2008 Projections: Jason Varitek

We round out our infield with El Captain, Jason Varitek. Tek’s 2007 was a solid rebound from 2006 offensively, and his .255/.367/.421 line was very good, when you consider that AL average for the position is just .254/.318/.395. His .787 OPS was good for fourth-best among all qualifying Major League catchers, ahead of Brian McCann and Kenji Johjima. He bashed 17 HR with 67 RBI, which is still very good production from your catcher spot (especially considering all that he provides for our pitching staff behind the plate). Tek had some big hits for us in the second half, though his overall performance basically tanked (.279/.367/.439 pre-ASB, .225/.366/.398 post-ASB).

Varitek will be 36 next season, and I’ve written a number of times about how much Varitek’s bat seems to have slowed down, hurting his contact numbers. But he still uses that really heavy bat, and powers the ball well when he does make contact. He had the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2007 at 28.0%, and is hitting far fewer line drives and more fly balls than he did just two years ago. He did post the highest walk rate of his career last year at 14.0%, and he’s seeing more pitches overall (4.13 pitches/PA), so what it boils down to is that Tek is swinging at fewer offerings and therefore either gets caught looking or walks more.

Age is definitely taking its toll on Varitek, though he is still great for the position. My biggest concern is finding a replacement for the guy, as the creaky Doug Mirabelli is still installed as his backup and understudy. But back to the projection. I see Varitek’s average and power taking a significant hit this season, as his strikeout rates will remain high and he will have to sit on pitches more at the plate. He is still swinging a very balanced bat from both sides of the plate, which is a good sign, and he looks healthy enough to give us another 130 games and 500 AB this year. Because I think he’ll drop another slot in the order, I’ll expect something like .240/.340/.400 with 13 HR and 50 RBI from him in 2008.

Projection comps:

Marcels: 	.253/.346/.422
Bill James:	.253/.349/.418
ZiPS:		.249/.350/.408
CHONE:		.249/.346/.422

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