What Went Wrong: The Catcher

Pettitte, on the fence, thinks Moose might call it quits
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The Yankees finished this season with the fourth best record in the American League, but a strong September wouldn’t be enough to catapult them into the playoffs. Dealing with both the demands of high expectations and the need to focus on the farm system, 2008 was a quasi-rebuilding year in which the Yanks were expected to compete. But somewhere along the way, things went wrong, and the Yankees will be home on Wednesday while four other AL teams begin their quests for the World Series title.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll delve into what went wrong with the Yankees. From injuries to unmet expectations, this season had its fare share of problems. Today, the catchers take center stage.

In 2007, the Yankee catchers, led by a career year from Jorge Posada, were the league’s best. In 689 plate appearances, Yankee catchers hit .323/.396/.502 with 19 home runs and 100 RBIs. While Wil Nieves had little to contribute, Posada was an MVP candidate and midseason back-up replacement Jose Molina hit .323/.338/.446 in limited playing time.

From the start, though, 2008 would prove to be a far cry from 2007 for Yankee backstops. Jorge Posada injured his throwing arm on a throw on Opening Day, and he wouldn’t be able to shoulder the catching duties this year. While he attempted a mid-June comeback, Posada wasn’t up to the task. In July, he opted for season-ending surgery.

His replacements, while adequate as backups, were abysmal as starters. On the season, Yankee catchers hit .230/.290/.335 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. In 2007, Yankee catchers were tops in the AL in OPS; in 2008, they were ranked 14th out of 14 teams, dead last in the Junior Circuit. None of the five other catchers the Yanks used this year could do much of anything, and it cost the team dearly.

From a statistical perspective, the Yanks’ playoff hopes were severely damaged by Jorge’s shoulder. He nailed down 26 win shares in 2007 and just five in 2008. Overall, Yankee catchers contributed 13 win shares in 2008 after putting up 29 in 2007. At three win shares per victory, that swing of 16 nearly accounts for the Yanks’ missing the playoffs by itself.

To drive the point home, none of the replacements for Jorge Posada put up a positive VORP this year. Of course, this begs the question of replacement level because the Yanks were, in effect, using replacement level players all year with little to no success.

Of course, we can’t expect a healthy Posada to have enjoyed yet another career year in 2008. He probably wasn’t going to duplicate that .338/.426/.543 line, but had Posada produced in line with his career .277/.380/.477 line, the Yanks still would have had the top-producing backstop in the AL. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been enough by itself to bring the Yanks to October, but it would have gone a long way toward closing that six-game gap.

In the end, we all love Jorge Posada, and in 2008, we saw firsthand what would happen if Posada were to miss a part of the season. Derek might be the leader of the team and A-Rod, for better or worse, its offensive heart, but when Jorge Posada went down with a season-ending injury, the Yanks’ October dreams went down with him.

Pettitte, on the fence, thinks Moose might call it quits
Last post removed
  • dan

    “but had Posada produced in line with his career .277/.380/.477 line, the Yanks still would have had the top-producing backstop in the AL.”

    Joe Mauer. Your overall point still stands, though.

    • Chip

      Sad thing is, he still would have out-slugged Mauer (but you’re right we would have had the SECOND best backstop in the AL)

      • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

        Not necessarily.

        Jorge Posada’s 162-game career average:

        .277/.380/.477/.857; 24-HR; 60-XBH; 260-TB

        Joe Mauer’s 2008 season:

        .330/.415/.454/.869; 9-HR; 44-XBH; 242-TB

        As good as Joe Mauer’s MVP deserving season has been, an average year by Jorge Posada’s standards would have beaten that, easily.

        • Jack

          That’s assuming 162 games, which is rare for a catcher. I agree with your point, but something like 140 would be a more apt comparison.

  • Ivan

    Hey Jorge Posada was the vocal leader of the team so once he was gone, really the team lacked that guy who was the “rah rah” guy shall we say.

    Offensively he was just a HUGE Lost as well. I mean a All-Star, switch hitting catcher who’s a very good OBP guy (a career .380 OBP, which is great at the catcher position or really any position) and of course a guy who can hit ya 20-25 HR’s.

    Hey if he’s healthy next season and is able to hit at a line of .277/.380/.477, and hit around 20HR’s, would be huge for this team but also his leadership was key as well.

    • mustang

      Excellent points.
      This was more then a stat lost the Yankees lost the “enforcer” in the locker room. Posada leadership was a great lost.

  • Ivan

    People gotta understand, everygame the yanks played with Posada, they had an big advantage majority of the time. That was a huge help for them. This season that advantage was gone with the likes of Molina, Moeller and Pudge.

  • Chip

    Not only the VORP and win-shares argument but just think how many problems they had this year with the catcher and pitcher not being on the same page. For all his defensive short-comings, Posada calls a good game and knows the hitters in the AL pretty damn well.

    Combine that with the Yankees throwing a ton of guys out there with little to no ML experience and you have another huge issue

    • Chip

      In fact, if I remember correctly, Pettite asked not to have Pudge catch him after a start or two

  • kenthadley

    ok, so what are we going to do about it? cant go into next year thinking Posada will play like a 28year old…..we will be lucky if he catches 100 games, and that is only if his arm comes back….we obviously need to bring in a player beyond Molina’s skills, but I dont know who/how we do it…..I’m sure there are some good ideas out there…..

    • http://www.mvn.com/milb-yankees Ashish Skaria
      • Old Ranger

        Better two words: Francisco Cervelli!
        Cerv may have been on the team out of ST. I know he hasn’t played a lot (4 yrs) but, he will be ready to play come 2009, look into his stats. Romine will be along later, like 2010-11.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

        Three words: South Atlantic League.

        I love Romine as much as the next fan, but the first Opening Day where he’ll be able to by a beer after the game is 2010. Let’s pull back on the reigns there a bit.

    • Chris

      Why would you only assume 100 games? And why should there be any lingering problems with his arm?

      This year he was catcher in 30 of the 51 games he played. He may not come back 100% from surgery, but I think it’s safe to assume his shoulder will be better than it was this year.

      I’m not looking for a 28 year old Jorge, I’m looking for the 35 year old Jorge.

  • http://www.mvn.com/milb-yankees Ashish Skaria

    We have to wait 2-3 years of course, but he’s coming!!!

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Okay, that’s better… excuse my snarkiness.

  • Old Ranger

    Jorge is one of the most valuable players on the team, his loss exacerbated the injuries and underachievement of some other players. Two rookies in the starter roll was way to much but, if one had come through????
    There are many more IFs that would justify the down fall…Cervelli getting hurt (much better player, hitter then Moller and Pudge), CMW, A-Rod, Jeter, Johnny all going down at one time or another. But, let’s face it Jorge and CMW were the biggest losses. 27/09.

  • Todd

    “…when Jorge Posada went down with a season-ending injury, the Yanks’ October dreams went down with him.”

    Just a bit over stated. The Yanks definitely can survive Posada’s bat. If ARod and Cano do what we all thought they would do and produce big numbers, they Yanks could have lived with a weak 8 and 9 hole hitters. Frankly, as much as I love Posada, his defense is atrocious. I actually prefer guys to be strong behind the plate and I am sure the Yankee pitchers, particularly the veterans, would agree.

    Yankee dreams ended with Cano and A-Rod/injuries to Wang and Joba.

    • Steve H

      A-Rod did lead the league in slugging percent, top 5 in obp, ops, runs, and Hr’s. Don’t think his struggles and Cano’s struggles are comparable.

      • Todd

        But come on, we both know that even with his “numbers,” he was a MAJOR disappointment. At no point did he carry this offense like some of the other giants in the game.

        • Steve H

          Well David Ortiz didn’t and he’s in the playoffs, Derek Lee didn’t, and he’s in the playoffs, Vladdy didn’t, and he’s in the playoffs, Carlos Pena hit .247 and he’s in the playoffs, Konerko and Thome didn’t, and they are in the playoffs. They all had teams around them to help them into the playoffs. A-Rod was better than every single one of them, yet he’s not there, and it’s not his “struggles” that kept this team out.

      • Old Ranger

        Amen to that!

  • Ivan

    Off-Topic but talk about given a bad break.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3616696

    Really speechless when I read the story.

    • Mike Pop

      thats so sad man.. he will never walk again gives me chills down my spine ya know its so sad to thing about

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

        And, it seems to be totally not his fault. He was targeted simply because he was rich, like Sean Taylor.

        Sad.

  • E-ROC

    I hope Posada comes back strong next year. His production was definitely missed this year as the Yanks had to turn to Molina, Moeller, and eventually Rodriguez. That just can’t happen next year.

    Sergio Mitre was released by the Marlins and would be the reclamation project Cashman likes to sign.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      His situation sounds dangerously close to Octavio Dotel’s, though Mitre doesn’t have the track record Dotel had.

      • Mike Pop

        illl sign mitre anyday of the week there is nothing to lose… give him a 2 yr deal and wait for him to come back from tommmy john the guy can pitch in my opinion

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Seriously? Gimme gimme gimme. I’d take a chance on that kind of arm any day of the week.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

        Yup, I’m down.

  • Steve S

    One thing that we definitely missed was Jorge hitting behind Arod. I think there is an argument to be made that Arod’s so called clutch numbers were immensely impacted by Jorge’s absence. While Giambi had a great season (considering the expectations), his year didnt compare to Jorge’s in anyway. And while Arod’s 07 numbers (.460 OBP and 1.138 OPS) were ridiculous, his numbers this year were off but contrary to popular belief they werent awful (.404 OBP and a .863 OPS) which demonstrated that people were trying to pitch around him much more (and this was Arod’s fault-expanding the strikezone). Giambi has a lot more holes in his swing and his numbers with runners on were a .692 OPS and .339 OBP. While Jorge in 2007 had an .831 OPS with RISP.

    • Reggie C.

      Where are you getting your stats? Are you using a form of adjusting OBP / OPS? Your 2007 numbers on arod are way off.

      • Steve S

        The only source

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/bsplit.cgi?n1=rodrial01&year=2007

        What were his 2007 numbers? with RISP, I wasnt using the late and close numbers. Since everyone cites to the RISP batting average as the great indicator

        • A.D.

          if you go to splits in baseball reference they have RISP

          • Steve S

            Thats what I did, thats what the link is for

  • J.R.

    I just hope Posada doesn’t get relegated to 1B and DH. We signed a catcher and thats what we need him to be.

    But realistically we know he will need to play some of his games somewhere other than catcher. This is the number one reason I think we might need to hold off on signing Tex.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      But, again, you can still do Tex without impacting Posada.

      Posada catches in 2009, and then in 2010 when Damon and Matsui disappear, Posada moves to DH.

      • Rick in Boston

        Posada will catch full-time in 2009, and slowly move over to DH/1B to give Tex or whoever is there some needed time off. The key to him moving to a less physically demanding position is the development of Romine or Cervelli or someone else. If the Yankees can develop someone, they can follow the Posada path – a couple seasons of job sharing, with him slowly taking over.

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