Out of the 20 games Flowers has started, he's been lifted for Pierzynski on seven occasions. Flowers has played so poorly Pierzynski is rarely able to just sit for nine innings and rest -- it's only happened 12 times all year.
With the year Pierzynski is having, it's tempting to play him all the time -- .290 average, 16 home runs, 50 RBI, an .875 OPS that would be far and away his career best if it were to hold over the course of the season. Not to mention, the Sox won-loss record with him behind the plate speaks for itself. The lineup looks appreciably weaker when Pierzynski is not in there. But can he continue to produce at this level at his age over a full season, when he's getting almost no help from his backup? It's tough to expect his bat to continue firing like this as the number of innings caught continues to rise.
And what about the future? Pierzynski is in the last year of his deal. Do the Sox take the plunge and give him another two years? He'll be 36 on Opening Day next year. As it stands right now, there are no internal options to replace him. With Flowers, all you can do at this point is pray he becomes a serviceable backup. I've seen a few posts on message boards from people who still believe Flowers can play everyday in majors. Sorry, don't think so.
The Sox will face a tough decision at this position at the end of the season, and with each Flowers whiff, Pierzynski is looking more and more valuable.