If Friday night’s game didn’t convince you that Jason Varitek’s time as a starting catcher has passed him by, I’ve got a fantastic house with a view of the ocean for you in Wyoming.
For some reason, dropped third strikes have become common with Varitek. I don’t know if it’s a problem of focus, an injury or plain old ineptitude, but watching Varitek lately has brought flashbacks of Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, top of the 13th.
Not to mention, the Yankees stole about 20 bases (plus one defensive indifference that wasn’t so indifferent) on Varitek last night. Sure, some of them weren’t his fault, but when you get up to the number of bases that Varitek has been coughing up, something has to be done.
Earlier in the year, the Rangers got away with grand theft when the team swiped eight total bases. And how about Carl Crawford back in May, single-handedly chalking up six? All at the hands (or more appropriately, arm) of Varitek.
On the year, he’s given up 107 stolen bases while catching only 15, for a god-awful 12% success rate. The last time hitters stole more than 81 stolen bases off of Varitek was in 1999-2000, in full swing of the anti-stretch policy that Joe Kerrigan endorsed. But back then, he was able to catch runners 27 and 25 percent of the time, respectively. Huge difference.
Varitek’s arm has simply abandoned him. The game should bring clarity to the fact that ‘Tek can’t gun them out anymore. Before this year, Varitek’s worst rate was 22 percent, met in 2006 and 2008. For his career, he’s at 24 percent.
Victor Martinez is also at a career 24 percent, and has caught just 14 percent on the year. However, the two years prior to that checked in at 32 and 37 percent, so he can gun them out. No one’s ever going to consider Martinez the next coming of Doug Mirabelli (I still remember when he had just come over to Boston and promptly threw out several base runners in a game, wowing the crowd) but it’s clear that the Yankees and Angels will run with reckless abandon against Varitek. You can’t have that.
Statistically, this year, they would run with abandon on V-Mart as much as Varitek. If they do so, it makes it all the more important to get Martinez’s offense in the lineup without sacrificing any bats.
The game last night truly illustrated to me that Varitek simply cannot be a starter in the playoffs. Hitting a buck-fifty in the second half with no power, now this?
Jason Varitek is arguably the best catcher the Red Sox have ever had. (I said, “arguably,” Fisk fans.) There’s no denying his influence on this team in its most successful decade since… well, a century ago.
But this man is finished as a starting catcher. He can eke out a couple more seasons as a backup catcher with Boston if he so pleases. He can also try to delay Father Time and go start for another organization (as is well within his right) … but at this point, Father Time just isn’t knocking at ‘Tek’s door. He’s living right in Jason’s own home.
Since the Sox have the wild card all but locked up, it won’t surprise me to see the Sox give Varitek several more starts down the way as a true rotation is entered to to keep everyone fresh. But once that bell gongs in October, Victor better be there behind the plate, or we won’t be advancing to the World Series.