by Phoenix Desertsong, Baseball Fanatic
On September 17th, 2019, Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski and his grandson Mike reunited at Fenway Park for the first time in awhile. It’s a dream come true for the 29-year old rookie outfielder for the San Francisco Giants who hails from Andover, MA. After playing four years at Vanderbilt, Mike has spent seven seasons in the minors, all for the Baltimore Orioles system until this year. His ascent to the Major Leagues was years in the making, and now he makes his debut at Fenway in left field, the position his grandfather roamed for many years for the Red Sox.
While it’s highly unlikely that we’re seeing the beginning of a Hall of Fame career for Mike Yastrzemski, his numbers in 2019 are pretty solid. Through 96 games, Mike hit .265/.324/.509 good for a 115 OPS+. Mike Yaz also had 19 home runs and 51 RBI. In his minor league career, he had decent, but sort of average numbers. In fact, the projection systems all saw Mike Yastrzemski as more of a 4th outfielder with some pop.
On that very first game at Fenway Park, Mike Yastrzemski hit his 20th home run of the season. It was a home run broadcast everywhere, a league-wide sensation. "Little Yaz" would finish the 2019 season hitting .272/.334/.518 with 21 HR. With the sudden success of a Hall of Famer's descendant, it's little surprise that Mike Yastrzemski rookie cards have been hot since that special moment at Fenway.
So, why is Mike Yastrzemski so good all of a sudden? Part of his success is fueled by a much better batting line on the road vs home and success against lefties as a left-handed batter. His 2019 season BABIP was .325, which isn’t incredibly high. Outside of a brutal month of June and some back issues, "Little Yaz" has actually been even better than his overall batting line would suggest for most of the season. But, is it sustainable success?
What Does StatCast Say About Mike Yastrzemski?
While Mike Yastrzemski is indeed related to Carl, it’s not fair to compare him to his Hall of Fame grandfather. But because his numbers don’t seem fluky on the surface, we need to look at his actual quality of contact. Right off the bat - pun not intended - StatCast shows us that he may be a bit lucky after all. But, it’s not that drastic. Mike’s expected batting average is .251, which is certainly significantly lower than his actual mark of .272. But, his expected slugging percentage of .484, when you filter out the loss in batting average, isn’t much off his current performance.
While Mike Yastrzemski may not develop into the slugger his grandpa was, StatCast’s expected wOBA of .341 isn’t that far off of his actual .357 wOBA, and still quite above league average. There are a couple of other things in his favor, too. StatCast tells us that Mike has above average sprint speed on the bases and an above-average jump on the ball in the outfield. While he has only stolen two bases, he’s been running the bases well, and he’s been a plus defender in the outfield, mostly in left and right field.
Although he’s hit some weak balls, he’s been barreling the ball well, and his hard hit percentage is in the 74th percentile. Having above average power and a respectable on-base percentage while adding above average baserunning and fielding to the mix is a decent package. Right now, Mike Yaz really looks like a league-average corner outfielder. He’s not blowing anyone anyway, but he was a really nice pickup for the Giants.
Why Did the Orioles Give Up on Mike Yastrzemski?
I’m not so sure that the Orioles expected Mike Yastzemski to become a solid regular all of a sudden. He was invited as a non-roster player in spring training and obviously showed enough to the Giants scouts that they wanted to trade for him. The Giants surrendered starting pitcher Tyler Herb, who would go on to pitch fairly well in AA Bowie for the Orioles before struggling mightily in AAA. It’s clear that the Orioles made a mistake with this deal.
Credit goes to the Giants scouting in clearly selecting a player who was ready to breakout. Soon as he went to AAA for the Giants, he tore the Pacific Coast League to pieces. Even though it’s an offense-friendly league, his .316/.414/.676 slash line with 12 HR in 40 games was obviously impressive. With the Giants outfield situation a mess for most of the year, Mike Yaz has found a home in left field alongside brilliant defensive outfielder Kevin Pillar.
It’s safe to say the Orioles regret making that trade, because it’s very possible that Yaz would be roaming Camden Yards with Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander right now. While it’s not clear that Mike Yastrzemski is going to become much more than what he is right now - a very useful player - the Orioles have to be kicking themselves. The Giants are more than happy to have him, as he’s a legitimate MLB starting outfielder.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Red Sox Fanatic
Brandon Workman has enjoyed a stellar career year for the Boston Red Sox. He’s been such a fantastic relief pitcher, in fact, that he’s become the Red Sox closer. His strikeout rate is off the charts and he’s allowed just one home run in 66 ⅓ innings! Perhaps even more incredible is despite seemingly unsustainable BABIP and HR/9 marks - and a high walk rate - Workman’s incredible season isn’t just a mirage.
It’s time to turn to my favorite statistical analysis tool for baseball: StatCast. Just look at these numbers:
Barrel Rate: 0.8% (Top 1% of league)
Expected Batting Average: .174 (Top 2% of league)
Expected Slugging Percentage: .237 (Top 1% of league)
Actual wOBA: .209 (Top 1% of league)
Expected wOBA: .256 (Top 5% of league)
Expected wOBA on contact: .311 (Top 5% of league)
Hard Hit Percentage: 28.9% (Top 6% of league)
Strikeout Rate: 35.5% (Top 4% of league)
(Note that all numbers are as of 9/16/2019)
The only bad number that StatCast spits out? His walk rate, 15.5%, which ranks in the bottom 1% of the league. Workman is simply not allowing much hard contact and he’s striking guys out, both things you really want a pitcher to do.
According to FanGraphs, the fielding-independent pitching metrics suggest that even with that high walk rate and miniscule HR allowed rate, his FIP is 2.52 and his expected FIP - which uses an average HR/9 rate - is 3.44. Obviously, those are all acceptable numbers for a closer. Overall, FanGraphs rates Workman as earning 1.9 WAR. Not bad for a guy that the ZiPs projection system saw as a barely above replacement-level middle reliever.
But Wait, It Gets Better for Brandon Workman!
By Baseball-Reference’s WAR, which instead uses Runs Allowed per 9 innings, and not the FIP metric, Workman has been worth 2.8 WAR to the Red Sox in 2019. When you realize that Workman has been worth 2.9 WAR in his entire career including 2019, you realize what an incredible breakout this has been.
So, what’s changed about Workman? Here’s a guy who had a decent rookie season back for the eventual 2013 World Champion Red Sox as a relief pitcher. Then, he had a brutal 2014 season as a starter, after which he missed all of 2015 and 2016 (except for a few brutal rehab appearances in the minors in ‘16) with arm injuries. But, Workman bounced back nicely in 2017, pitching excellently for Pawtucket and pitching pretty well between AAA and MLB in both 2017 and 2018.
In 2013 and 2014, Workman had a sinking fastball and a change-up in addition to his four-seam fastball, cutter, and curveball. After arm troubles, when he returned to full health in 2017, those sinker and change-up were taken out of his repertoire. But he has the same three pitches in 2019 that he did in 2017 and 2018. So, what’s the difference?
One obvious thing that’s different is the average fastball velocity. Workman’s four-seam fastball has averaged 92.8 MPH this year. That’s up a lot from 2018 when it was 91.2, and even higher than 2017 when it was 92.2. The added velocity is definitely a big part of it, but what’s more incredible is the spin rate.
The spin rate on Workman’s fastball is 2121 rpm, up from 2003 and 1982 the previous two years. Those increases in velocity and spin rate have led to a whiff rate of 35.9 percent, a huge jump from 18.3% in 2018 and 17.0% in 2017. That nearly doubled whiff rate has made Workman’s fastball practically unhittable, with a measly .129 batting average and .145 slugging percentage against. StatCast agrees with those numbers with .135 and .174 expected marks.
Brandon Workman Loves to Throw You a Curveball, A Lot
Interestingly, Workman only throws the four-seamer 33.1% of the time, down from 38.9% in 2018 and 51.2% in 2017. What’s replaced many of those fastballs, and a few of his cutters, is his curveball. It’s pretty much the same pitch as 2018’s curveball, although with more spin than 2017. Despite a lower whiff rate of 28.9%, batters have only hit .133 against it. While StatCast sees that as unsustainable, it still expects a batting average of merely .193. You can’t go wrong with that curve.
The most interesting part of this StatCast pitch arsenal data has to do with his cutter. Despite only throwing it 19.8% of the time, it clearly has been the culprit of many of Workman’s issued walks in 2019. His cutter has a whopping 20.4% walk rate. And if that sounds high, it should, as his cutter has never had higher than a 10% walk rate since StatCast began tracking pitches in that way. But, there are a couple of upsides to the cutter. It has a whopping whiff rate of 43.6%, and despite only having a K% of 26.5, has been an effective third pitch overall. Batters have only hit .083 against it, although StatCast expects a .178 batting average. Still, that’s pretty good - even with all the walks it’s ended up creating.
What this data tells us is that Workman has thrown the curve more than ever in 2019, and it’s helped both his fastball and cutter play up. While it’s clear that we may not be able to expect him to replicate this success going forward, it is clear that Workman has found a really nice pitch mix that works for him.
How Will Brandon Workman Do in 2020?
Workman was eligible for arbitration in 2019, and settled for a $1.15 million contract. That’s turned out to be a massive bargain for the Red Sox. Going into his final year of arbitration, Workman should easily expect a substantial pay raise. Through 9/16/19, Workman has a 9-1 win loss record with 14 saves and 15 holds. He does have 6 blown saves, though, but not all of those were as a closer. You may not think wins hold as much water as they once did, especially for a reliever, but that does look awfully nice on his baseball card.
Of course, if Workman’s agent does his homework, there’s a lot to like about Workman going forward. All of this pitch data is very easily accessible. Being credited for 9 wins and 14 saves means something, too - in fact, Workman’s WPA+ (Win Probability Added) on the season through 9/16 is 8.98. Of course, there are two components to WPA (WPA+ and WPA-) and his overall WPA is 2.18, which is still quite good. That mark isn’t far behind one of the best relievers in baseball - Josh Hader - at 2.36, and just ahead of Liam Hendricks, the solid A’s reliever, at 2.16. So, Workman has been a very valuable reliever.
The advanced stats keep working in Workman’s favor in terms of StatCast expected stats, too. His expected wOBA of .256 ranks right in between the Houston Astros’ top relievers in Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna. Also, he’s not far behind his own teammate, Darwinzon Hernandez, at .253. That’s good company. His actual wOBA, though? Get this, it’s the lowest of any pitcher with 100 Plate Appearances. Workman’s performance has literally made Workman the most dominant reliever in baseball in 2019.
Talk about an arbitration case in Workman’s favor! Even if he stumbles a bit in the last couple weeks of the season, Workman has still been incredible. Should he be the Boston Red Sox closer going into 2020? There’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be.
Of course, there is Darwinzon Hernandez, who Jhoulys Chacin memorably compared to his former teammate Josh Hader. As the StatCast data shows, Chacin is right. If you believe the StatCast metrics - and there’s little reason not to - the Red Sox have one of the best 8th and 9th inning combos in the game going into 2020. Not a bad setup.
Because of this, it’s possible that the Red Sox explore a contract extension with Workman this offseason. It’s also equally possible that the Red Sox lean on his good, not great past performance and go into 2020 with Workman on a one-year deal to prove he’s for real. But as we’ve broken down here in great length, Workman is definitely a changed pitcher. If he can work on reducing the walks on his cutter, he could, in fact, be the best closer in ALL of baseball. That’s pretty incredible stuff.
Is Brandon Workman the Boston Red Sox Closer of the Future? Perhaps. Brandon Workman IS the Boston Red Sox Closer of RIGHT NOW, though, for sure. That future title may go to Darwinzon Hernandez, but you never know. Workman is only 31 years old, very young for a relief pitcher. As long as he’s not overused or overworked, Workman likely has a very nice late-inning career ahead of him.
Baseball America 2019 High-A Minor League Player of the Year: Jarren Duran of the Red Sox!
by Phoenix Desertsong, Minor League Baseball Fan
Congratulations to outfielder Jarren Duran of the Boston Red Sox for being recognized as the Baseball America High-A Player of the Year! For Salem in the Carolina League, Duran hit .387/.456/.543 with 4 HR, 19 RBI, and 18 SB in 50 games. That’s good for a 191 wRC+, which is obviously quite nuts.
However, Duran actually spent most of the 2019 season at Double-A for the Portland Sea Dogs, where he hit a mere .250/.309/.325 with only 1 HR and 19 RBI. Even when you account for his 28 SB (against only 8 times caught), that’s good for only a 87 wRC+. However, despite his hiccup with the bat, Duran is a potential plus defensive outfielder, although he’s still transitioning from his original position of second base.
FanGraphs isn’t hugely big on his future potential value, giving him a 45 where 50 is a potential average Major League player. They’re high on his speed, of course, giving him a 70 out of a potential 80. But his other current and future potential values are not what you’d expect from a Player of the Year.
Hit: 40 / 55
Game Power: 30 / 40
Raw Power: 45 / 45
Speed: 70 / 70
Field: 40 / 50
Throws: 40 / 40
Future Value: 45
Of course, if Duran does become the plus defender in center field his speed and athleticism suggest, he would instantly be at least a league-average center fielder in the Majors. Saving runs in center field is extremely valuable. It should be noted that Duran was an excellent second baseman, but the Sox organization felt his athleticism was wasted at the position. The below-average arm doesn’t matter as much in center field, either.
The rest of the scouting report suggests that if he refines his baserunning instincts, he could be an easy 30 SB threat in the Majors. The question is if his hit tool develops enough to become a .300 hitter in the Majors. His plate discipline is decent enough and if he takes full advantage of his speed, the Sox have a really good player here.
It should be noted that the Steamer projection already sees Jarren Duran as a .281/.324/.402 hitter right now. Before you factor in his potential stolen bases, that’s already a 86 wRC+. Of course, that projection is heavily influenced by that Single-A outburst. But for a 23-year old with an ETA of 2022, the Sox could have a really nice late bloomer that can play both second base and center field.
What do you think of Jarren Duran as a prospect? I find it hard to get excited about a guy who dominates Single-A then stumbles so badly at Double-A. Of course, the former 7th-round draft selection Duran has his fans. Heck, he was included in the famous (infamous?) Gary Vee Direct 360 set. Unsurprisingly with the Baseball America prospect spotlight now placed on him, Jarren Duran’s cards are now listed in the $8 to $10 range.
As of this writing, the Gary Vee Direct 360 card is the only official Bowman rookie card for Duran and two minor league cards from the Salem Red Sox and New York Penn League (from his time in 2018 with the Lowell Spinners). Duran is definitely an intriguing prospect and I like his potential, but I tend to put my faith in FanGraphs scouting ratings. Could Duran blow away his ratings and ride his speed all the way to the top? He certainly could. Only time will tell.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Lifelong Red Sox Fan
The Red Sox had some pretty good players back in the 1970’s. But, one you may not have heard nearly as much about was Sonny Siebert. A starting pitcher who was better known for his years with the Cleveland Indians, Siebert was mediocre in two of his four full seasons with the Red Sox. However, he was quite good in 1970, and won 15 games with a fine 3.44 ERA. He would be much better in 1971.
The Sox acquired Siebert along with Vicente Romo and Joe Azcue for Dick Ellsworth, Ken Harrelson, and Juan Pizarro. As Red Sox trades go, this was actually a good one for Boston. Azcue and Romo were replacement level, but Harrelson and Pizzaro only had one good year for Cleveland and Ellsworth never really did much after that. Pizzaro would have another good season later with the Cubs. Of course, that means the Red Sox won this trade, because although Siebert was mediocre in 1969 and 1973, he was quite good in between.
A lot went right for Sonny Siebert in 1971. Not only did he pitch very well, winning 16 games with a 2.91 ERA, but Sonny also had a great year with the BAT. That’s right, folks. American League pitchers still had to come to bat until 1973. What’s particularly incredible about Siebert’s 1971 season with the bat is that in no other season did he come close to being that good. In 1971, he hit .266/.289/.532 with 6 HR and 15 RBI. His career marks? .173/.204/.270 with 12 HR. Crazy fluke or not, it was a really nice year for Sonny.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Lifelong Red Sox Fan
Red Sox Trivia Time! Who was the best Red Sox player in 1993 by Wins Above Replacement? If you guessed Roger Clemens, you’d be wrong. Heck, even if you’d guessed young shortstop John Valentin you still won’t be correct. It was a 37-year old starting pitcher. His name: Danny Darwin.
Along with Frank Viola and a young Aaron Sele, Danny Darwin helped pick up the Red Sox pitching staff from an unusually poor season from Roger Clemens. Yes, Clemens was about merely average in 1993. Unfortunately, despite a pretty good starting staff, Paul Quantrill kept losing games - despite actually being a pretty decent reliever for most of his career.
Also, despite Mo Vaughn having a good year, Mike Greenwell putting up one of his typically good years, and John Valentin being a very nice young player, the lineup wasn’t great. That’s with future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson at DH, being, sadly, rather mediocre. Those Red Sox finished 80-82 under Butch Hobson.
Of course, none of that was Danny Darwin’s fault.
Danny Darwin’s Career Before the Red Sox
Actually, Darwin had a very interesting career. He actually only made 371 starts in his career out of his 716 career appearances. He actually spent a good deal of his career in the bullpen and was bounced back and forth from the starting rotation and bullpen for most of his career. However, after a nice run with the Texas Rangers, he went to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he had one and a half above-average seasons before being traded to the Houston Astros. He pitched very well and returned as a free agent.
In Houston from 1986 to 1990, Darwin would be worth 13.4 WAR, 5.3 of that coming in his 1990 season when he won the NL ERA title with a 2.21 mark. Darwin started 17 games that year with 3 complete games while also finishing 14 games and saving 2 games. Still, the Astros saw fit to see him leave as a free agent. The Red Sox were only too happy to add the solid Darwin to their pitching staff.
Danny Darwin with the Red Sox
By the time he got to the Red Sox in 1991, the “Bonham Bullet” had already put together a pretty nice career as a “swingman” - a guy who worked both as a starter and a reliever. Unfortunately, Darwin’s first season with the Red Sox didn’t go so well. In 12 starts, he delivered a 5.16 ERA while dealing with shoulder problems and battling pneumonia. Fortunately for both the Red Sox and Darwin, this would not be a free agent bust.
In 1992, Darwin rebounded with one of his typical swingman seasons. He started 15 games and finished 21 more, appearing in 51 total games over the season. Overall, his efforts were worth 2.6 WAR. But where Darwin truly excelled in 1992 was in the starting rotation in the season’s second half. He pitched only one game out of the bullpen. In his 15 starts, he had a 3.50 ERA and 2 complete games. It was a precursor to his best season in the major leagues, 1993.
In 1993, Darwin started 34 games, pitching 2 complete games, 1 of them a shutout. Despite a solid 3.26 ERA and 1.068 WHIP, his 4.29 FIP was a harbinger of things to come. Darwin had a really nice season, but things would go south after that.
In the strike shortened 1994 season, the wheels fell off for Darwin. He started 13 games, and while he went 7-5, had a miserable 6.30 ERA. He was up and down and had a couple of clunkers mixed in between brilliant performances. But arm trouble led to him blowing up in June, after which he was shut down. It looked like the beginning of the end for Darwin, and it was certainly the end of Darwin’s Red Sox career.
Danny Darwin’s Last Hurrahs
After an awful 1995 season split between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers, Darwin caught on with the Pittsburgh Pirates at age 40. He actually pitched pretty well with a 3.02 ERA in 19 starts! Darwin was good enough to net relief pitcher Rich Loiselle from the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. That trade actually was a win for Pittsburgh, who got a very good rest of 1996, a solid rookie campaign as closer in 1997, and decent returns in 1998 before he forgot where the strike zone was and was never good again. Meanwhile, the Astros, who’d been happy to reacquire Darwin, watched him struggle and get released at season’s end.
But, that wasn’t the end for Darwin. He’d catch on with the White Sox in 1997, pitching 21 games, 17 of them starts. His 4.13 ERA was a bit of a mirage, but it was good enough for the Giants to acquire him along with Wilson Alvarez and Roberto Hernandez in a trade that famously didn’t work out well for the Giants. The White Sox ended up with a solid closer in Keith Foulke and a decent set-up man in Bob Howry. Darwin and Alvarez would both be mediocre, Hernandez would be fine, but Alvarez and Hernandez would end up with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays next season.
Darwin would hang around with the Giants for 1998, getting into 33 games, 25 of them starts, and wasn’t particularly good at all. In fact, Darwin was “worth” -1.1 WAR that season. That was the end of Darwin’s playing days. However, Darwin has hung around the game and as recent as 2019 is still a minor league pitching coach.
Danny Darwin’s Career Overview
Overall, Danny Darwin was worth 39.8 WAR over 21 seasons. That includes some really awful seasons where his WAR totals were negative. He was actually significantly better as a reliever, although overall he was a decent slightly better than league-average starting pitcher when he got the call.
Starter: 371 starts, 2396 ⅓ innings, 4.04 ERA, 53 complete games, 9 shutouts, 2.2 K/BB ratio
Reliever: 345 appearances, 620 ⅓ innings, 3.06 ERA, 171 games finished, 32 saves, 2.29 K/BB ratio
The obvious knock against Darwin were his platoon splits.
Vs Right-Handed Batters: 6216 PAs,.234/.281/.361 - .641 OPS
Vs Left-Handed Batters: 6500 PAs, .277/.338/.437 - .775 OPS
In today’s analytically-driven game, Darwin probably would’ve been limited against left-handed batters and probably relieved much more than he started. It’s also possible he would’ve faced fewer batters per season, which may have saved him some of the arm trouble. Darwin was indeed “Dr. Death” on right-handed batters and more analytically-inclined deployment may have made Darwin one of the greatest swingmen of all time.
Of course, Darwin’s career was just fine as it was. He gave Red Sox fans a great 1993 effort and along with his above-average work in 1992 made that 4 year contract at least mostly worth it. He’s still in the game today passing on his extensive knowledge of pitching to younger pitchers. Here’s to a great baseball career that hasn’t even yet ended. Thanks for all your efforts, Danny!.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
The last team captain of the Boston Red Sox, Jason Varitek spent parts of 15 seasons with Boston. He made his major league debut with a base hit in his first and only major league at-bat in 1997. Varitek was acquired by the Red Sox along with pitcher Derek Lowe in the infamous trade for relief pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb. It’s not even close who won that deal, even if Lowe had never done anything. Varitek was the starting catcher in 10 different seasons for the Red Sox and only wasn’t in 2001 due to injury.
Varitek was also one of the most popular players in recent Red Sox history. He was loved by the pitching staff and anecdotally was an above-average defensive catcher. While he was a bit below average in throwing out opposing base stealers, I can say that he worked with some pitchers that were notoriously slow to the plate. The defensive metrics see him as an overall defensive negative, but a lot of those negatives came from his brutal final season in 2011. From all the years I watched him play, I’d say he was at worst perfectly average behind the dish - but above average as a pitch receiver.
Jason Varitek Was Mr. Average
While being average is really not exciting, in baseball being average is extremely valuable. If you look at Jason Varitek’s 162 game average, you’ll see that would he hit 20 HR and drove in 79 RBI in an average season. Those are solid baseball card stats, especially for a catcher. Because of his solid work behind the dish, though, those league-average offensive stats allowed him to be an above-average regular by WAR in 6 out of his 15 seasons.
2001: 1.4 WAR (in only 51 games)
2002: 2.1 WAR (132 games)
2003: 3.0 WAR (142 games)
2004: 4.0 WAR (137 games)
2005: 3.9 WAR (133 games)
2007: 2.3 WAR (131 games)
He wasn’t bad in his first full season in 1999, either, with 1.9 WAR in 144 games. But, Varitek did have some poor seasons with the bat. His rookie year of 1998 wasn’t too hot, and neither was 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, or 2009. But with a career OPS+ of 99, you can see that on the balance, he was perfectly average offensively. The good news is that Varitek’s dWAR (WAR from Defense) is a positive 8.8 for his career. So, in fact, Varitek was ever so slightly better than average, before you count his “intangibles” such as team leadership.
Why Jason Varitek and His 2004 Season Were His Career Best
Most fans may believe 2005 was Varitek’s best year in the Major Leagues. He won the Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and made his second American League All-Star Game roster! OK, he did deserve the Silver Slugger.with a 122 OPS+. However, 2005 was also one of Varitek’s worst defensive seasons if you believe the defensive metrics from Total Zone and Defensive Runs Saved. Still, his overall contributions were worthy of an All-Star appearance and were worth 3.9 WAR to the Red Sox.
Of course, in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years! Best season ever!
OK, that’s not why, but yes, Varitek was a big part of the Red Sox success that season. Despite no accolades, he was worth a career-high 4.0 WAR to the regular season 2004 Sox. He also hit a career high .296 and a career high on-base percentage of .390. His offensive contributions amounted to a 121 OPS+. Defensively, Varitek was 3 runs above average by Total Zone’s metrics and perfectly average by DRS.
In the postseason, Varitek was OK in the Division Series. But, he was a major contributor in the classic ALCS against the Yankees. While Varitek was a non-factor in the World Series, it didn’t matter.
Speaking of the postseason, in 2007, Varitek’s bat didn’t show up in the Division Series, but it did in the League Championship against the Indians and in the World Series versus the Rockies. So, Varitek really did help the Sox win their 2nd ring in 4 years.
Jason Varitek’s Legacy
Various injuries and trouble in his personal life did affect Varitek’s on-field performance at times. But, Varitek was loved by his teammates and is anecdotally one of the more underrated catchers of his era. In fact, I can’t think of another catcher that was as consistently league-average as Varitek.
The only ones better I can think of offensively are Jorge Posada, Ivan Rodriguez, and Mike Piazza. “Pudge” and Piazza are Hall of Famers and Posada has a case for a plaque. “Pudge” was easily the best defensively of his era. Joe Mauer was obviously great early in his career, too, which started towards the end of Tek’s own career.
Sure, Tek isn’t a Hall of Famer. But, he did have a very nice peak and hit better than you’d expect from your typical catcher.The defensive metrics also mostly show that Varitek was in fact a very good catcher on defense. We don’t have pitch framing metrics for that time period, but I can almost guarantee he would’ve been among the league leaders. In fact, had Varitek not played in the same era as Pudge Rodriguez, it’s likely he’d be remembered as one of the best of his era without question, behind only Jorge Posada.
It’s an old baseball saying that great teams are great up the middle. So, it’s no surprise that the Red Sox and Yankees had two of the best catchers in the game during their respective eras. Sure, Varitek didn’t come close to Hall of Fame standards. But, he was at least the #3 or #4 overall catcher in the American League in his peak years. Catchers like Tek don’t come along everyday, and you’d be hard-pressed to ever expect another one to come along.
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