Sunday, January 08, 2012

Nonplussed by the Career of Jorge Posada

When this site was created in 2003, the intent was to write about baseball from a fan's perspective. And while that may or may not have held true over the nine years of this site's activity, to be truthful, the writer here has too many journalistic aspirations and inspirations to really allow the fan side of things to take over completely. As a writer that writes about all baseball teams and players, a level of objectivity has long been maintained as this writer's goal. Jorge Posada defeats all of those high and lofty objectives. And because of the problems he brings to this writer's emotions, summing up his career (that reports have indicated is now over) is difficult. What kind of player was Jorge Posada?

First, the fan side problem. Since this writer was a little boy, the New York Yankees have been the favorite team. That sentiment has been avoided as much as possible in the words of this site. In fact, to this day, people on Twitter still ask about the Fan's favorite team. Which means that the goal of objectivity has been achieved somewhat successfully. Perhaps we are blowing that out of the water today with Jorge Posada. But it's not what you think. Though the 1996 to 2000 run was perhaps the most gratifying span in this Fan's history, Posada has never been a favored part of that warm and toasty memory bank. Jorge Posada has never been a Fan favorite. In fact, it's been just the opposite.

To be totally out front about things, MLB.TV has been a part of this writer's world for as long as that feature has been available. Writing and rooting from northern Maine makes watching a lot of baseball impossible except for daily Red Sox games on NESN. The money spent on MLB.TV has been largely spent to watch the Yankees. And as such, more of that team's games have been watched than any other. The overriding feeling watching Jorge Posada day in and day out was that he sucked as a catcher. Not only did this Fan feel he sucked as a catcher, he seemed like a bully, especially to young pitchers.

The bullying part will have to be explained later, but the fact that Posada was a lousy catcher, especially the last five years of his career are backed up by defensive metrics. According to, Posada only had five seasons of his sixteen total where his defensive metrics were not in the negative category. Both B-R and Fangraphs give him similar fielding numbers with B-R coming in at -32 runs for his career and Fangraphs at -22.1 runs. But it's even worse than that.

In Mike Fast's seminal work over at Baseball Prospectus, he confirmed what this writer had thought for a long time. Jorge Posada cost his pitchers a lot of strikes. Fast has a chart of his findings and put Posada third from the bottom (ahead of only Ryan Doumit and Gerald Laird from 2007 to 2011. Fast put his findings into a run format as well, and if his work is correct, then Posada cost his team slightly over 50 runs in just that four year span. So in four years, he nearly doubled the amount of runs he cost the Yankees with other facets of his defense for his career.

Add up all that negative stuff and add in that he led the league in passed balls twice and racked up 142 for his career, PLUS, he wasn't good at throwing base steal attempts out and was only successful 28 percent of the time for his career, the total picture is of a catcher that wasn't very good at his position.

The defensive beliefs of this career are easy to prove via the numbers we have available to us. There is no such defense for the bullying charge other than watching hundreds of games over the years. It is this writer's belief (that will be awfully hard to shake) Posada was a bane to young pitchers like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and others. They were going to throw Posada's pitch choices and that's all there was to it. There were an awful lot of complaints about the amount of times Posada trotted out to the mound to talk to his pitcher. And indeed that happened with maddening regularity. They almost always happened after a pitcher shook off the catcher's sign.

There were numerous times when this Fan literally screamed at the television to a particular sign given the pitcher in big situations. One that seems etched in this brain forever is a pitch to the Tampa Bay Rays' Dan Johnson. Johnson simply couldn't hit big league pitching. But the Rays always seemed to bring him up to face the Yankees and it always seemed to work. Dan Johnson hit 58 homers in his big league career. The eight he hit against the Yankees were his most against any other team. This writer can't remember the game, but at the time the Yankees and Rays were battling for first place in the division. Posada called the pitch and as soon as that finger was put down, this Fan started screaming and soon enough, Johnson was rounding the bases and the Rays had won the game. Perhaps it was the game on September 10, 2010 when Johnson hit two off of Phil Hughes.

Anyway, as you can see from this post so far, there is a lot of antipathy concerning Posada's career with the Yankees. And yet, when the numbers are compiled, they will show that since 1901, Jorge Posada was the fifteenth most valuable catcher by fWAR. Almost all the names in front of him are Hall of Fame players and others will be (Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez). By those same measurements, he was the twelfth most valuable offensive catcher since 1901. Those are hard numbers to argue.

And Posada had some memorable hits during the Yankees' post season history. But as this writer has said before, when you get that many chances, good things will happen on occasion. His post season offense wasn't particularly spectacular. His .745 post season OPS is pretty good but not terrific. He has been called a clutch player, but no numbers bear that out.

There is no chance for this writer to remain objective about Jorge Posada. He was an old friend on a favored team that maintained excellence from 1996 to the present day. He'll get a lot of attention when he is eligible for the Hall of Fame. Many will vote for him. He's got five rings on his fingers. But for this simple writer, give this Fan Joe Girardi or Russell Martin behind the plate any day of the week and not Jorge Posada.

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