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Breaking Down Martinez v. Varitek Behind The Plate: Is There A Big Difference?

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A lot has been made about Victor Martinez's ability behind the plate versus what Jason Varitek can do. Martinez has always been regarded as so-so handling a pitcher, while Jason Varitek is considered one of the best in the game.

But when we look at the stats, what are we really going to find?

Varitek hasn't spent a lot of time behind the plate this season, but it's enough to take a look at how both Martinez and Varitek have faired with different pitchers. Let's look at it pitcher by pitcher. We'll start with the biggest problem so far: Josh Beckett.

Here's how Beckett has performed with Martinez and Varitek behind the plate:

Player IP ERA SO/BB BAA OPS BABIP
Martinez 9.1 7.71 1.17 .317 1.014 .323
Varitek 36.1 7.18 2.54 .301 .851 .369

So what does this tell us? First, it tells us that Beckett has been pretty bad -- but we've known that all along, huh? It's hard to really dissect how a catcher effects a pitcher when, no matter which way you slice it, the pitcher is bad.

We'll need to dig a little deeper for Beckett. If we look at his career splits, Beckett has played catch with Varitek more times (723 innings) than any other catcher in the bigs (Paul Lo Duca is No. 2 with 200.1 innings of work). In his career, Beckett and Varitek have combined for a 3.95 ERA and a 2.43 BAA. These are solid numbers, but these also factor in pre-2010 which was, uh, solid.

V-Mart has caught Beckett in 25.2 innings factoring into last year. Unlike Varitek, the streak of suck continues: 7.36 ERA with a .353 BAA.

Maybe Beckett really does need Varitek.

Let's move on to another pitcher that hasn't had a very good season, and that's John Lackey. Here's how his numbers fair with the two catchers:

Player IP ERA SO/BB BAA OPS BABIP
Martinez 41.0 5.05 1.35 .266 .791 .293
Varitek 14.0 5.14 1.16 .333 .853 .354

The big disparity between these numbers is the BABIP. Lackey has been very unlucky in his two starts with Varitek behind the dish. A .354 BABIP is just not sustainable. The .293 for Martinez, though, is right on average. All the numbers are pretty close other than the BABIP and that could make a huge factor if it were to even out.

Verdict: I think Varitek might be able to straighten Lackey out a bit. Maybe not a lot, because it seems like Lackey's problems are all on his shoulders, but having a good, confident catcher is important for a struggling pitcher. Confidence may or may not be in Martinez's game plan right now.

Now let's look at how "The Ace" Jon Lester works with both Martinez and Varitek:

Player IP ERA SO/BB BAA OPS BABIP
Martinez 46.2 3.09 2.61 .222 .631 .289
Varitek 13.0 4.85 3.20 .174 .624 .214

Here's an easy verdict: Jon Lester is just very good. His ERA with Varitek is ballooned a tad, which is surprising because of the low BABIP. But all the other numbers are very solid. With Martinez, the ERA is a nifty 3.09 and all the other stats follow suit.

This really is a push because Lester is just that good. I think Mike Lowell could get behind the plate and catch a complete game shutout with Lester on the mound.

The last pitcher to take a look at is Daisuke Matsuzaka -- the guy that almost threw a no-hitter last week with Varitek behind the plate:

Player IP ERA SO/BB BAA OPS BABIP
Martinez 14.2 11.05 1.11 .344 .980 .380
Varitek 15.0 0.60 3.50 .085 .285 .121

This is where you see a big difference. With V-Mart behind the plate, 18 earned runs in 14 innings. With Varitek, one earned run in 15 innings. There's some significance there.

Dice-K seems to have found a groove and we might be able to thank Varitek. Dice-K almost threw a no-hitter on Saturday and Varitek was the guy calling the signs. Although Varitek said after the game that he should only play when V-Mart needs a rest, we might have a true "personal catcher" situation here.

Here's how I see it: Lester has been good. Buchholz has been good. Lackey will get better. Beckett, once he gets off the disabled list, should get better. Dice-K is truly the wild card, so why not keep this combination flowing? It takes V-Mart's hot bat out of the lineup for most of these starts, but maybe this is what the Red Sox and Dice-K need; get him pitching well and see what happens down the road. A great Dice-K would make the Red Sox into a sure-fire playoff team.

We've looked at four pitchers and how they fare with both Martinez and Varitek behind the plate. But what do you think? Is there a big difference? Should Varitek start getting more starts to help pitchers out, or does Martinez's bat have to stay in the lineup?

What are your thoughts, Red Sox Nation?

NOTE: I did not include Buchholz or Wakefield in here because a) Wakefield only pitches to V-Mart and b) the same for Buchholz, except for Monday night. V-Mart left early due to injury, so Buchh pitched the final four innings to Varitek. He allowed one run over that span.

NOTE 2: Small, small, small sample size abound. Just keep that in mind.