The Posada debate continues

If you check out the comments on yesterday’s entry, you will see a lot of frustration with Jorge Posada’s defense. A few lines:

Mr. Goldman, you know as well as I do that we should have let the Mets sign Jorge, instead of the Yanks giving a mediocre catcher the amount of money he received. He grounds into many, many rally-killing DPs and he is a big “K” way too often. Molina is twice the catcher that Jorge is.

Molina knows more about catching than Posada could ever dream about. I believe Cervelli should be brought up to work closely with Jose to refine his game. He’s already proven that he is a better defender than Posada, and hits the ball pretty effectively.

It’s time for the front office to stop turning a blind eye when they see Posada catch. Girardi should know this by now, Posada is not going to learn and doesn’t want to hear it.

molina250_082509.jpgI’m going to agree on one thing. Jose Molina is a much superior defensive catcher to Posada, and Frankie Cervelli looks pretty good, too. I will further agree that Posada hits into a lot of double plays, although show me a catcher who comes up with as many runners on base as Posada does and I’ll show you a double-play machine. I will not agree that he’s “a big K way too often,” as he’s a career .282/.400/.493 hitter with runners in scoring position and a .292/.405/.474 hitter late and close. Finally, I will strongly, violently disagree that the Yankees would be helped in any way by giving more playing time to Molina and Cervelli.

You don’t have to look too far to see what the Yankees would be like without Posada. It happened in a little season called 2008, which was still slowly bleeding to death at this time a year ago. Posada was on the shelf, Molina was playing, and the Yankees were losing games. There were other things wrong with the ballclub, but the Posada-Molina exchange was one of them.

As I tried to indicate in yesterday’s entry, everything in baseball is relative. Posada’s defensive flaws don’t make him a zero as compared to Molina’s 100, it makes him a 70 compared to Molina’s 100. Molina’s pitchers have actually thrown fractionally more wild pitches per nine innings than have Posada’s. Molina has thrown out 41 percent of attempted basestealers in his career, Posada only 29, but that’s a difference of 12 outs per 100 attempts, which sounds like a lot but only works out to a few runs on the season. We could talk about catcher-specific ERA, but that’s a flawed statistic, as it is open to sample size and other distortions, such as who caught who. The point is that you can’t judge players in isolation, but only in comparison. Compared to our idealized vision of a good defense catcher, Posada is terrible. Compared to actual catchers, he’s just a bit below average overall.

Take that knowledge, set it aside, and then consider Posada’s offensive game, which is much easier to evaluate. For most of his career he has not only been an above-average hitter for a catcher, he’s been an above-average hitter period. In 2000, when Posada hit .287/.417/.527, the average AL player hit .276/.349/.443. The average catcher hit only .261/.331/.425. The advantage conferred upon the Yankees was huge. Posada is no longer in his 2000 prime, but he still towers above his catching brethren. Even with Joe Mauer’s huge season in the mix, even counting Posada himself, the average Major League catcher is hitting only .254/.320/.397. To the extent that winning each baseball game is a battle of potential offenses, of being able to say, “My first baseman is better than your first baseman; my catcher is better than your catcher,” the Yankees win still win that battle with almost anyone but the Twins and perhaps the Braves (Brian McCann).

Molina is a career .238/.278/.338 hitter. He’s a below-average hitter compared to the general population. He’s a below-average hitter compared to catchers, shortstops, bat boys, and Snuffleupagus from “Sesame Street.” The offensive loss from such a transaction would outweigh the defensive gains. The Yankees would be net losers, a few runs up on defense, 50 or more runs down on offense. Going by Molina’s performance last year and Posada’s this year, the Yankees would gain a win on defensive runs saved and lose six on offense. As Posada ages, they will eventually have to make a change, but not this one, and hopefully not any time soon.

And before you say, “Yes, Molina, but Cervelli — !” Cervelli is far closer to Molina with the bat than Posada. He’s now 23 and has hit .270/.367/.379 in the Minors, most of that at the lower levels. He hasn’t even had 300 at-bats above A-Ball as yet and it shows in his offensive approach. He needs more time in the bus leagues if he is ever going to improve, and that’s a big if either way. Neither Molina nor Cervelli is going to be the next great Yankees catcher. It could be Jesus Montero, but right now I’d bet on Austin Romine. He’s at least two years away and has some real work to do on his hitting game, as the 20-year-old has power but lacks in selectivity.

In short, keep yelling at the TV if you want to. Perhaps it’s therapeutic. It’s also a bit misguided, because, as I said yesterday, passed balls advance a runner one base. Home runs advance them four. Unless you enjoyed 2008, with its great defensive catching and poor results, root against Posada at your own peril.

Rangers 10-10  4.9  4.1 .281 .342 .458    28 24  5  1.2  3.3 7.9
Yankees 16-4  6.2  5.8 .301 .357 .519    20 6  1  1.1  3.4 8.8

Of the 20 Rangers games surveyed here, 13 were at home, which puts a friendlier tinge on their numbers than is deserved. On the road they have hit .240/.295/.417 as a ballclub. To continue our discussion from above, those are close to Jose Molina numbers.  On the whole this is not a great hitting club. They do run the bases a lot, especially rookie Julio Borbon, one of those outfielders that I mentioned in last week’s draft review (which I’ll return to tomorrow). One player to note is Chris Davis, the slugging but strikeout-prone first baseman who returns to the lineup Tuesday night after a long stint in the Minors. A left-handed hitter, he’ll be taking his shots at Yankee Stadium’s right-field porch.

The rookie the Yankees really don’t want to see in this series is Neftali Feliz, a Minor League starter who is doing the Joba Chamberlain ’07 thing for the Rangers’ bullpen. He’s been close to untouchable so far, slinging the ball up to the plate at 100 mph. The Rangers haven’t been great at closing games, but they’ve become very good at the holy eighth inning. In the starting department, the Yankees will face the veteran Kevin Millwood, whose low strikeout rate should work against him in this ballpark — though note that for the last few years he has been much more successful against left-handed hitters than right-handers. Hard-throwing rookie lefty Derek Holland has pitched very well of late, with a 1.85 ERA in his last five starts, and has had a lot of success away from Arlington, so Andy Pettitte has drawn a tough matchup. Journemyman Dustin Nippert takes what would have been Vicente Padilla’s spot, and no doubt everyone involved except Padilla is happier about that. Nippert is a giant at 6’7″, with a good fastball and a power curve but has never pitched with anything approaching consistency. That shouldn’t change in this series.


Thanks Steven, but I’m afraid your words will fall on deaf ears. I don’t know how it’s happened, but somehow Jorge Posada has become the unofficial whipping boy for frustrated Yankee fans. I love Jorge, always have. I’ve been one of his biggest boosters. Am I frustrated by the passed balls? Of course. You’d have to be asleep not to notice those. But being a fan means having to take the good with the bad. There is no such thing as a perfect player. Bernie Williams was one of my favorites, and he was a horrible base-runner with a noodle arm.

Thanks Steven, but you fail to mention besides Jorge’s injury last year that the Yankees did not have CC, AJ, and others on the pitching staff. Furthermore, you also fail to mention that Jorge was not the reason the Yankees were World Champions in the 90’s…it was their pitching staff! Pitching is the name of the game! Yogi Berra, and a host of other top notch catchers will tell you the same thing.

Ok Steven, you also fail to notice the type of pitching we have. Burnett/Joba want to throw the slider/curveball in the dirt, but how could they when Posada’s there. Listen he can hit no question but he’s another Piazza (all bat). When you have fustrated pitchers throwing that’s not good leading into a pennant race, and the so called offense you lose is not much if the pitchers can dominate! So when Burnett pitches Posada DH’s or sits!

You can’t compare last years team with this year…To do so is ridiculous/ last year no Texeira/Hughes/AJ/CC/
Are you following this team?

Posada should not catch period/Pitchers can’t get on the same page with him/They must dread whenb they see he is due to catch them.
No one dares say anything/especially Clueless Joe/
After all he is Jorge Posada…Cashman can’t admit he made another mistake by giving him a huge contract, He won’t say anything..
Jeter never says anything period.
The man is a detriment now, and he has to start realizing
that. Better yet the Brain thrust? should start doing something.
What Brains? They want to save Chamberlain’s arm but destroy his brain by keeping him in too long last night, and coming up with the laughable Joba Rules..
They still think Gaudin and Mitre will help them get to the World Series…I’m afraid the team will fall apart in September because of their stupidity.

Yeah. Let’s get rid of Posada and Cashman…and Girardi too, while we’re at it. All their boneheaded moves have resulted in the Yankees having the best record in baseball after 125 games. This kind of incompetence must be stopped!

He did a lot for this team. We need him to be at his best and not…gone.

There are saddly no stats that reflect Jorge’s defensive ineptness. Championchips are won with defense in any game and he is our weak link. His only value is as a d.h. /pinch hitter.
No block, no throw, no frame, poor game caller, instills no confidence in his pitchers, and his hands turn to jello on a play at the plate, the one that he totally does not defend.
But he can hit o.k. for a catcher, which doesn’t say much.
We are better with two catchers (molina/Cervelli) than Posada the seive.

I would love to give a point-by-point refutation of everything in your comment, but it’s such a morass of incoherent doggerel I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Posada is all about good hitting, clutch hitting, mental toughness and leadership. He was a Moneyball player (on-base % and power) before that phrase was invented. I have seen sabrematicians compare his offensive output with Ichiro’s. Yeah, you can quibble about his defense, but how do you feel when the game is on the line and he comes up? Checked his career stats with the bases loaded lately? As for pitch calling, puh-lease. So I am a fan and defender.

Having said all that, I’m surprised the bashers haven’t mentioned what’s been frustrated me for years about the guy and that’s his baserunning. He has got to be one of THE WORST in the game. I have to laugh about some of his bone-head, head-scratching decisions out there on the basepaths. I laugh and not cry because it is, after all, Jorge Posada, a true Yankee and a winner. Just ask Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte.

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