The playoffs are coming and the Sox will have to set their roster soon. The two biggest decision will involve Jason Varitek and Manny Delcarmen. Both players have struggled. But since Tek is more likely to get meaningful post-season playing time, we'll leave the MDC discussion for another time.
Tek is hitting a robust .211 AVG/.315 OBP/.397 SLG (.712 OPS/.309 wOBA) this year. Since the ASB, he has been putrid: .158 AVG/.250 OBP/.242 SLG (.492 OPS). Based on OPS, he has been the Sox' worst hitter (Kotasy's and Woodward's 7 ABs each notwithstanding). Looking at those numbers, it would seem the decision is an easy one: Tek should ride the pine in the playoffs.
But it's not that easy. Tek has been Beckett's and Dice-K's catcher. Here's Tito's response when asked by Rob Bradford if VMart will catch Beckett in the playoffs:
“You know, I don’t know. It’s not a bad question,” Francona said. “I don’t know. That’s the answer. I just don’t know. It’s a legitimate question. To be honest with you, I know the numbers with ‘Tek are phenomenal and I believe in that. I also think that the night that Victor caught Beckett [in Toronto] was a crazy night.”
“I just, again, I’m very aware that when Victor catches, our lineup is more potent. Also, our goal is to win that game. That’s where we probably have to sit down at some point and think about … I just don’t know the answer. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad question. I just don’t know the answer.”
Remember, VMart has only caught Beckett once this year and has yet to catch Dice-K. Beckett is clearly more comfortable throwing to Tek right now. Here are his comments on the subject:
“I’ll throw to whomever they put back there,” said the Red Sox starter. “We’ve just got to figure things out. We’re adults. We’re grown-ups. We have to figure (expletive) like that out. You can’t just go about your life hoping things work out because if you’re going about your life hoping things are going to turn out they’re (expletive) not.”
“It matters. Don’t get me wrong. It matters,” he said of working with a new catcher. “Jason Varitek is very special to me because we end up getting in a rhythm very, very quickly. But the bottom line is that it’s your fault. If you can’t execute a pitch and you give up a hard hit ball it’s your fault. Anybody who tells you different is probably a (wimp).
“For me the thing is that I throw so many pitches. For somebody new it’s very difficult to remember everything I throw because I throw everything to both sides of the plate. I might want that pitch, but they might set up to the wrong spot, which, like I said, is still my fault. I need to shake until I get what I want.”
Here's Beckett on throwing to a new catcher:
“It’s weird because they’re trying to figure you out and you’re trying to figure them out,” he said. “Neither of you want to step on each other’s toes. It takes time.”
One could argue: if Beckett is more comfortable throwing to Tek, he'll likely pitch better with Tek behind the plate. Are the Sox better off with a comfortable ace pitcher and a weaker line-up? Because Tek is so bad offensively it would make sense to pinch-hit for him in close games. Does that mean the Sox will carry three catchers in the post-season? They may do that in the ALDS, where you need fewer pitchers. But what happens if they advance?
It looks like Tek will catch both Beckett and Dice-K in the playoffs. VMart has not caught Dice-K and has only caught Beckett once. Both pitchers really aren't that familiar with him--and you don't want to experiment in October. Because of Tek, I think Lester should start Game 1 of the ALDS. Lester has been the Sox best pitcher. But Beckett has been the #1 since 2007 and has the best post-season resume. Here's the problem: the Sox are much better with Lester, VMart, Youk, and Lowell than they are with Beckett, Tek, VMart, and Youk--even if Beckett is vintage post-season Beckett.
Tito has a lot of decision to make. I have faith in Francona. He is a very good manager. Despite injuries and a log-jammed roster, Tito has the Sox on pace to win 97 games. He has a tough decision to make. Based on the fact that Tek is still catching Beckett and Dice-K, it looks like Tek will get significant time behind the plate in October.