Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Varitek Isn't The Weak Link

I don't live in Boston anymore. But I still live in Red Sox Nation. This means that the radio next to my desk gets WEEI. The hot topic this week is how Jason Varitek's offensive drought is hurting the team.

Tek is definitely worrisome. However, his OPS of .672 is only 118 points below his career average.

Manny Ramirez has an OPS of .884 this year: 113 points below his career average of .997.

So you could argue that Manny's "slump" is hurting team offense just about as much as Tek's.

It's an interesting way to look at things. Varitek is getting close to the Mendoza line, so he's the one that stands out. But Manny's "dip" has actually cost the Red Sox more runs (because he gets more at bats, and has played in 11 more games).

Of course, I put "dip" in quotes because the truth is that both Manny and Tek are 36 years old -- so it's likely that this is exactly what we are supposed to expect from these two. Neither of these players is "slumping". They are both just getting old. Unless you are Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, this is when your stats begin to take a nosedive. It's actually refreshing to see their performance taper off, instead of seeing them "reborn" as 40-year-old superstars because of steroids and HGH.

Varitek stands out to Red Sox as the bigger problem, because you shouldn't pay a guy $10 million to hit .220. But the upside of Tek's problems is that he's more easily replaceable. Assuming for a moment that his "game calling" abilities are over-rated, it can't be that hard to find a catcher that can hit .220. On the other hand, Manny is a future Hall-Of-Famer. Replacing that kind of offense is going to be nearly impossible. So, in the big picture, Manny's drop-off is actually more damaging to the Red Sox playoff hopes than Varitek's.

The downside of Tek's problems is that he's locked up through 2009, but Manny is a free agent after this year. After a season-and-a-half of Manny with a sub-.900 OPS, Theo can be pretty sure this isn't a fluke, which means it's unlikely we'll see him in a Red Sox uniform in '09.

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