Jeremy Heit's Blog
Saturday, September 25, 2004
In pursuit of 9 catchers...

Today's fun topic: Jason Varitek!

Of course, this would only be considered if Mike Piazza ends up playing first base next year, but since we have no idea what will happen, things have to be considered.

Anyway, Jason Varitek is 33 next year and is probably looking for a longer term deal worth about 7 million. And this is problem #1 with Jason Varitek... locking up a catcher through his, let's say, 33-35 years for around 21 million dollars. The dropoff rate of catchers is high and while Jason is a pretty decent hitter, he isn't Mike Piazza/Pudge Rodriguez special to get that kind of money with the history of catchers at that age.

Of course, depending on how you feel about Mike Piazza at first also influences your decision, but since that's something that can't really be controlled (its an organizational decision), we won't focus on it.

So, instead, let's focusing on Varitek's hitting, to see if there is any reason why bringing him in at that age and that money makes sense.

First, his OPS the last 6 years:
99: .812
00: .730
01 (only 174 ABs): .860
02: .724
03: .863
04: .868

If you are wondering, he is a .270/.347/.450 career hitter. He is a guy who walks quite a bit and the rate has gone up the last few years, something I wouldn't be surprised if it stuck. I also believe he's a .265-.270 type hitter and that his .295 is a little bit of luck (also consider, his K rate is at an all time high of 27.3% of PA and his BABIP-LD% is .165).

So, we've basically stuck him at around a .270/.365 hitter his first year here, but what about SLG? Look at his IsoP the last 6 years...

99: .213
00: .141
01: .195
02: .126
03: .239
04: .180

Jumpy. I wouldn't be surprised if he could get a rate around .180 going for a few years, though his age and rising strikeout rates raise a flag of a possibility of a decline. But still, let's say, based on this info, we put him at .270/.360/.450 (.810 OPS). Well, wait a second, isn't that Mike Piazza, just worth 8 million less, a tiny bit younger and with a much higher shot of being complete dead weight by the end of his contract.

So, as you can see, there is no "pattern" per se with Varitek. Well, there is one and its the one that scares me the most. Remember, I did the above projection, which equals Piazza's numbers, using only his basic year-to-year stats and not even considering what Shea could do. But take a look at this trend...

Home/Away Splits:

Home: .263/.335/.406
Away: .268/.330/.380

Home: .305/.384/.555
Away: .242/.318/.472

Home: .329/.424/.520
Away: .256/.351/.425

Now, see, this really scares me because of this...

Boston Red Sox's Home/Away Splits:

Home: .303/.376/.503
Away: .259/.341/.440

Fenway Park really helps out the average. A lot. Looking at those AVG numbers for Varitek out of Fenway and considering he'll be in Shea next year, would it shock you if he hit, what, .250? The discipline stays fairly similar, so an OBP of .340 might not be a shock. And the power... he's 33, which means a power decline could already be coming and notice how he consistently hit for 20 to 30 less IsoP points out of Fenway Park. Then add in a Shea effect... IsoP of, what, .160? Do you want to pay 7 million dollars a year for 3 years of a 33 year old catcher whose first year could be .250/.340/.410?

Granted, he might be able to hit .265/.350/.425 or something close to that, which makes it a little better, but I doubt he gets much higher than that and is only going towards a downswing, not an upswing.

I'm personally against signing most catchers to long term deals (unless they be special), so it makes it even easier when its a older catcher, but I'm just very skeptical on Varitek's hitting ability out of Fenway.

The Mets can clear the catcher spot after next year and clear a big contract from there by letting Piazza finish his last year out there. Then, in 2006, they can decide how they want to replace Piazza and hopefully get younger at that spot instead of staying old.

The money they have this year and will get from clearing Piazza's contract would be much better spent getting players entering/in their primes that can help this team for many years.

Jason Varitek is not one of those players.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
I was gonna write something on Jason Varitek and why he's one of the worst ideas I've seen thrown around (Sorry Matt, but I believe its true), but I neither have the time or energy to attempt that tonight, so hopefully I get around to it by next week's end.

Of course, I say next week's end because of Yom Kippur coming up on Friday night and Saturday. I don't know whether you'll see Friday (before sundown) or Saturday night (after sundown) posts from me... we'll see how things go.

But, I won't leave you without something to think about...

Apparently (EDIT: I swear I read this somewhere, though I can't find it, so I might have dreamed it. I also meant to use the word "if" anyways, but alas... the question still stands, both in the idea of a trade or if he was to be put on waivers), the Red Sox are going to do the same thing they did with Manny Ramirez in the offseason last year and place him on waivers (I won't attempt to spell the word before it).

Would you consider picking up Manny and his whole contract and how much would you consider it? And would anyone out there do it and pick him up?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
No Y in Victor

There has been a lot of complaining about the whole Danny Garcia/Jeff Keppinger situation and its all well-deserved. But, did you realize Victor Diaz has 10 ABs this year at the ML level since being called up on September 11th. 10 ABs! He's hitting .300/.364/.400, by the way. It doesn't look like Victor Diaz will be playing much this season, which is a shame, because he looks like he could be a mighty fine hitter. Defensively... we'll see, though I doubt he can be THAT bad, especially if the Mets stick him in LF (but we are getting ahead of ourselves there).

That last paragrpah was inspired by Avkash's post today (sure to inspire a massive comment thread). Well, part of it, as it was a post on a lot of thoughts. Obviously, it was his Victor Diaz's thoughts that got my brain going... take a look...
...I can't think of one reason why Victor Diaz shouldn't be the Mets starting right fielder next season. Seriously, I've given it alot of thought, and he's the only option that makes'll have a hard time convincing me otherwise...
Somewhat interesting is that I've been having the same thoughts as him, except I have Diaz in LF (defensive reasons). I've considered RF too, though I've been weighing all possible situations in which he is playing a corner and who would be at the other corner and then figuring based on that who would be playing first. And personally, like you will see if you read Avkash's thoughts, the only one that pleases me seems to be Carlos Beltran getting signed to RF, which is as unlikely as Joe McEwing hitting .300 in 300 ABs.

Which I find really funny because, other than on comment threads here and there, I hardly talk to Avkash. My main Mets and baseball talking happens with Matt and strangely, we are worlds apart on offseason plans (which is strange for us, though we are united against Delgado). Anyway, that has nothing to do with anything, though I found it sort of funny that me and Avkash had similar type thoughts patrolling through our heads... of course, he beat me to getting them down, but what else is new?

Anyway, before my tangent gets to far away from me, back to good old Victor. As Avkash says, he can hit. Really hit. Minor league stat time...

Age 20 (A)- .350/.407/.521
Age 21 (AA Dodgers)- .291/.353/.462
Age 21 (AA Mets)- .354/.382/.520
Age 22 (AAA Mets)- .292/.332/.491

We'll talk about his BB rate and his K/BB rate in a second, mostly focusing on this year, but just take a look at those numbers (yes, I ignored the jump to AA ball at 20 years old). What jumps out? To me, two things...

High averages whereever he was and more importantly, constant rises in isolated power, which is really a good trend, since he has been moving up into levels "above" his age level every year and even better this year since he moved from Binghamton, a hitter's park, to Norfolk, a pitcher's park. And remember, he'll be 23 next year and power is supposed to be the last thing to come along.

So, he can hit for a high average and can hit for some decent power. Can anyone see a a .300 hitter with a slightly over .500 SLG by the end of next year with some exposure to MLB pitching. I could.

But, you are probably still thinking about the walk rate and the strikeout rate. A few things...

1. He's obviously doing something right with his approach at the plate because he's having good averages with good and improving isolated power rates.
2. Walks, in a general sense, have become some what overrated. If you can hit for a good average, walk a little bit and hit for some nice power, .300/.340/.510 ain't great, but it ain't bad, especially when you come that cheap.
3. There's reason to believe he can, will and has improve.

And the answer to #3 all comes from this year... let's take a look...

April- 23/2 K/BB, 82 AB
May- 26/4 K/BB, 112 AB
June- 23/9 K/BB, 111 AB
July- 28/6 K/BB, 93 AB

As usual, thanks to Tony J's for the splits. Seriously, Tony J's is an invaluable resource. He doesn't have the August/September numbers up yet, but that's OK, we can work with these.

Yes, his strikeout rate went up in July, but I'm not as concerned with the strikeouts as I am in seeing some improvement this year in Vic's BB rate and K/BB in general. I think June might be a little high for him, but if you look at his stats, you'll notice his season really took off in June, so I'm thinking that the improvement is there to stay or will be if he's hitting good anyway.

The strikeouts don't worry me, because I think he's proven he can hit for something around a .300 average with that many strikeouts and with that walk rate, I think he can muster a .340 OBP eventually. And strikeouts supposedly are good indicators of power for power hitters, right?

Should Victor Diaz be in right of left next year? Probably, and which one, I don't know. But two problems...

1. We haven't seem him enough. I've seen tiny bits of him and like it, but I don't know as much as I would.
2. This team is playing for 2005, not 2006, which is a problem for us bloggers in general. We see next year as pretty bleak in terms of competitive baseball and therefore we are looking at how this team can be successful in future. The Mets? There are looking at 2005 and the ring. With speaks to problem with organizational philosophy, but you knew that and that's a whole separate discussion.

Anyway, Victor Diaz probably deserves a shot at a corner OF spot and at the very least, a platoon job with Eric Valent. But, of course, he won't get it.

Victor Diaz, meet Danny Garcia. Danny, meet Victor. You guys should become good friends now considering how much time you will spend on the bench together next year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Because of this, I believe he will be our starting first baseman next year. Before you yell at me, think about it. You could believe it, couldn't you?

Now that I've probably annoyed you with such things, read this story and feel good for Rick.

Sunday, September 19, 2004
Posting today (as you saw) and tomorrow will be bad (actually, tomorrow might be non-existent), so that's just a PSA.

The Mets lost both of a double dip today, though Aaron Heilman pitched excellently and Kris Benson pitched well until he tired in the 7th, so those are some pretty good signs.

Also, congratulations to Todd Zeile on finally ending his search for 2,000 hits. Now, hopefully, he'll get his reward...

A spot on the bench.

Vinny has your Sunday Morning Round-up.

Also, Joel Sherman has an article on Jeff Wilpon.

Enjoy your day whether you watch the double-dip or some football.

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