Wednesday, March 18, 2009
2009 RED SOX PREVIEW: CATCHERS
What a sad way to start the season preview. Jason Varitek has given us years of service, helped win two World Series, caught 4 no-hitters, et cetera, et cetera. But after the shit he pulled, or rather tried to pull in the offseason; he warrants no more mercy, and no more excuse-making.
Jason Varitek is an offensive black hole, and he's been one for about 1,500 plate appearances. 37 year old catchers almost never improve at the plate, even if their numbers have nowhere to go but up.
Varitek hit .220 last year, with an appalling.313 OBP and a weak .359 slugging percentage. He struck out 122 times, only walked 52 times, and was an abysmal .201 against right handed pitching.
Varitek's numbers were actually inflated thanks to teams like Baltimore (9 of his 43 RBI or more than 1/5, came off the O's. He also hit 5 of his 13 HRs off them), and Kansas City (Tek hit .429 agianst the Royals).
And how bad can a man do in the postseason? He was 4 for 34 in October, or .118. He hit .050 in the ALCS.
What's my point? There is nothing, absolutely nothing to suggest that the Red Sox will get any significant production from their starting catcher. He can't catch up to the fastball anymore, he struggles against mediocre pitching, and he's slow. Hopefully I'm wrong and he hits .260 with 20 homeruns. But I just don't see it.
So who's backing Varitek up? Ithaca, New York's Josh Bard, formerly of the Padres, formerly of the Red Sox.
Bard was a solid acquisition for the Sox. He was injured for most of 2008, but when healthy, he's got a little pop in his bat. In '07, he hit .285 with the Padres, with a nice .364 OBP.
George Kottaras is the 3rd option. But he only has 5 career MLB at-bats, and has been a .240 hitter in 3+ years in AAA.
Another possibility is Dusty Brown, who hit .290 in AAA Pawtucket last year. Expect to see Brown pass Kottaras on the depth chart. If Bard struggles, or Varitek is a complete waste, Brown will be in Boston by late summer.
It will be interesting to see how Bard does catching the knuckleball. It will also be interesting to see just how often Tim Wakefield actually starts. Also, don't be surprised if Bard catches non-Wakefield games. For instance, day games after night games. This would give Varitek a rest, and perhaps help the Captain's production. At this point, nothing could hurt Varitek's offense.