Monday, February 11, 2008

2008 Preview: Catchers

We start with the backstops. While a few other spots on diamond are occupied by shaky commodities (Flugo aka F'ing Lugo) or tantalizing young talent (the Navajo fellow, Jacob whats-his-name), the Red Sox catching tandem is very much a known commodity. Save for the ill-fated Josh Bard experiment, Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli have shared time behind the plate for seven consecutive season. Staggering really, when you consider the nomadic tendencies of nearly all backup catchers. Varitek enters the final year of his 4-year, $40 million deal and Mirabelli returns on another one-year pact. This could be their last go round. But I doubt it.

Name: Jason Andrew Varitek
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right
Age: 36
2008 salary: $11M
Fun Fact: Varitek was 0-7 with two walks and a run scored in the 1984 Little League World Series. Obviously he is a choker in the clutch. Give me Yadier Molina any day. (Note: no Yadier Molina, please).

Ah, the captain.* Many of us grimaced a bit at the four-year deal Varitek signed prior to the 2005 season, but we'll call him the consummate leader and move along. Still productive enough at the plate, patient as ever, and of course the intangibles ain't going anywhere. The pitchers, they say he calls a great game. And when your pitchers have the second best ERA in the majors you tend to agree with them. Plus his pop (17 dongs last year) comes in handy. Last year he had a tendency to disappoint in the clutch, hitting .219 with runners in scoring position and an alarming .162 with two outs and runners on. Last year we won the World Series. He's onto something.

*It irks me every time I hear an announcer say, “Varitek is the first Red Sox captain since Jim Rice in 1989.” That's true, but just once I’d like to hear one of them say, “However, although Maurice Samuel Vaughn lacked the official title and the corny ‘C’ on his jersey he sure as shit was the captain of those mid-nineties Red Sox teams. It was unfortunately the case that the ballclub was not then in the business of doing things that, A, made sense and, B, so much as hinted at the presence of organizational amity.” End needless aside before the gatekeeper scolds me for being backwards looking. BNJ: The gatekeeper is pleased with your work, and here's a recent article about Mo building low-income housing.

Jason Varitek's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.249 AVG
.350 OBP
.408 SLG
50 Runs
96 Hits
20 Doubles
13 Home Runs
63 RBI
56 BB
102 K
146 Pink jerseys sold
1 World Series title
46 Plaudits from Schilling

Name: Douglas Anthony Mirabelli
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Age: Immaterial as long as Tim Wakefield is around.
2008 salary: $550,000, of which he owes $550,000 to Wakefield.
Fun fact: Mirabelli was college teammates with Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge on the 1989 College World Series champion Wichita State Shockers. Generally considered a big jerk, which is immaterial here.

What? What do you want me to say? A big floppy mitt, a barehanded batsman, strikeouts with runners on, slow as Shaq. But then, wait, what's this? A giant blast over the Monster that came off the bat as if it were struck by Paul Bunyan himself! I resent Tim Wakefield for prolonging Mirabelli's career, but those majestic taters make us giddy. At any rate, Mirabelli is here to knock down knuckleballs just as he's been doing for the past seven seasons. Production at the plate is beside the point. And hey, here's this wonderful nugget: Last season with 2 out and runners in scoring position Mirabelli hit .368 with an .846 OPS. Only 19 at-bats, but yeah, that is a better situational average than either Papi or Manny. Viva la Mirabelli!

Doug Mirabelli's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.246 AVG
.318 OBP
.355 SLG
35 Runs
68 Hits
15 Doubles
5 Home Runs
36 RBI
29 BB
65 K
1 Horrific soul patch

Other catching options:
George Kottaras: Acquired from the Padres in exchange for David Wells, Kottaras projects as a serviceable catcher with some pop and a keen batting eye but hardly seems to be the heir apparent to Varitek. Suspect defensive capabilities.

Dusty Brown: It looks this fellow is on the 40-man roster. If I were to attempt to impart knowledge regarding his exploits as a ballplayer I'd be talking straight out of my ass. Apparently he plays the guitar.

Kevin Cash: Unable to find a major league deal, Cash has accepted an invitation to rejoin the Sox on a minor league contract. I suppose he backs up Kottaras at Pawtucket and is a likely candidate to fill in once again at the major league level if Mirabelli or Varitek are out for a spell. Randy Moss is a fan.

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