Lost among some Yankee success stories and the struggles of other players in their line up (Jeter, Gardner, Swisher), the Yankees have a black hole in the DH spot in Jorge Posada. It is not easy to write this piece because the Fan's wife loves Posada and Posada is also the favorite player of one special fifteen year old girl here. But he's done. The signs were pointing that way last year and this year, he has fallen and he can't get up.
The question is: What will the Yankees do about it? Posada will make $13 million this season, but that's not a problem for the Yankees. What is a problem is Posada as a local hero. One of the original "Core Four" that hearkens back to the glory days of the recent Yankee past. But he is 39 years old and looks every day of it. And he isn't just 39 in player terms. He's a 39 year old who spent the bulk of his career squatting behind home plate.
The Yankees took care of the first part of the equation this year by removing Posada from catching. He was the second worst defensive catcher in the game last year and his skill back there were seriously hurting the team. Russell Martin has been a brilliant acquisition who even if he doesn't continue to hit this well, has been terrific behind the plate and with the pitchers, something the Yankees haven't had in ions. But the Yankees softened the blow by still giving Posada a full-time position as the DH. After batting .248 last year, his lowest since 1999, Posada is hitting .130 after 78 plate appearances. His on base percentage is a paltry (for him especially) .232.
Complicating the decision has been Posada's power production early this season. He does have six homers. But the reality is that Posada has never had this high an ISO. His career number is .228. His current ISO is .261. There is no reason to believe that he will keep that up. His homer to fly ball rate is also sitting at 27.3 percent. His career average is 15.8 percent. Again, he won't sustain this power clip.
Normally, when someone is struggling this badly, you look at the BABIP and surely, Posada's is incredibly low at a freakish .091. Again, normally, you would say that would even things out over the course of time. But you have to couple that thought with the fact that Posada has a career line drive percentage over 20 percent. Last year, that sunk to 18.5 percent and this year, the figure is down to 12.2 percent. Simply put, Posada isn't getting good wood on the ball.
When a player gets to Posada's age, the normal trend is not being able to catch up to a good fastball. That doesn't seem to be the case with Posada. To avoid that, he is probably looking for fastballs so he can gear up and he's not getting them. Pitchers have never thrown Posada so few fastballs. He's seen 58 percent of them over his career. This year, he's seeing only 46 percent fastballs. That seems to mean that pitchers have gotten the word not to throw him any. And they are probably right. Posada is getting eaten up by curves and change ups.
And this Fan has watched quite a few Yankee games and Posada's body language has been awful. Perhaps since he lost the catcher position, he has also lost his place as an important member of the team...at least in his own mind. He often sits by himself in the dugout and looks downcast. Could his self-esteem have taken a hit with his demotion from behind the plate? It's very possible. He does seem to have a good relationship with Martin and that is helpful and professional. But not being in a good frame of mind can't be helping a 39 year old hitter.
Projection systems gave Posada a projection of .233/.331/.454. That certainly is on the low end of what you want from your DH. And now those numbers look fantastically optimistic. Can the Yankees win without a DH? They did it last year and the Bay Rays have done it two of the last three years. But will they choose to do so? They certainly have a problem on their hands. Posada looks like toast at this stage of his career and it remains to be seen what the Yankees do about it. They either bite the bullet and get Posada out of there or they bite the other bullet and keep Hip Hip Jorge in there as a mascot of sorts.