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Jason Varitek Actually Improved in 2009. Surprised?

There was a point last offseason where the Red Sox had to make a decision about Jason Varitek. After he rejected arbitration and went out on the open market, nobody wanted him -- but suddenly, Varitek and agent Scott Boras wanted the Red Sox.

Funny how those things work.

Once Varitek signed, most of us all though the same thing: Well, he can't possibly play as bad as he did in 2008.

That turned out to be true -- but not by much.

Jason Varitek

#33 / Catcher / Boston Red Sox





Apr 11, 1972

2009 - Jason Varitek 109 364 41 76 24 0 14 51 54 90 0 0 .209 .313 .390

Status for 2010: The Red Sox hold a $5M club option, while Varitek has his own $3M player option. It's unlikely the team will exercise their option. It's unknown if Varitek will exercise his.

Varitek actually had a pretty funny season: he played in 22 less games than in 2008, but he had more home runs (14 in 2009 to 13 in 2008), more runs batted in (51 to 43), and a better OPS (.703 to .672), among other things. His .209 batting average was the only thing that was down this season (he batted a much better .220 in '08).

Taking a deeper look at his stats, he really did become a better player at the plate. His walk percentage went up, he struck out less and his power was better. The one thing that really didn't help him was his batting average with balls in play (BABIP). It was a .238 -- which would have been worst in the major leagues, had he played enough games to qualify (Ian Kinsler had a .245 BABIP, leading qualified players).

This means Varitek was quite unlucky. Although it's rare to see someone with a high batting average have a low BABIP, it definitely was an unlucky road for the Captain.

As far as Varitek in the field, we all know he had problems throwing out baserunners. However, his range factor per game (RF/G) and range factor per nine innings (RF/9), ranked second best in baseball behind the Giants' Bengie Molina:

Bengie Molina Giants 1042 8.3 8.8
Jason Varitek Red Sox 924 8.3 8.7
Russell Martin Dodgers 1201 8.2 8.4
Brian McCann Braves 1078.2 7.7 8.2
Rod Barajas Blue Jays 974.1 7.2 8

Does it say a lot about Varitek's defense? Maybe, but it's also hard to judge a catcher's defense with any form of measurement. Trust your eyes, I say.

This offseason will be interesting for Varitek. I imagine he isn't going to test the free agent waters again, but Scott Boras has done some weird things before. If he does, don't expect to see Varitek back in Boston. But if he exercises his option, I definitely see him at least starting the year as a Red Sox. Could he be cut later? Most definitely. But for the foreseeable future, he's a Sox.