Monday, May 19, 2008

Sure Lester Was Great, But How About Varitek?

Tek is often the subject of unverifiable media ballwashing about his ability to "call a game." We may finally have a stat that suggests this ballwashing may be justified.

It is almost impossible to prove that one catcher behind the plate calling a game gives you an advantage over another. You could probably do a study using the same pitchers and the same opponents with different catchers and compare those pitchers' results (compare Posada to the Molina-Moeller combo, for instance), but the intervening factors are too many to prove with any reliability that the results were dependent on the catcher's ability to call the correct game. Despite this truth, you would have a tough time getting through any nationally televised Red Sox game without hearing an announcer laud Jason Varitek for his ability to "handle a pitching staff" and "call a game." They often cite his preparation and tireless work ethic as evidence of this ability as if no other catcher in the league prepares as much as he does (while it's possible that this is true, it's unverifiable at worst and unlikely at best). And while we may never have statistical proof that Jason Varitek is any better at calling a game than say Greg Zaun, there is one stat after tonight's Jon Lester no hitter that should make you step aand say, "huh."

If you watched SportsCenter, you are aware that Jason Varitek is the first catcher since 1900 to catch 4 no hitters. A remarkable achievement and unbelievable statistic given how much luck is involved in throwing no hitters. Since Varitek has entered the league, there have been 15 no hitters thrown and Jason Varitek has caught 4 of them. It's truly amazing that he's been a part of so many no hitters in his career but it does not prove that Varitek is any better at calling a game than anyone else any more than the fact that Virgil Trucks threw two no hitters in the same season is not evidence that he was one of the best pitchers of all-time (let alone the best pitcher in 1952). But this stat may mean something: Jason Varitek has not only caught 4 no hitters but he was 7 outs from catching 7 no hitters(5 no hitters and 2 perfect games)!

Last year he was one out away with Schilling's 8 & 2/3rds of perfect game against the A's, he was 3 outs away from a Wakefield no hitter in 2001 and missed a Pedro perfecto against the Rays in 2000 by another three outs. A break here or there and he not only leads the history of the majors in catching no hitters, he is doubling up the next closest guy. Not only that, but since 2000 there have only been 9 no hitters broken up in the 9th inning and Jason Varitek has caught 3 of those. Of the 24 no hitters or near no hitters since 2000, Jason Varitek has caught 7 of those game. Now that's statistically significant.

Maybe all this about Tek knowing what he's doing is more than mere announcer ballwashing afterall.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Its not as if all pitchers that catchr's catch are created equal. Tek is great at handling pitchers, but the Red Sox obviously have significantly better pitchers than the average MLB team.