In defense of Jorge’s defense

2009 Draft: Adam Warren in action
Bruney activated; Veras DFA'd

Poor Jorge. He certainly is getting a bum rap these days, and it’s a largely undeserved one.

Over the weekend, Yankee fans watched as Jorge and his starting pitchers struggled to be on the same page. Joba Chamberlain and Posada were clearly out of sync, and that was but one anecdote of trouble between the Yanks’ All Star catcher and the team’s pitching staff. The Yanks’ hurlers have struggled to throw strikes and avoid the base-on-balls, and A.J. Burnett no longer pitches to Posada.

Today, the debate seemingly exploded into the open. As I noted late last night, Tyler Kepner questioned Posada’s game-calling skills through a look at Catcher’s ERA, and Dan Amore used CERA as well as anecdotal evidence to critique Jorge.

To me, though, this is all just finger-pointing and scapegoating for a problem that rests with the pitchers. As more Yankee fans begin to question Posada’s game-calling ability, let’s take a look at his historical CERA. The chart below tracks four elements: Posada’s CERA; the total percentage of Yankee innings he caught; the team’s overall season ERA; and Posada’s CERA+, a normalized look at how his numbers stack up with the team’s overall performance. As with ERA+, 100 is average or identical while anything higher is above-average and anything lower indicates below-average performance.

Year CERA % Innings Caught Team ERA CERA+
1997 4.71 32.7 3.84 81.5
1998 3.83 54.4 3.82 99.7
1999 4.16 61.5 4.13 99.3
2000 4.67 83.0 4.76 101.9
2001 3.77 76.6 4.02 106.6
2002 3.78 82.1 3.87 102.4
2003 4.12 79.7 4.02 97.6
2004 4.65 76.4 4.69 100.9
2005 4.65 75.3 4.52 97.2
2006 4.36 72.8 4.41 101.1
2007 4.49 76.6 4.49 100.0
2008 4.61 16.3 4.28 92.8
2009 6.31 41.1 4.84 76.7

As you can see, Posada has, by and large, been right there with the team. Never much worse and never much better, his CERA has tracked the team ERA. Of course, the obvious problem is that Posada has been the Yanks’ primary starting catcher since 1999. The team ERA weighs heavily toward his CERA, and I didn’t weight the CERA+ numbers.

The other problem is that, as Keith Woolner explained in 1999, CERA is not a very rigorous stat. It’s prone to wide swings due to sample size issues; it’s not correlative on a year-to-year basis; and it’s not a predictive measure of future success or failure. It’s greatly impacted by the pitchers as well.

In the end, then, we’re not really left anywhere. Jorge Posada has been a fine, if unspectacular, defensive catcher for much of his career. He’s throwing out 32 percent of would-be base-stealers this year, a mark higher than his career average. His awful CERA could just be a matter of sample size or it could be a matter of something else.

I’ll end then with some speculation on that “something else.” While Amore’s anecdotal story doesn’t provide us with statistical answers, it gives us the sports psychology point of view. Amore notes that scouts believe his pitchers — especially Joba Chamberlain — should listen to Jorge, but he also explains how some pitchers don’t seem comfortable with Posada. Therein lies the rub. If the guys on the hill aren’t comfortable with the catcher behind the plate, no amount of statistical finessing will fix that issue.

I don’t believe Posada’s game-calling is the real issue with the Yankees’ staff relative ineffectiveness. But if some of the starters feel better throwing to someone else, the team might have to consider obliging.

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2009 Draft: Adam Warren in action
Bruney activated; Veras DFA'd
  • Mike D.

    If I was a pitcher, I wouldn’t want to pitch to Jorge either. Cervelli seems like a nicer guy. If you shake Cervelli off, he goes to another pitch, Jorge on the other hand, gets mad. Pitchers shouldn’t have to deal with bossy Jorge. It’s the pitchers ERA that’s getting destroyed, not his.

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

      It really depends. I can see how some vet guys like CC and A.J. might not want to throw to him, but Joba? Joba could use some of that tough love. Kid’s 23 and has plenty to learn. And, as we saw on Friday, things didn’t work out too well when he got his way.

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

      If I was a pitcher, I’d want to pitch to Jorge because chances are he’ll drive in some runs behind me.

      • JP

        Yes, that’s one way of looking at it. But seriously…do you think Joba would have rather had Cervelli in there in his last start? No, we can’t properly blame Jorge for Joba’s walks and HB’s, but if Cervelli/Joba had given us 6+ or 7 innings and 2 runs, maybe we wouldn’t have needed Jorgie’s rbi’s.

        In other words, yes, you can cite Jorge’s offense, but that argument is just begging the question.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        If I was a pitcher, I’d want to pitch to Jorge because chances are he’ll drive in some runs behind me.

        I don’t know if it’s that simple.

        If I was a pitcher, sure, I’d want Jorge’s offense in there. But, if I feel like Cervelli’s defense and gameplan will result in me throwing a two run outing and I have no confidence in Posada’s defense and gameplan and feel like I will give up 4 or 5 runs, I’ll probably take Cervelli and deal with the diminished offense.

        I don’t know that pitchers really pay that much attention to the offense. They just want to pitch a good game and keep runs off the board and hope for the best. If the pitchers think that throwing to Cervelli will result in them allowing fewer runs than Posada, they’ll probably pick Cervelli.

        • JP

          That’s what I wanted to say, only you said it better.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Me >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> you

            • JP

              Your ego >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> my ego

              /self-serving feeble non-humorous comeback to tongue in cheek joke

  • Jay

    Why should it be so hard to believe that a catcher’s abilities behind the plate would deteriorate badly at age 37? After all, 37 is ancient for a catcher.

    And if you look at stats from various services, including Baseball Prospectus, you see that catchers have often broken down around age 37 — if they haven’t broken down before that time. For example, Yogi Berra broke down around that age. And Johny Bench became a mediocre catcher much earlier. Two of the rare exceptions, interestingly, appear to have been Carlton Fisk and Jason Varitek. Maybe it’s something in the water?

    Has any team ever won a World Series with their primary catcher being age 37 or older?

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      I don’t think any of this reflects Jorge’s defensive abilities, but his ability to either call a game or work with his pitchers….

    • radnom

      Ummmm….

      Did you even read this post?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      I’m not saying it’s hard to believe. I’m saying that we can’t know based on CERA.

      The other issue you’re talking about is a physical breakdown. Bench and Berra could still call a good game. So can Varitek, but his hitting is well below what it once was. (He’s also caught nearly 200 more innings than Jorge this year. That’s not going to make for a pleasant August/September for the Red Sox.)

      Anyway, point is that catchers aging impacts their health and ability to squat, not really their game-calling prowess.

    • jsbrendog

      RAB post – statistics cant prove this one so who knows

      commentor jay – who says he doesnt suck cause he is old!

      RAB – the statistics that whole post talked about.

      commentor jay – Yeah but who SAAAYS?

  • Jack

    I think it’s stupid to say that Posada is the reason why Wang has struggled, Joba has control issues, Pettitte has a bad back, and Burnett is inconsistent. Those are problems the pitchers have.

    Posada caught Joba’s 8 inning game vs. Cleveland a couple weeks ago. It’s not like those two can’t co-exist.

    Wang’s problems are obviously not attributable to any catcher. Posada’s CERA will be inflated because of 3 bad starts early by Wang.

    Pettitte is old, his back hurts, and he’s been working with Posada for a decade.

    Burnett, like Mussina, just likes working with someone else better.

  • Mattingly’s Love Child

    Many great pitchers have said that you should never throw a pitch you weren’t 100% committed to. So yes, the catcher calls the game, but if you can’t get behind that pitch 100% then you shouldn’t throw it.

    When a starting pitcher and a catcher go over the scouting reports for an opposing team, they are supposed to come up with the game plan. I’m sure we’ll never know this, but if the pitcher is disagreeing with the catcher, then one of them is deviating from the scouting report. They may have a very good reason to do so, but all the hullaballu about Posada and the pitchers not agreeing on pitch selection shows that maybe some more time should be taken on communication and scouting reports.

    Maybe Jorge says things that the batters are doing and is trying to adapt to that by deviating from the scouting reports. If he doesn’t do a good job conveying this to the pitchers, then they are not necessarily going to want to throw the pitch he calls. Or maybe Jorge is getting too clever in his advanced age and is trying to get “cute”.

    During Jorge’s tenure I don’t remember any strikeout pitchers outside of Mo and Clemens having a tremendous amount of success with the Yankees. Maybe Jorge knows how to call a good game for contact pitchers/sinkerballers and struggles with strikeout pitchers.

    I could keep going all day with ideas that are Jorge’s fault, and ideas that aren’t Jorge’s fault. This is the perfect job for a beat writer to try to find out what the real story is! Not get lazy and quote CERA.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      “Maybe Jorge says sees things ”

      ugh!

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        ugh html fail…

        sees not says

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

      Not that I think CERA is the answer here, but I think beat reporters wouldn’t have the best go at this. They won’t find much because 1) players are rarely critical of teammates and 2) human beings have a tendency to rationalize. We want answers, not rationalizations.

      Stats and video. Lots of video. It would take a government grant to find the time to put this research together.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Let’s get some federal bailout bucks going here.

        Figuring out why Jorge has an inflated CERA is a shovel-ready project.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          I assume you’ve got the shovel?

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Yes. And, if anyone asks, that’s not blood, it’s ketchup.

  • BklynJT

    Let’s not overlook his inability to block a ball in the dirt. I can’t remember the last time he got on his knees to block a ball instead of trying to swipe at it with his glove.

    I’m sure that plays a part in the pitchers mind when they want to throw a nasty breaking ball in the dirt with runners in scoring position, but instead don’t and leave it in the zone and get laced for an RBI. Yes this is an exaggerated situation but I’m sure it occurs.

    I blame the pitchers lack of success on Posada’s pitch calling, cause as a outsider I have no idea what was called or not called by Posada in whatever situation (except when he constantly calls first pitch fastball to Lowell), but I do know that his defense and catching behind the plate is terrible and hurts the Yankees and their pitchers numbers.

    • BklynJT

      I don’t blame*

    • Jay

      Sorry BklynJT,

      I posted most of this without hitting the Reply button earlier:

      Amen, BklynJT. Again, I’ve never been a player, manager, or coach. But that’s exactly what my eyes tell me. And the statisitics for nearly 40% of this season and the apparent views of multiple Yankee pitchers and former teammates apparently support it. (The Yankees have given up nearly 67% more runs this year with Posada behind the plate — in excess of 2.5 runs more per game!)

      But of course that has nothing to do with Posada. It’s just a “coincidence” that the Yankees’ pitchers have done so much worse with Posada behind the plate. Or it’s their fault…

      But I can guarantee you that we will now be excoriated for “attacking” Posada.

      • Rob in CT

        No, you will be referred to the years and years of data that shows that Jorge’s catching doesn’t seem to have had any impact on the team’s run prevention.

        That, to me, suggests (strongly) that what has happened so far this season is a fluke. Jorge’s not a great defensive catcher – this we know. He’s not good at blocking balls. His came calling, however, is something that is – for us – pretty much unknowable

        How much of this is simply pitchers who are frustrated and looking for someone to blame?

  • http://yankees.lhblogs.com Pete Abraham

    Ben:

    Stop trying to make sense. Cervelli has a lot of energy and Molina is very soothing. Those are much more quantifiable statistics.

    You know what’s another good thing about Jorge as a catcher? His 144 OPS+. It’s a lot easier to pitch when your catcher drives in a lot of runs.

    • JP

      You guys are copping out by just reverting to the “his offense makes up for any defensive problems” argument.

      The whole point of these threads are a discussion of Posada’s defensive skill and game calling.

      CERA proves nothing; it’s an empty number that reflects what pitchers give up primarily, and very, very little about what a catcher does.

      There are no good statistics available to evaluate a catcher’s game calling ability.

      So to argue the point with quantifiable stuff like the catcher’s OPS+ is cheating, and it dodges the whole debate.

      It’s amazing that people will flame ARod as a “clubhouse cancer” because he pisses people off by, say, doing his exaggerated pointing at outfield positions when he’s on second, among other things. Yet you have a catcher who has been called out for having an “abrasive personality,” who apparently has bristled and argued with the manager when he was taken out of a game late for defense, or played as DH, and who argues openly on pitch selection with the guy who has some of the best pitching stats on the team, and people are brushing it off and lining up to defend him.

      I’m not saying Jorge’s wrong…our knowledge of this is second hand; it’s like gossip. But a player – hypothetically speaking – who has personality issues and can’t get along with key teammates is a big problem. If I’m the manager, and I see more than one pitcher not wanting to pitch to Jorge, I think it’s time for a heart to heart with the catcher.

  • Jay

    On another blog, someone said:

    “Flaherty just reiterated on 1050 ESPN that Jorge does not really follow scouting reports when calling a game but often goes on what he would expect as a hitter especially when he gets into the flow of a game. Whatever side of the debate you are on that should be very alarming because Jorge is not thaaat good as a hitter.”

    “Also [Flaherty] said that while Joba is a young pitcher and needs to trust Po a little more, he also said that Posada needs to be a little less stubborn cause Joba is the one throwing the ball.”

    I’ve never played professional baseball, much less been a catcher, coach, or manager. However, if former teammate and current broadcaster John Flaherty thinks the problem is serious enough for him to stick his neck out and mention it on 1050 ESPN Radio — despite knowing as he must the repercussions to his relationship with Jorge and the slings and arrows that are guaranteed to result from doing do — leads me to believe that Flaherty, at least, doesn’t view the problem as a minor one.

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

      “Whatever side of the debate you are on that should be very alarming because Jorge is not thaaat good as a hitter.”

      This part of the quote makes me think the rest is worthless.

      • BklynJT

        You really shouldn’t discount the rest of the quote because one part is asinine. It’s a big thing if Jorge does not follow scouting reports. Ie. Mike Lowell likes first pitch fastballs!!!

      • A.D.

        Well its really a pointless quote, even if Pujols was catching you wouldn’t want him to go on his feel as a hitter, even though he’s a great one, because what he thinks in that situation may be different from everyone else, but the scouting reports & tendencies of a hitter is a much better gauge of what the hitter is thinking, then effectively guessing.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      I would agree with Joe that Jorge is in fact a very good hitter.

      What I find alarming is that Jorge doesn’t really pay too much attention to scouting reports. Though that is coming 3rd hand, or maybe 2nd hand from Flash’s time as Jorge’s backup, that is quite a concern.

      I want the pitchers using the data and the research that is available to them. Just trusting Jorge (a man who pisses on his hands to make them tougher!) because he’s caught in the league a long time is not enough.

      I’d take this with a grain of salt, but at the same time, maybe Girardi needs to tell Jorge to spend just a little more time reading the scouting reports….

      • whozat

        If true, I find it interesting that Posada doesn’t pay that much attention to hitter scouting reports because we ALSO heard in that Jeter didn’t pay much attention to them prior to his surprisingly-effective defensive 2008 season. Apparently, he started actually positioning himself according to scouting reports last year, and it certainly looks to have helped his defense defy his expected aging curve somewhat thus far — if those ST 2008 rumors were also true.

    • Ed

      However, if former teammate and current broadcaster John Flaherty thinks the problem is serious enough for him to stick his neck out and mention it on 1050 ESPN Radio

      You’re forgetting how mainstream media works. It’s about controversy, not analysis. They wouldn’t bother putting someone on the air if he was just going to say “Jorge’s great the way he is.”

  • Joba-to-the-pen

    Sad a man with three rings and has been to the post seaon every year until he got hurt is getting a bad rap just like Mariano in the media.Jeter never gets dissed on this team or in the media but Jorge and MO are seen as past their prime guys.

    Joba is such a diva and thinks he is one of the great Yankees and he hasn’t done anything great on this team and has the nerve to shake off a boarderline hall of famer….Jorge and Mo who are more important then Jeter back then and now never got there respect like Jeter gets on this team and from Girardi.

    How can you let free agents and minors shake off Jorge.

    • UWS

      All 99.9% of this is batshit insane.

      Copyright TSJC, 2009. All rights reserved.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Thank you, thank you.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      I was going to respond this madness, and then I re-read what UWS just wrote. Instead I have a question for you.

      Dude, are you for real?

    • BklynJT

      Sorry, did you just say that the Ace of the staff shouldn’t have the right to shake off Posada… I would like to be a fly on the wall when Girardi has that convo with CC.

    • JP

      Oh please. What do rings have to do with pitching a ballgame in 2009?

      I agree with Flaherty’s comments. Jorge needs to ease up a little on Joba and let him pitch his game.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Jorge should let Joba call his own pitches for a game. See how it works.

    • http://www.teamnerdrage.com leokitty

      3 sliders off the plate and a high fastball every time!

  • Jay

    BklynJT,

    You said:

    “Let’s not overlook his inability to block a ball in the dirt. I can’t remember the last time he got on his knees to block a ball instead of trying to swipe at it with his glove.”

    “I’m sure that plays a part in the pitchers mind when they want to throw a nasty breaking ball in the dirt with runners in scoring position, but instead don’t and leave it in the zone and get laced for an RBI. Yes this is an exaggerated situation but I’m sure it occurs.”

    “I blame the pitchers lack of success on Posada’s pitch calling, cause as a outsider I have no idea what was called or not called by Posada in whatever situation (except when he constantly calls first pitch fastball to Lowell), but I do know that his defense and catching behind the plate is terrible and hurts the Yankees and their pitchers numbers.”

    Amen, BklynJT. Again, I’ve never been a player, manager, or coach. But that’s exactly what my eyes tell me. And the statisitics for nearly 40% of this season and the apparent views of multiple Yankee pitchers and former teammates apparently support it. (The Yankees have given up nearly 67% more runs this year with Posada behind the plate — in excess of 2.5 runs more per game! But of course that has nothing to do with Posada. It’s just a “coincidence” that the Yankees’ pitchers do so much worse with Posada behind the plate.)

    But I can guarantee you that we will now be excoriated for “attacking” Posada.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Try the “REPLY” button. It can be your friend.

      • Jay

        Thank you, Andy.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          I hope you didn’t take it as a shot, it wasn’t meant to be.

          • Jay

            Not at all. I meant it (and mean it) sincerely when I say thank you.

    • BklynJT

      Thanks for the support, but I meant to say “I don’t blame the lack of success completely on Posada’s pitch calling”.

      I do think Posada sucks as a catcher and his receiving, throwing, and pitch calling together have a negative affect on the Yankees pitching staff.

      The statement from J.Flaherty regarding Posada’s ignorance of scouting reports, just provides more evidence against Posada. ie. Everyone knows not to throw Lowell a first pitch fast ball especially, and what do you freaking call for?!!!!!

    • Jay

      Then again, if this stuff were happening and a manager DIDN’T know about it, I’d think that they should be fired, too. Shouldn’t they know very well whether their catchers were studying scouting reports and calling games accordingly and whether their catcher(s) was/were handling your pitchers in a way that built up their psyches and promoted their confidence or frustrated them and destroyed it?

      However hard it may be to imagine, let’s just hope that these reports are all bogus and that the cERA is just a statistical anomaly that won’t continue. If not, its’ time for an old dog to learn some new catching tricks or become a full-time DH.

  • JP

    To clarify, CERA is calculated the same was as ERA, right, but is just pooled data for all the innings by all pitchers throwing to a given catcher?

    If so, for a CERA to be significantly different than team ERA, over the long haul with a representative sample, the catcher would have to be awful. Like, American Legion level. So I agree with people who say the statistic is not very useful.

    Pitchers and catchers should not be having debates and standoffs on the baseball field. The catcher shouldn’t be pointing fingers and gesturing at the pitcher after every shake off; the pitcher shouldn’t be sulking and shaking everything off, either.

    I don’t know whose at fault, but the last Joba outing was a great example of how not to call and manage a game, pitcher/catcher wise.

    All that said, the pitcher is the one in charge. Even Joba, at his age, is in charge when he’s out there. You want the pitcher to be confident, to be running the show. The time to correct him and stand up to him and make him see your way of thinking is not in the middle of a game, and not as a confrontation in front of both teams, the umpires, the fans, etc.

    The best catchers do their job: they catch the ball, they suggest pitches, they give the target, they throw, they block the plate. Above all, they should increase the confidence of their pitcher.

    • A.D.

      Yeah, a healthy Jorge has caught way to many of the teams innings to have the CERA+ be any type of real swing.

  • Count Zero

    If the guys on the hill aren’t comfortable with the catcher behind the plate, no amount of statistical finessing will fix that issue.

    Agreed.

    Somehow, these guys need to clear the air with Jorge and work it out. Just like any team decision in anything, everyone involved should feel free to have a dissenting point of view. But one of those people is ultimately responsible (in this case, the pitcher), and once he makes the call everyone else needs to get behind him no matter how they feel about the decision.

    Is Joba shaking off too many signs for someone with his experience? Probably. But the way to prove that to him is by calmly explaining your logic on why you didn’t want to go with that pitch in that situation — once you’re both back in the dugout. Not by openly challenging him on it in front of a TV camera.

    That’s my feeling on it anyway.

  • Jay

    Amen, JP. Amen.

  • http://newstadiuminsider.com Ross

    Remember that time I “tweeted” about this and then you ran some VERY early numbers?

    http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....era-10865/

    Good times!

  • YankeeScribe

    The reality of the situation is, Jorge is 38 years old. His defense isn’t going to get any better, his physical strength is declining, and he’s going to keep making trips to the DL if he wants to catch 80% of the games. He doesn’t help the team at all when he’s injured(even if the Yanks had a great run while he was on the DL this year). Let him split his starts between catcher and DH 50/50 for the rest of the year.

    • JP

      +1. Is that so hard? But beware…it’s coming:

      “But his OPS+!!! WHAT ABOUT HIS OPS PLUUUUUUUUSSSSS?????”

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Let him split his starts between catcher and DH 50/50 for the rest of the year.

      Heh. From the April 27th post that Ross linked to above:

      http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-352715

      • JP

        So you like other catchers behind the dish, instead of Posada? I thought you were in the “baseball is just an abacus dial in the highest OPS you can find” school of thought.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I thought you were in the “baseball is just an abacus dial in the highest OPS you can find” school of thought.

          I’ll assume that was a joke.

          • JP

            Bill James – what a man. He gave us these stats, or showed us which ones mattered. But he is also a writer, and a thinker. He points out that he’d want guys like Darrell Evans on his team. When he first said this, 20-25 years ago, it almost sounded stupid. Today, average fans know a guy like Darrell Evans is an extremely valuable ballplayer.

            But James also has written many articles about players which aren’t just numeric proofs. I remember reading how he pointed out how many teams would trade away Rogers Hornsby, and promptly get better the next season, with less offense.

            I’m not calling Jorge a Rogers Hornsby. I’m just amazed that people can continue to vomit up the same answer (“his OPS, his OPS!!”), and just blow off a litany of non-quantitative things about a player that just beg for debate.

  • http://rbiradio.blogspot.com/ Joey H.

    God. I really hate stats that mask the truth.

  • dkidd

    according to a tweet i received from tehran, posada is just a figurehead. the mullahs are the ones calling the pitches

    • JP

      ietc!!!!!! Well done sir, well done.

  • Jay

    If the increasingly numerous reports that Posada doesn’t study scouting reports to figure out what pitches work best against each hitter and in what count and that he insists on pitchers throwing the pitch that he wants as a matter of course, no matter who is pitching, are correct, then I believe the problem is far greater even than I thought it was. I can’t describe what I think about the lack of wisdom of those practices without using language that would come across as inflammatory and critical of Posada. So I’ll just leave it there.

    However, I will say this: If ANY Yankee catcher is not bothering to study scouting reports and going on his gut based on what he would be expecting as a hitter and insisting that everyone he catches throw those pitches and his manger knows about it and allows it to continue, I believe that manager should be fired unceremoniously and immediately — whether he or she used to be a catcher, a physicist, a brain surgeon, won a Nobel Prize, or has more World Series rings than he (or she) has fingers.

    IF that’s happening, and IF a manager knows about it and is allowing it to continue nearly 40% of the way into the season, that would truly boggle my mind. The only explanations I could come up with in that case would be that the manager would have to be terminally stupid, have had one too many concussions, or didn’t feel able to do anything about it because of political considerations (the stature of the catcher doing it, the fact that they played together, etc.).

    I mean,what would the point be in assembling a very expensive, very talented pitching staff, composed of pitchers who’ve been very successful in the past and then allow what they throw to be dictated by somebody who doesn’t even study scouting reports and frustrates them with his rigidity? Likewise, why spend millions of dollars recruiting very talented prospects whose success is not a given in any case and allow the deck to be stacked against them so heavily psychologically and otherwise?

    Needless to say, it it was working, and the pitchers was giving up FEWER runs with that catcher behind the plate, that would be one thing. However, if the team was giving up over 2-1/2 runs MORE runs per nine innings with that catcher calling the pitches, unless his father owned the team or headed up a crime family, allowing that practice to continue would be insane.

    Could that actually be happening?!? Is there something I’m missing? Again, I’m just asking — because I find it very hard to imagine that it really is.

    Needless to say, however, if it were true, it could certainly help explain why Yankee pitchers are giving up nearly 67% more runs with one catcher behind the plate than they are with everyone else. But then, in my mind, at least, it would beg the question of how any manager or general manager could know about that practice and allow it to continue. But again, I find it VERY hard to believe it could actually be happening.

    • BklynJT

      Wow. Can’t really say i disagree.

    • JP

      While I have my share of reservations about Jorge’s defense, I find the scouting report allegation hard to believe.

      • BklynJT

        Probably because I have been fed up with Posada’s defense ever since the midge game in Cleveland (I knew he was going to give up a pass ball once the runner got to 3rd), I very easily believe anything negative about Posada, especially when it comes to his abilities as catcher.

        • JP

          I’ve always had my doubts about his ability to block pitches. I’ve seen him backhand more pitches in the dirt than any other catcher (of course, I watch him more than any other catcher).

          So right now, I’m going to open a new window, and go research his passed ball stats (worthless as they probably are, too…).

          I’ll be right back.

          [elevator music]

          Ok. Can’t find league stats on passed balls. So I compared Jorge to Varitek. Same division, same league, facing same hitters, same basic career length.

          JoPo: 127 pb in 11640 innings, or 0.1 pb/9, meaning he allows one passed ball every ten games; catching 130 games per season puts him at 13 per year.

          JaVe: 97 pb in 10811 innings, or 0.08/9, meaning he allows one passed ball every 12.5 games. Catching 130 games per season puts him at about 10 per year.

          Anyone think that’s a big difference?

          Varitek: Career CS of 25%
          Posada: Career CS of 29%

          • Jay

            I’d be very curious how many wild pitches pitchers had while each was behind the plate, too — although I doubt that that statisitic is readily available.

            And something that doesn’t show up — EXCEPT in the cERA — as BklynJIT said earlier, is the pitcher not throwing nasty pitches in the dirt because he doesn’t trust the catcher to catch it. (I was thinking that about AJ’s struggles and thinking that I’d feel that way if I were AJ before I knew Posada’s cERA was so bloated.)

    • MattG

      I find the scouting allegation to be highly irrelevant. Pitchers are going to pitch to their own strengths, not a batter’s weakness. Knowing how to get out a specific batter might be great for a select few major league hurlers, but the vast majority have a couple of ways to get a guy out, and they’re going to do what they do.

      I can’t imagine what information would be in scouting reports that would be helpful for the average pitcher in more than a couple of incidences. And when Flaherty says that he doesn’t rely on scouting reports, I take that to mean he relies on basic principles of pitching, and his pitcher’s strengths, more than a batter’s weaknesses.

      And if this is so, I see nothing wrong with it. Scouting reports for most pitchers are nothing but noise.

  • AsianShuutoHeat

    Jorge Posada is one of the THE BEST if not the THE BEST offensive catcher ever, if there is such a thing as “offensive catcher”. So let’s just say he hits better than his brethren catchers.

    I won’t take credit away from him on that.

    ON the flip side, I really really enjoy watching Molina and/or Cervelli catch. It feels like a “real” battery when they are catching. Even though they don’t have amazing bats to contribute to the offense, I think they are an overall boost in defense (Cervelli can hit and leg it out sometimes!).

    With that said, IF this was up to me (luckily it’s not?) I would play for a boost in defense most of the time. Having a boost in defense over 8/9 innings rather than an offensive boost in 3-5 ABs.

    That’s me though, don’t flame :)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
    • JP

      I set out to use baseball reference to prove that you were exaggerating, but judging by OPS+, Jorge is easily in the top 10 of offensive catchers. Not the best, though; that distinction clearly belongs to Piazza.

      1. Piazza – 140s
      2. Gene Tenace – 136 (not fair…lots of DH/1b time, too).

      Then there are a slew of catchers clustered in the 120s OPS+, including Jorge, Bench, Dickey, Berra, Hartnett, Lombardi, and several others.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Gene Tenace at the plate…

        WHAMMY!!!!!!!!

  • Nick

    This is all well and dandy until you realize CERA is about a useful as runs as a statistic.

    I’m stunned there wasn’t a line like “We know CERA is worthless but here goes anyway” in this article.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      “The other problem is that, as Keith Woolner explained in 1999, CERA is not a very rigorous stat. It’s prone to wide swings due to sample size issues; it’s not correlative on a year-to-year basis; and it’s not a predictive measure of future success or failure. It’s greatly impacted by the pitchers as well.
      In the end, then, we’re not really left anywhere.”

    • Jay

      If you accept that baseball players often enter a phase where their defensive skills begin to decline rapidly, how could you NOT believe that those declining defensive skills would be reflected in the runs given up when they were on the field — whether they played shortstop or centerfield, much less catcher, where they not only call and handle every pitch, but have such a huge part in the confidence and rhythm of the starting pitchers (or lack thereof).

      • http://farm1.static.flickr.com/153/413671602_daded72a81_m.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        That’s not at all what Nick said, though. His point was that CERA is more useless than it is useful as a way of measuring a catcher’s defensive prowess and his effect on the game, not that a catcher can’t affect the number of runs given up.

  • George G

    Hey Joba, if you throw the slider every 3-1/2 count… hitters are going to HIT YOU! (or you’re going to miss and walk them…)

    Listen to Jorge.

  • The Iron Horse

    Ever notice how Jorge doesn’t set up his mit to where he wants the ball to be thrown when the pitcher’s about to make his toss? He doesn’t. If I were a pitcher, I’d want that target nice and early.

  • Jesus

    That’s an awesome table by Ben. Shows how CERA depends more on the staff than the catcher.

  • MattG

    Does Flaherty ever question Posada’s pitch selection during a broadcast? I pay attention, and I do not find myself questioning pitch selection. Posada is pretty conservative and predictable, but that is indicative of sound judgment.

    I wouldn’t want to pitch to Posada because of the way he stabs at balls that miss their target. He does lose strikes with some less-than-subtle movements. But I would want an unimaginative, sound pitch-caller. That lets the pitcher make smart pitches, and get the results he deserves.

    • whozat

      According to Jose Molina, who apparently is a paragon of catching virtue, you can steal maybe one or two strikes a game, depending on the ump.

    • DaveD

      Thanks Matt for the first I have read about the way Po ‘stabs’ at the ball. He is one of the worst at framing pitches for his pitcher, it drives me nuts all game long. How many pitches does he actually cost his pitcher during a game? This is probably my biggest gripe about Po except for the number of passed balls that get called wild pitches. Have you ever noticed how many balls he just plain drops that are right in is glove as well?

      There was also some video of how much Po moves behind the plate while the pitch is being delivered, as compared to Molina, distracting the umpire. I’ll try to dig that up and post.

  • BBDC

    I believe the HardBall Times actually did a piece on this last year (or the year before) where they looked into the splits and era differentials, between Hughes starts when he pitched to Jorge and his starts when he pitched to Molina and found a significant difference.

    Joe Pawlikowski- Your point about teammates rarely being critical of their catchers is less availing in this circumstance because we already have two (and now apparently with Burnett a third) cases of high profile pitchers REFUSING to pitch to Jorge, so you have to say that there must be something there (I’m referring to Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina).

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

      I mean critical to teammates in the media. Yeah, a guy might not want to throw to a catcher, but he’s not going to talk to a beat reporter about it. That’s my point.

  • Arjay

    According to current Fielding Bible data for 2009, the catcher runs saved data, under the pitcher handling heading:
    Molina: 12 Earned Runs Saved
    Cervelli: 7 Earned Runs Saved
    Posada: -32 Earned Runs Saved

    • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

      Much of that is due to passed balls/wild pitches that a better Catcher would stop. But that also has another, more subtle effect. If a pitcher doesn’t trust his catcher, he won’t snap off his best breaking pitch in a situation where he needs to. That subtle hesitation can be the difference between an inning ending strikeout or a bases clearing double down the line.

      Notice what AJ Burentt said about Cervelli (and by ommission, Jorge) after his last start? “It was fun” and “my mind was free” and “it was like we were playing catch out there”. He wasn’t worried about anything other than getting the hitters out. That’s what you want, and for whatever reason he and Jorge don’t have that trust.

  • Yankee1977

    whozat says
    “According to Jose Molina, who apparently is a paragon of catching virtue, you can steal maybe one or two strikes a game, depending on the ump”

    That may be true, but how about pitch selection/sequences, which could mean more swings and misses.

    It seems to me that our stike out pitchers have more K’s with other catchers than Posada.

  • Lily

    im not going to say this is the only reason but yankees didn’t make the playoffs last year because a BIG part of their team is posada. former all-star and world champion. i wonder if cervelli had been struggling with defense calling games how much you would still want him. you and everyone else would be praying posada catch

    • JP

      That’s because of his offense. Nobody is disputing the immense advantage we get with Posada’s offense from the catcher position.

      The debate is – setting offense aside – is Jorge’s defense hurting the team?

  • Art Vandelay

    For a more sophisticated (albeit still somewhat limited) statistical analysis of this issue, check out SG’s characertistically interesting post from yesterday over at RLYW:

    http://www.replacementlevel.co.....ame_caller

    He concludes that there is a statistically significant difference between Jorge and the rest of the catching staff, FWIW. Like SG, I’m not sure what the cause of this might be.

    That said, my eyes tell me that he’s a pretty bad defensive catcher in the more obvious things like throwing out runners and blocking balls. But nobody else remotely rivals his bat, so you live with it.

  • YankFanDave

    Your numbers seem to support the criticism of Jorge — he is not very good behind the plate THIS season. I have not seen many people assert he has never been a good receiver/pitch caller, I have seen people say, and agree, he has not been a good receiver/pitch caller THIS season. We all like Jorge and most know he has been great behind the plate over his career but to criticize his present game is not to disregard his career.

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  • Jay

    P.S. It looks like Posada started his (likely age related, but possibly injury/age related — how can you separate the two anyway?) decline LAST year.

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