THEME SONG FOR TODAY
I’m diggin’ one of the great lost rockabilly classics, “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache”. Somehow Sam Phillips of Sun Records never got this late ’50s track on a single, even as a B side; he was apparently too busy promoting guys like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. You try to figure out a guy’s priorities, I tell ya.
JUST A CRUMB ON POSADA
A few days ago, I said that it was good to see Jorge have some big games on the road, because his production largely favored All-Embracing Yankee Stadium the Deuce. This is still the case (.335/.403/.658 in the Bronx — funny how that doesn’t change with the team on the road), but the road production is now respectable, particularly for an elderly catcher, at .244/.327/.435. His overall rates of .288/.363/.543 are verging on the special. Catchers his age who have carried those kinds of numbers through a full season or anything like it number exactly one: In one of the great fluke seasons, the platoon catcher Greg Myers, a career .255/.313/.395 hitter, had a huge year at 37 for the 2003 Blue Jays, batting .307/.374/.502 with 15 home runs in 121 games. That’s the list. At 37, Johnny Bench was on the golf course. Bill Dickey was with the Great Lakes Navy team after a few years as a part timer. Yogi Berra was a reserve who hit .224. Gary Carter was just hanging on. Ted Simmons stopped hitting that way at 31. Ivan Rodriguez stopped hitting five years ago.
Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, Gabby Hartnett, they all had some good years on the aged side of things, but not quite at that level (though Fisk’s 1988, .277/.377/.542 is close when you adjust for context; unfortunately, he only played in 76 games). Ernie Lombardi hit .307/.387/.486 at 37, but against diluted wartime competition. Regardless of whether the new ballpark has given him a push, the fact is that he’s having a season that is a rarity in the annals of extreme veteran backstops.
It seems like only yesterday we were watching Jose Molina and Kevin Cash split the catching chores. What a reversal.
JOBA CHAMBERLAIN, TANDEM STARTER
In the recent past, some teams have experimented with keeping the innings of their pitching prospects under control in the low Minors by designating tandem starters — every fifth day, John pitches four innings and Bob pitches four innings. This was scoffed at by many, and it was unthinkable that such a program would be undertaken in the Majors, and yet, here we are.
At this point, it is safe to say that no pitcher in history has been treated in quite the same way Joba has. Credit where credit is due to the Yankees for trying something different, something preventative, but wow — there are famous works of art that have been treated more harshly (I’m thinking Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” vs. Napoleon’s troops — final score Troops 1, Painting 0). I know I’ve been asking this question in different ways since the All-Star break, but the mystery goes on: What if saving Joba means destroying his effectiveness? What if you get what you wanted but lost what you have?
MORE FROM ME
A bit on the dangers of a speed-based offense at Baseball Prospectus, and no subscription required to view.
…Or so it’s being reported. See the previous entry for more reaction, something akin to outright disgruntlement. The key here is how long Jorge Posada will be out. If it’s going to be more than a month, Mr. Cashman had best start shopping, and not in the superannuated Pudge Rodriguez aisle of Catcher-Mart either.
Actually, I take that back. Even if Posada is out only the minimum 15 days, the Yankees need to find a backstop who can hit at something close to league-average rates. Given Posada’s age, the chance of another injury is high, this year and next year and for however long his career lasts. It’s nice that the Yankees have Yogi Berra, but they need an Elston Howard to get by as well, or at least a Charlie Silvera. They don’t have that, and it was an obvious need — we talked about it in this space all winter.
I just want to repeat something I wrote this morning, because I see in the comments for that entry someone talking about Jose Molina as the awesomest backup of all-time or somesuch thing. Not so much. There’s no arguing he’s a good defender and very tough for opponents to run on, but he just doesn’t reach base enough to play with any regularity. Reaching base is the basis of offense — a team can’t score runs if the hitters don’t reach base. Molina’s career OBP is .277. It is, no matter how you slice it, dice it, adjust it, the 11th-worst OBP of the last 25 years.
Remember Alvaro Espinoza and how little he hit? He reached base more often. Alfredo Griffin once took four walks in a full season of play. He reached base more often. Rey Ordonez’s bat was the joke of the league when he played with the Mets. He reached base more often. You know how my YES colleague John Flaherty likes to make fun of his offensive abilities during many broadcasts? He reached base more often. If you reduce the population solely to catchers, Molina has the sixth-lowest OBP of the last 25 years.
Giving a hitter of this quality anything like regular playing time is extremely damaging regardless of his defense, because the offensive losses outweigh the defensive gains. If the Yankees are going to reap the benefits of having Posada, his bat, they’re going to have to find a better way of dealing with the costs of having Posada, occasional, perhaps lengthy, unavailability.
…The Yankees called up Frankie Cervelli. He seems spectacularly unlikely to hit, but might actually get on base more often than Molina. Yes, this is faint praise.
I’VE SUGGESTED THIS BEFORE…
The Diamondbacks aren’t going anywhere, their bullpen is egregious, and they don’t seem to have much use for 25-year-old backstop Miguel Montero, a career .239/.310/.412 hitter to this point. In 444 career at bats he’s hit 24 doubles and 17 home runs. He’s walked 44 times and has struck out 95 times. In the minors through 2006, he batted .291/.359/.467. He’s not the next Bill Dickey by any means, but he’s overqualified to be a pure reserve and is underappreciated by his current franchise. There might be a match there if the Yankees are willing to part with a pitcher or two. Just sayin’.