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Is Jason Varitek worth having?

Posted by Andy on December 3, 2010

After Victor Martinez left via free agency, the Red Sox yesterday re-signed team captain Jason Varitek.

Obviously he brings a lot more to the team than just what he does with his bat, as well as more than other on-field things like game-calling. But is it worth it?

Let's take a look at some numbers.

Here are Varitek's batting splits by month for the last 3 years.

2008:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
April/March 23 20 79 74 6 18 5 3 7 4 19 .243 .291 .432 .724 113
May 23 22 91 77 8 23 7 3 13 12 20 .299 .407 .506 .913 171
June 21 20 83 74 3 9 1 1 6 8 22 .122 .205 .176 .380 14
July 21 18 75 66 5 13 3 1 5 9 22 .197 .293 .288 .581 74
August 23 21 85 72 10 19 3 3 6 12 21 .264 .376 .431 .807 140
Sept/Oct 20 19 70 60 5 11 1 2 6 7 18 .183 .286 .300 .586 75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2010.

2009:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
April/March 16 16 69 60 10 15 5 4 10 7 9 .250 .348 .533 .881 148
May 22 22 90 78 9 18 4 6 12 10 22 .231 .311 .513 .824 131
June 20 20 78 64 12 15 7 1 10 12 13 .234 .359 .391 .750 115
July 21 20 79 65 6 15 3 2 12 14 13 .231 .367 .369 .736 112
August 15 14 60 52 1 7 3 1 4 7 18 .135 .233 .250 .483 38
Sept/Oct 15 14 49 45 3 6 2 0 3 4 15 .133 .204 .178 .382 11
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2010.

2010:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
April/March 10 7 33 31 7 10 2 4 8 2 9 .323 .364 .774 1.138 188
May 12 9 37 32 7 8 1 3 4 5 11 .250 .351 .563 .914 139
June 12 7 35 32 4 7 3 0 4 2 9 .219 .257 .313 .570 54
Sept/Oct 5 4 18 17 0 1 0 0 0 1 6 .059 .111 .059 .170 -50
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2010.

This sure looks like a guy who is already really run down as he accomplished a lot less with the bat after July. He's got an awful lot of months with a BA under .200 and an OBP under .300.

Lots of people, including Josh Beckett, profess that Varitek brings out the best in the pitching staff. Check out the Red Sox pitchers' splits by catcher in 2010:

Split G IP ER ERA PA AB H HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
Jason Varitek 39 275.1 124 4.05 1171 1030 245 23 113 233 2.06 .238 .318 .366 .684 89
Dusty Brown 7 35.2 16 4.04 157 140 42 4 16 26 1.63 .300 .372 .436 .808 123
Kevin Cash 29 181.0 75 3.73 789 688 161 16 83 144 1.73 .234 .319 .368 .687 90
Victor Martinez 110 904.0 430 4.28 3883 3452 885 104 348 754 2.17 .256 .328 .410 .738 103
Gustavo Molina 4 17.0 13 6.88 81 73 22 2 7 14 2.00 .301 .358 .521 .879 140
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 6 43.2 21 4.33 186 164 47 3 13 36 2.77 .287 .344 .427 .771 112
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2010.

Compared to Martinez, 'Tek has nice numbers, particularly the 89 tOPS+.

And check out 2009, when Varitek caught the majority of the games:

Split G IP ER ERA PA AB H HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
Dusty Brown 6 12.0 4 3.00 49 46 13 1 2 7 3.50 .283 .306 .348 .654 74
George Kottaras 39 243.2 145 5.36 1110 987 292 24 92 186 2.02 .296 .361 .450 .810 114
Victor Martinez 33 257.0 149 5.22 1142 1011 281 38 107 204 1.91 .278 .351 .455 .806 113
Jason Varitek 108 924.0 397 3.87 3982 3550 908 104 329 833 2.53 .256 .324 .406 .730 93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2010.

Wow, another big difference. The fact that he caught most of the games and still earned a 93 tOPS+ is impressive.

It's really tough to know what to think about this guy. He's not going to do much with the bat (although he will hit some) but he's definitely got additional value.

What to do....what to do?

This entry was posted on Friday, December 3rd, 2010 at 7:12 am and is filed under Splits. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Is Jason Varitek worth having?”

  1. It would be nice to neutralize this by pitcher. I notice in 2009, Varitek had a big dose of Beckett and Lester, Kottaras was pretty exclusive to Wakefield, and Victor got Clay Buchholz and a lot of fill-ins (Tazawa, Bowden, etc.). 2010 doesn't seem to be as unbalanced between the two, other than Wakefield being exclusively with Martinez. Varitek's numbers do look better, but it's interesting to note that Beckett got clobbered with Varitek behind the plate.

    As a Sox fan, I'm OK with the signing. I just don't want to see more than 60 starts (at the very most) from Varitek.

  2. Dan Gorgone Says:

    This question is a valid one, certainly, though considering the way things are shaping up, the more important question for the Red Sox might be: will Jarrod Saltalamacchia be able to handle starting (or even platoon) duty? I'm much more confident in Tek considering the success they had with him as the backup catcher before he got hurt last season.

  3. Neil told me the other day that he's salty on Salty.

  4. From Peter Abraham:

    "Varitek's career line against lefties is .279/.359/.471 and Saltalamacchia's career line against righthanders is .273/.343/.422. If they reach those averages in 2011, the Red Sox will get well above the league average when compared to other catchers."

  5. Yeah--Varitek finished with an OPS+ of 100 last year, which obviously would be wonderful to get again. But, he did it playing basically only the first couple of months before getting injured (and before he had a chance to wear down like he did the two previous seasons.)

    If they can use Tek selectively and get an OPS+ around 85-90, then he's worth it, provided Saltalamacchia or another catcher does reasonably well as the main catcher.

  6. I think Varitek is worth having just for his defense (there are not a lot of great hitting catchers out there - so we are comparing him to himself from a few years ago). the pitchers have confidence in him and he has A LOT of experience in big games/situations. His hitting may be "middle of the pack" for catchers now, but as a Yankee fan, he still seems to come up with big hits (maybe a little more quality over quantity at this point).

    I would just use him as the main catcher (100 games), maybe for specific pitchers (if there are any that pitch particularly well with varitek) and bat him 8th, and let him perform his "Captain's" dutys.

  7. I find this stuff interesting as the Angels have had a similar problem for some time. Mike Napoli adds value with the bat but is a below average catcher. Jeff Mathis adds defensive value but is poor with the bat. The splits on this site can probably help with these sorts of decisions.

    I just looked at the splits, over 5 years Mathis has a tOPS+ of 96 and a OPS+ of 53! Napoli has a tOPS+ of 105 but a OPS+ of 118.

    This year the Angels have to decide whether to keep both of these guys, considering they also have Bobby Wilson and Hank Conger coming through. I would say looking at the above numbers Napoli looks the better bet but his tOPS+ has got worse every year and you wonder if he has a future there. I also think Mathis has much more potential with the bat, as his postseason OPS of 1.150 shows.

    Amazingly Mathis has a dWAR of -0.8 to go with an oWAR of -1.5. Napoli has a dWAR of -2.0 but an oWAR of +13.0.

    It does seem a bit of a liability to carry a guy who hits like Mathis or even Varitek of recent times. However $2m is not big money especially for the Red Sox and Varitek clearly adds value defensively, so it might be good to have him around for the younger guys to learn from. Lets face it it's very difficult to find a catcher with good defensive skills and great hitting, they're few and far between and every team wishes they had a Mauer.

  8. What is tOPS? It is just the OPS of the hitters when Varitek is catching?

  9. Tek is quite worth it. He's a useful hitter and he's a fine defensive catcher - I don't think it's a coincidence that he's caught no-hitters from 4 different starters. he's the team captain and will be a fine mentor for Saltalamacchia.

    A better question is: who is a better backup catcher in the majors?

  10. rico petrocelli Says:

    Captain V was holding out for 5 years at $23MM but caved

  11. [...] at the Baseball Reference Blog tries to determine what value Jason Varitek has for the Sox both at and behind the [...]

  12. Just a piece of the master plan. Martinez was out because they don't like him catching and have a DH at a reasonable cost and low year term. Catcher may be a position where the Sox *hope* to get decent offensive productivity, but will be happy if the catching duties are filled. Salty/ Tek is what we have.

    Now that the Red Sox may have acquired A-Gon, they will have bonafide power at the infield corners and now need to go out and get a major league outfielder with pop (Werth?).

    You hope for good health, that Lackey and Beckett rebound and Papelbon, too, and you go to war with that.

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