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Nuggetpalooza: Jason Varitek rides into the statistical sunset

The Red Sox [1] watched as an icon retired Thursday. Jason Varitek [2] spent 15 seasons with the Red Sox after Dan Duquette acquired him and Derek Lowe [3] for Heathcliff Slocumb in the “Deal of the Century,” “Tower Heist,” or whatever you want to call it that makes Seattle’s braintrust look ridiculous. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “If Varitek never gets a hit, he’s still a great player, because his preparation makes the pitching staff better,” I’d be rich. But there must be something to it, because during his 14 full seasons with Boston:

– The Red Sox won 90+ games 10 times;
– The Red Sox made eight postseason appearances;
– The Red Sox won two World Series [4] titles;

Say what you want, but Jason Varitek did *something* right. Prior to Varitek’s tenure:

– The Red Sox won 90+ games (or the equivalent) 10 times in the previous 49 seasons;
– The Red Sox made eight postseason appearances in the previous 80 seasons (I know, that’s unfair, but still);
– The Red Sox last won World Series titles in 1916 and 1918;

He was an All-Star three times (2003, 2005, 2008), won a Gold Glove (2005), won a Silver Slugger award (2005), and finished in the top-30 in the MVP voting three times (2003, 2004, 2005).

It’s too bad that we can’t measure everything that Varitek brought to the table using stats. But stats is what I do, and most of the accepted stats today for non-pitchers are based on hitting. For Varitek, while he did some damage to his opponents with the bat, offense wasn’t the centerpiece of his game.

Having said all that, enjoy a Varitek retrospective, Nuggetpalooza-style:


* – Varitek leads Red Sox catchers all-time in:

AB: 5,099 (1,239 more than Carlton Fisk)
Runs: 664 (37 more than Fisk)
Hits: 1,307 (210 more than Fisk)
Doubles: 306 (99 ahead of Fisk)
Home Runs: 193 (31 more than Fisk)
RBI: 757 (189 ahead of Fisk)
Walks: 614 (225 more than Fisk)
Strikeouts: 1,216 (a whopping 628 more than Fisk)

Varitek winds up his career near the top of the Red Sox all-time leaders lists regardless of position:

11th in at bats;
16th in runs scored;
15th in hits;
9th in doubles;
11th in home runs;
10th in RBI;
13th in walks;
4th in strikeouts;
9th in sacrifice flies (43);
4th in HBP (61);
11th in GIDP (129);
9th in extra-base hits (513);
12th in total bases (2,220);


* – ‘Tek ended up hitting 131 home runs left handed and 62 right handed, one of only 15 players since 1974 to hit at least 60 bombs from each side of the plate.


* – Pitchers Varitek owned (faced 25 or more times):

Tim Hudson [5] – 12-for-26 (.461), 2 HR, 1.486 OPS
Jeff Weaver – 8-for-21 (.381), 2 HR, 1.233 OPS
Kevin Millwood [6] – 13-for-33 (.394), HR, 1.081 OPS

* – Pitchers who owned Varitek (same minimums):

Mike Mussina [7] – 12-for-77 (.156), 30 K, 5 GIDP, .412 OPS
Matt Garza [8] – 4-for-27 (.148), 9 K, .443 OPS
Orlando Hernandez – 3-for-30 (.100), 11 K, .482 OPS


* – Varitek’s tendency to wear down late in the season was well known. He hit under .200 after August 31 during each of his last four seasons, including just 3-for-43 (.070) combined in September of 2010 and 2011. For his career, he was a .215 hitter in September, third worst by any player since 1950 (min. 750 AB):

.184 – Freddie Patek
.214 – Jose Valentin
.215 – Jason Varitek
.215 – Brandon Inge
.217 – Adam Dunn [9]


* – Varitek hit 59 of his home runs out of the 7th spot in the order, the 6th most out of that spot since they began tracking the stat in 1974:

84 – Javy Lopez
68 – Jose Hernandez
60 – Chet Lemon
60 – Graig Nettles
60 – Jorge Posada [10]
59 – Jason Varitek

All told, 123 of Varitek’s home runs came while he was hitting in the bottom third of the order (7th, 8th, or 9th). Since 1974, only two players have hit more homers than ‘Tek out of the bottom third:

174 – Alex Gonzalez [11]
147 – Charles Johnson [12]
123 – Jason Varitek
116 – Rod Barajas
113 – Joe Crede


* – Varitek batted over .500 on the first pitch twice in his career: .510 in 2004 (25-for-49) and .560 last season (14-for-25). He is one of only nine players to have two such seasons (min. 25 AB ended on first pitch) since they began tracking the stat in 1988. Over that 24 year span, Tony Graffanino is the only Red Sox player other than Varitek to hit over .500 on first pitches even once (19-for-33, .576, in 2005).


* – Here are Jason Varitek’s 20 biggest hits (according to Win Probability Added). How many do YOU remember?

0.78 – May 11, 2005 vs A’s – Down 5-4 with one out in the bottom of the 9th, Varitek slams a two-run, walk-off, home run off Octavio Dotel [13].

0.44 – Sept. 5, 1999 at Mariners – Down 6-4 with one out in the 8th inning, Varitek’s three-run homer off Jose Paniagua propels Boston to a 9-7 win.

0.43 – May 7, 2004 vs Royals – Tied 6-6 with two outs in the 9th, Varitek’s walk-off double off Scott Sullivan scores Manny Ramirez [14] with the game-winnah.

0.41 – July 31, 2000 at Mariners – Tied 5-5 with two outs in the 8th inning, ‘Tek hits a three-run shot off Kaz Sasaki to give the Red Sox an 8-5 win.

0.40 – May 5, 2003 at Royals – Tied 5-5 with two outs in the 9th inning, Varitek takes Albie Lopez deep, although KC would strike for two in the bottom of the inning, making a loser out of Brandon Lyon.

0.38 – July 23, 1998 vs Blue Jays – Tied 7-7 with two outs in the 10th inning, Varitek’s first career walkoff hit, a single off Randy Myers, scores Darren Lewis.

0.38 – June 7, 2003 at Brewers – Tied 10-10 in the 9th, Varitek homers off Mike DeJean, giving the Red Sox an 11-10 win.

0.38 – April 15, 2008 at Indians – Tied 3-3 with one out in the 9th, Varitek homers off Jensen Lewis, propelling the Sox to a 5-3 win.

0.38 – April 30, 2008 vs Blue Jays – Tied 1-1 with two outs in the 9th, Varitek’s walk-off single off Scott Downs [15] plates Ramirez for a 2-1 win.

0.37 – June 10, 2003 vs Cardinals – Down 7-5 in the 8th, Varitek ties the game with a two-run shot off Kiko Calero, although Brandon Lyon would let the game get away in the 9th.

0.35 – May 13, 2001 vs A’s – Tied 4-4 in the 11th inning, Varitek leads off the frame against Jeff Tam with the first walkoff home run of his career.

0.35 – July 27, 2003 vs Yankees – Down 3-0 in the 7th inning, Varitek’s three-run shot off Chris Hammond tied the game, which the Red Sox would eventually win, 6-4.

0.35 – April 22, 2001 at Yankees – Tied 2-2 with two outs in the 10th inning, Varitek singles off Mariano Rivera [16], plating Trot Nixon [17] to give the Red Sox temporary lead as the Yankees [18] would get two off Derek Lowe in the bottom of the inning to win it.

0.35 – July 19, 2004 at Mariners – Tied 1-1 in the 8th, Varitek takes JJ Putz deep for a three-run homer, although the Sox bullpen would cough it up in the 9th and 11th innings.

0.35 – April 5, 2005 at Yankees – Down 3-2 with one out in the 9th, Varitek knots it up with a homer off Rivera. Once again, the Red Sox bullpen (Keith Foulke this time) would cough it up in the bottom of the frame.

0.35 – July 23, 2006 at Mariners – Down 8-7 with two outs in the 9th, Varitek takes Putz over the wall to tie the game. This time, Mike Timlin [19] blew the game in the bottom of the 9th.

0.35 – May 12, 2009 at Angels – Tied 3-3 with one out in the 9th, Varitek’s double off Scot Shields gives Boston a 4-3 win.


0.25 – 2004 ALDS Game 2 at Angels – Down 3-1 in the 6th inning, Varitek’s two-run homer off Bartolo Colon [20] ties the game. Boston would go on to win, 8-3.

0.15 – 2003 ALDS Game 5 at A’s – Down 1-0 in the 6th inning, ‘Tek leads off the frame with a game-tying shot off Barry Zito [21] to tie the game. Boston would go on to win, 4-3.

0.12 – 1999 ALDS Game 3 vs Indians – Down 1-0 in the 5th inning, Varitek’s double off Jaret Wright puts runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Both would eventually score and the Red Sox would win 9-3.

It’s amazing that of the 10 regular season hits listed above that came on the road, eight of them gave the Red Sox a lead in the 8th inning or after (the other two tied the game in the 9th), but the Red Sox ended up going just 5-5 in those games as the bullpen let it get away time after time.


* – Varitek struggled in his career with the bases loaded, hitting just .205 with a .572 OPS in those situations. He drove in just 144 runs in 256 bases loaded plate appearances, an average of just .563 per PA, the lowest/worst mark since they began tracking the stat in 1974 (min. 200 such PA);

.563 – Jason Varitek (144-in-256)
.597 – Tony Pena [22] (126-in-211)
.602 – Royce Clayton (124-in 206)
.630 – Mike Cameron [23] (143-in-227)


* – With two outs and RISP, Varitek hit under .200 in each of his last five seasons, going 35-for-215 (.163) in that span.


* – Against other AL clubs, Varitek hit best against the Royals (.975 OPS), Tigers (.902), and Twins (.872), while he struggled most against the Mariners [24] (his original team, .680), Angels (.680), and Yankees (.696). Only three players since 1950 batted at least 500 times in their careers against the Yankees and hit for a lower average than Varitek’s .226:

.216 – Toby Harrah
.225 – Jimmy Piersall
.226 – Jim Landis
.226 – Jason Varitek


Enjoy retirement Captain. Thanks for the special, special memories.