Martinez, Buchholz, and the Trade Deadline

I know Victor Martinez is a great player, and gives us depth at catcher, but I don’t see how this trade made us that much better if everyone stays healthy. Varitek, Lowell, and Youk have an OPS above their career average. LaRoche gave us insurance at first base. Given what Detriot gave up for Washburn (i.e., not much), I would have preferred the extra experienced starter.

Not that one game a sample size makes, but Buchholz isn’t having a great day today. I believe many people undervalue Jason Varitek’s ability to call a game. Few people grant to a catcher the kind of respect an offensive coordinator gets in football. But that’s what they are. Pitchers are quarterbacks. Some study film and come prepared (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning could win with me in the booth), others (say, Brett Favre) need someone to call the plays for them. Otherwise, they would chuck fastballs, err… deep posts… every play err… pitch. Mixed metaphors aside, catchers play an important, if non-quantifiable, role in pitching. And Varitek is the best in the business.

I commented on a post regarding this subject over on Statistician Magician a few weeks back. Here’s what I wrote over there:

Besides looking at the ho-hitters, look at what happened to the Red Sox pitching staff in 2006 when Varitek got hurt. He missed only the month of August that season. The Red Sox were 63 and 41 heading into that month. They went 9-21 in August without Varitek behind the plate. They recovered to go 14-14 after his return.

More pitching numbers from that season: in August without Varitek: BA .314, TB 548, OPS+ 131, and team ERA 5.81. The high’s from any other month: BA .282, TB 419, OPS+ 106, ERA 4.70.

The terrible swan-dive the team took in 2006 during Tek’s injury was why Epstein came to value Varitek to the extent that he does. In fairness, Wakefield was injured for that stretch as well. But that doesn’t explain why Schilling, Beckett, and Lester all had their worst months of the season in August. Lester pitched so poorly they sent him back down to the minors.

What I hope stands out is that, during his absence, the pitching staff stunk it up. Beckett and Schilling, great every other month that season, posted some of their worst totals in a Sox uniform.

I’m sure I’ll come to appreciate Martinez’s bat. I’m not saying I won’t. But I wonder (as I watch Clay struggle today) if sacrificing Varitek’s behind-the-plate magic (at least it sounds like voodoo to many fans of the contemporary statistical school) is worth the slight offensive upgrade Martinez provides.

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One comment

  1. raysfanboy

    Oh man, this is going to be a great next three days. The Sox are coming to town and the Rays are on the ropes. Little margin for error. The Sox are feeling pretty pleased with themselves for their recent moves, the Rays are coming off a necessary 3 of 4 series win against…ok, the Royals–but still! I’m worried about Mr. 5/6 Martinez, but, then again, there is so much to worry about in that rotation. We dropped a big series last week to the Yanks. We need this on more than you do right now. Let’s get it on!
    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

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