2011 Player Review: Jason Varitek

When Jason Varitek arrived to Boston in 1997 from Seattle with Derek Lowe in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb, no one could have predicted that the organization was acquiring their captain and a two-time champion of the future. Varitek was an afterthought of sorts with the Mariners because the team had their own catcher the of future and were not afraid to take a chance on dealing for a true closer.

It goes down as one of the best trades in Red Sox history and pretty soon we will find out if it will continue to pay dividends or if the final chapter of a storied career is over. You can thank Dan Duquette for prying Varitek away from Seattle, but you can also thank a lot of circumstance.

And if you are a Mariners fan, it’s a lot different. As John Levesque from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said, you can go ahead and…Blame Dan Wilson.

On behalf of Red Sox fans I would like to say, thank you Dan Wilson.

Thank you for being in the right place at the right time and thank you for giving the Mariners enough confidence in you to deal Varitek to Boston. It’s hard to imagine the 2004 World Series without him. The Alex Rodriguez face mash when Varitek smashed his mitt into the chops of the Yankees third baseman which set off a brawl and seemed to ignite the 2004 Red Sox. He was so instrumental to that year and helped guide the band full of ‘idiots’ that ran around in Red Sox uniforms. Let us not forget Varitek’s tying two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the Division Series against Angels that year or and his two-run triple off Cardinals starter Matt Morris in Game 2 of the World Series that propelled the team to a 6-2 win.

15 years later we are wondering what will become of him. Was 2011 his last year as a player in the big leagues? Varitek has transitioned into a backup role as year pushes age 40 and his contract has expired in Boston. This really may be the end of a Red Sox legend. Is it in him to play another year at Fenway Park or will it be Ryan Lavarnway starting his big league career while Varitek hangs them up? I can envision it either way.

It’s hard to imagine him in another uniform and I find it very unlikely that he would ever play anywhere else, but you can’t rule it out. Though he may not have more than 200 ABs left in him, he does have some pop left in the bat and can manage a game and pitching staff as good as anyone. There may be a role for him somewhere on a young team with nothing to lose.

Assuming Varitek wants to play in a limited role again in 2011 and let’s say Ben Cherington and Co. decides to let him go, what would they be losing?

Varitek is one of the worst catchers in baseball at throwing out runners and has been allowing an average of more than one per game since 2009. Prior to that year, he allowed around 0.5 stolen bases per game. Once the League realized they could run on him, it was over for that aspect of his game.

He also strikes out a lot and posted back-to-back seasons of 30% k-rate making it a pipe dream that he could hit .230 in a limited role. His groundball to fly ball ratio is nearly even. Varitek usually either hits the ball on the ground weakly or hits a fly ball. His 15% line drive illustrates his struggles to put good wood on the ball. He’s an asset for power at the catcher position, but offensively – not much else.

Varitek did post a walk rate of 9% in 2011 (10% is average) so his ability to judge the strike zone has not completely eroded, but his ability to actually MAKE contact is getting worse and worse. In September, Varitek struck out at a rate of 40% and then had his season ended a week early due to injury. A sustained strikeout rate that high would not even make Varitek rosterable.

One of the nice things that Varitek has done late in his career is that that he has sold out for power. He knows his contact rate is going to limit him so over the last few years, he has developed into a nice power profile which is important because he has a lot of other glaring flaws. And without it he’d again be unrosterable. Although the counting stats are not comparable, the raw output of homeruns to flyballs is similar to that of 2003 when Varitek hit 25 home runs with 85 RBI.

Whatever happens with Varitek in 2012 is probably not of great impact to the team. If he comes back on a one year deal, you can expect him to log 175 ABs while Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes over control. Meanwhile, Lavarnway can continue to develop in Pawtucket until an injury or production forces the Red Sox’ hands.

2012 Projection
54 games played
175 ABs
.229 BA
10 HRs
68 stolen bases allowed

Based on what you can expect from a 40-year old catcher, it might best to move on. It’s Lavarnway time but it’s always great to remember how important Varitek has been to the Boston Red Sox and how lucky we were to have him.

He was one of the great commanders in team history and was acknowledged as such by his teammates. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Curt Schilling said after the Sox had swept the Cardinals, “here is the leader of the 2004 Boston Red Sox.”

Categories: Boston Red Sox

25 Responses to “2011 Player Review: Jason Varitek” Subscribe

  1. @CurseOfBenitez November 13, 2011 at 8:38 AM #

    As soon as they pass their physicals (read: get their Boniva prescription), players just like Jason often find a loving home in San Francisco. I joke, and yet…

    • darryljohnston November 13, 2011 at 10:46 AM #

      Well, as long as he gets some public transportation because I just got back from SF and I doubt 'Tek wants to be walking those hills. ;) Would be fitting though if ended up in Seattle for one final year, huh

      • @CurseOfBenitez November 14, 2011 at 8:21 AM #

        Bring on the softy jokes, but I always like the poetic element of a player having his last go-round with the team he came up with — especially if he left under terms that precluded his being able to have a say.

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

      I hear Tim Wakefield is available too.

  2. Jacob November 13, 2011 at 9:34 AM #

    Varitek should play for another team. Red Sox Nation treated him like crap. They have no respect for him.
    He should do what Pap's did and leave. Red Sox don't deserve Jason Varitek!

    • darryljohnston November 13, 2011 at 10:43 AM #

      Que? How do you figure that, Jacob? Can you give a rundown of how, what, when, why or where this being treated like crap by RSN occurred?

  3. marcos November 13, 2011 at 1:15 PM #

    get that piece of shit outta here

    • Darryl Johnston November 13, 2011 at 1:26 PM #

      Really? You think he is a P.O.S. Marcos? You want to tell us why?

      • marcos November 13, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

        Because his athletic abilities are toast. And i don't get attached to players like most fans do. I'm a fan of the team as whole not of a particular player. And for the record i never liked Francoma, the guy was basically Grady Little with 2 rings. Players don't like to have their asses kissed and that was Francoma's specialty.

        • scott November 15, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

          I agree 100%. I support the team, not the overpaid athletes. Francona managed the "dirt dogs" in 2004, but his accomplishments since then have been mixed (yes, I know the 2007 WS) and in my opinion….DESPITE his job as managing.

          • darryljohnston November 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM #

            I think the issue for me here is not that you or Marcos support the team as a whole or prefer to focos on the NOW — instead of the past. For me it's that I don't understand calling Varitek a piece of shit, trashing him up and down because he's at the end of his career or devaluaing leadership.

            You agree 100% that he is a piece of shit?

  4. Matt Collins November 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM #

    I'm Shocked by those last two comments.

    • darryljohnston November 13, 2011 at 4:54 PM #

      Me too. I don't understand either of them and I doubt either drive-by commentor follows up.

  5. brad November 13, 2011 at 6:20 PM #

    It would not shock me to see him not brought back. But that is kind of sad. Varitek has been my favorite player for a long time. I do admit his skills have diminished to the point that he is no longer worth a roster spot. I would like to see him get into coaching at some point, but now is probably not the time. He has stated that he wants to keep playing. I just don't think it would be a good idea to stunt Lavarnway's development to hold on to the past.

  6. Tyler November 13, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

    I hate that people call varitek a P.O.S, because they really need a quick workshop on just how important he was to Boston receiving two world series titles. With that said, it is really time for him to retire. Every time he went to throw to second to attempt to cut down a would be base-stealer, I knew that he probably didnt get him. His arm is weak, his contact level is low, and catchers age in dog years. I love you captain, v-tek, but its really time to go.

    • darryljohnston November 13, 2011 at 7:37 PM #

      THIS is more of what I was expecting in terms of comments about Varitek. Though I know he should retire, I still will welcome him back because I think his value is still there but just maybe not measurable. The problem is I don't want to see him on the field. Hopefully he makes a quick and willing transition to a coaching role. Not sure how long he'd want off or if he's even ready to hang 'em up.

    • marcos November 13, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

      i don't dwell on the past. What has he done lately? shit. What will he do for this team in the future? shit. Can't hit, can't throw, can't run, can't catch (shitty framer of pitches). What tools does he have? 0 tools. Unless you consider "leadership" a tool and if you do you're a tool yourself. "leadership" and "chemistry" are bullshit terms thrown around by people like agents to enhance a player's value. Look i stand by my comments, i entitled to my opinion and won't take it back.

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 2:34 PM #

      Agreed.

  7. marcos November 13, 2011 at 9:38 PM #

    i know this isn't related to the article. but thanks to that piece of shit lackey blowing his fucking elbow now worthless wakefield is probably coming back. because the red sox are gonna take the cheap route this off-season. unless i misunderstood what cherington has been saying

  8. Gerry November 14, 2011 at 3:11 AM #

    Marco, you seem to be a hater from mainstream media. Vitriol towards players who have given us so much is inappropriate on any site, mores this site which is dedicated to intelligent discussion, not juvenile ranting. You will find kindred spirits over at the Herald or CSNE or WEEI. Boston doesn't need another angry Fulgar attack dog.

    • scott November 15, 2011 at 9:37 AM #

      Gerry…Marcos sentiments are those of MANY red sox fans I know. You may not agree with them, but they are reality. Varitek and Wakefield are essentially AAA players (if that). Yes, they accomplished a lot, but past performance doesn't win games in 2012. Assuming that winning games is the goal, Varitek and Wakefield should not be on this team.

  9. marcos November 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM #

    Well if you don't agree with what I'm saying tell Evan or whomever else is running this site these days to ban me. So because i don't like with all the crap that's on this site now my comments are categorized as rants???? Varitek and Wakefield are worthless in other words less than replacement level. rant or not I'm telling the truth deal with delusional fools. look baseball players played the game of baseball for free maybe I'd be a little more appreciative of their past accomplishments, but last i checked they still get paid very generously. Their performance should justify their performance but this isn't a perfect world and they don't justify their pay checks. it is all about value Varitek and Wakefield contribute nothing to the Red Sox they should just go away. They contribute more to the L column than to the W column

  10. ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 2:34 PM #

    Marcos – Your comments are welcome here. I think people are a little taken aback by the manner you're expressing your opinions. There are a lot of things you said that I agree with (primarily that you don't get too attached to any particular player), but there might be more constructive ways about explaining them. Hopefully you take that as constructive criticism.

    • marcos November 14, 2011 at 5:30 PM #

      Ok i will try not to use curse words. But just know that i just try to give my unbiased opinion. My opinions are not clouded by the fact that I'm a huge Red Sox fan.

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    [...] Based on what you can expect from a 40-year old catcher, it might best to move on. It’s Lavarnway … [...]