Observation: Joba should listen to Jorge

Rounding second and heading for home
Game 62: Hoping Veras pitches today

It’s a common meme in the comments — not only here, but on other blogs and message boards — that Jorge Posada does not call a good game. I admit to having similar thoughts from time to time, but then I think to the pitching staffs Jorge has handled in the past. Few of them had any problems. The problems with the Yanks starting pitching began, without a doubt, when they trotted out an inferior staff, starting in 2004. Jorge, in other words, has worked with lesser pitchers in general since the days of Roger, Andy, Wells, Cone, Duque, Mussina, et al.

We all know Jorge has an abrasive personality. If he doesn’t like something he’s not going to sugar coat it. The media has often observed that while Derek Jeter‘s leaderships stems from the example he sets, Jorge is the more vocal presence in the clubhouse. He will let you know when you screw up, and if you have something coming to you, you can bet Jorge’s the one to deliver it.

Pitchers, it is said, have fragile egos. Clearly that’s a generalization and doesn’t extent to pitchers a baseball species. There are many pitchers, though, who don’t like that tough-minded catcher personality. Hence, a number of pitchers over the years have preferred to work with the backup catcher, whether that be Molina in the last year and a half or Cervelli this year. This isn’t to say that the pitchers in question — most notably Mussina and Sabathia — can’t handle Posada. It’s that their styles don’t exactly match up.

Mussina and Sabathia know what they’re doing. They know their bodies and their know their repertoire. They know situations and what to throw in different ones. Jorge has his own ideas. Jorge has a strong personality. Perhaps Jorge is just a bit over-assertive in these cases with veteran pitchers. It can, after all, be frustrating for both parties when Jorge wants a fastball and the pitcher knows he can bury a curve to finish off the batter.

This leads me to the title of this post. Last night, Joba was shaking off Jorge left and right. Jorge would signal, Joba would shake. That process would repeat a few times. This led to a number of mound visits so the two could talk over the situation. The two went through this a number of times in the super-long third inning. They were not on the same page, and I’m sure that was evident to anyone watching. However, when Joba got his way — which was basically when you saw him throw a breaking ball in a questionable count — he was all over the place.

After yet another walk, you could see Jorge walk halfway out to the mound and say something. I was watching the SNY broadcast so I don’t know if his words were shown on the YES counterpart. However, I imagine he said something to the effect of “now we do it my way.” From that point on we saw Joba throw more fastballs and — surprise surprise — more strikes.

Joba is only 23 years old. He might think that hanging out with vets like CC and Burnett makes him a better pitcher, but all the talk in the world will not make him older and wiser. The idiocy of youth is still present in a 23-year-old, and Joba certainly shows it sometimes. He’s a very good pitcher. We can all see that in his stuff. However, he needs to step back and recognize where he is right now. He needs to listen to his catcher. From the way I watched the game last night, it seemed like he was much better when he did.

This, of course, is just an observation and is not based on some kind of insider knowledge. I do want to foster this discussion, though. Should Joba just listen to what Jorge says? I vote yes. Jorge’s not always right — he called for a curve when Wright was down 0-2, but Robertson knew that an outside fastball would do the trick. In general, though, Joba needs to have more faith in his fastball and throw it when Jorge calls it. Whether the radar gun reads 91 or 96, he still pumps that thing, and it’s a veritable weapon. If he commands that — and to command it one must throw it often — he’ll be fine. If he insists on using his (good) breaking stuff too often, he’ll work up his pitch count as he did last night.

Rounding second and heading for home
Game 62: Hoping Veras pitches today
  • Zach

    I think last night is a bad example, they obviously werent on the same page and I know they messed up the signs once (that ball that was fouled off that Posada was looking offspeed but got a fastball).

    In his previous starts with Posada is he shaking him off constantly? Does he shake off Molina/Cervelli? I dont have the answers to that but maybe Joba just doesnt flow with Posada, or maybe it was just a bad game.

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

    Eiland needs to get them throwing strikes. That’s what needs to happen. It’s inexcusable. It seems like any time there is a jam they are terrified of contact.

    • thurdonpaul

      i agree

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

      It seems like Joba tries to miss bats with every pitch. That’s not a reliable strategy for any pitcher. This goes especially once you’re at 2-2. At that point, you throw strikes and try to induce poor contact.

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

        Exactly. But that comes with the territory. He throws 95 and has an 86/87 MPH slider. The key to his longevity in games is going to be accepting that you can’t have 27 strikeouts every game. Dude is a stud.

        • cult of basebaal

          Well, except for those games, like last night, where he *doesn’t* throw 95, he throws 91/92 and doesn’t command the fastball.

          His problem last night wasn’t that he was trying to strike everyone out or miss bats with every pitch, it was that he didn’t have his good stuff to challenge the hitters (which, to his credit he realized) and he didn’t have the control of the reduced fastball to set up the breaking stuff, which pretty much equals nibbling.

          shoulder injuries suck.

          • Mike HC

            I agree with you on this. Sometimes just laying the ball over the plate is not a good strategy, because it will get crushed by these Major League hitters. Joba did not have his best stuff tonight, and limited the damage to two runs over four innings. It is not his fault that he was not allowed to continue in the game and the rest was up to the bullpen. I don’t think that this start means that Joba has to start re-evaluating everything. He didn’t have his command but was still able to fight through that and keep his team in the game.

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

            You absolutely missed the point.

      • crawdaddy

        I must say I agree with you. I think Posada gets a bum rap sometimes from certain Yankee fans, but he’s trying to get Joba to be more aggressive on the mound and go after guys instead of always getting into full counts and driving up his pitch counts.

        IMO, I think Joba got a little too much publicity and started believing he’s this great pitcher which is far from the truth. He has great pitching skills, but he hasn’t learned to use them to their fullest effect yet. He needs to listen to his catcher, who has a better knowledge of these hitters and what they like to swing at. Chamberlain needs to take a page out of Pettitte’s book and stop thinking so much like he’s some veteran pitcher. Even Cone has touch on it and Posada wasn’t his favorite catcher, but he’s smart enough to realize that Joba needs to listen to Posada more and stop trying to call his game on every pitch.

    • steve (different one)

      It seems like any time there is a jam they are terrified of contact.

      true, but i don’t know if this is what was happening last night.

      Joba was going 3-0 on hitters BEFORE he was in any jams.

      i think he was in love with his slider last night, kept shaking Jorge off until he got it, and couldn’t throw it for strikes.

      he got a few K’s looking on his curve, maybe he should have thrown that more.

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

        Not exactly. He had two strikes on a lot of guys. He hit a couple and let a few slip away.

  • RCK

    I say this all the time! Every time Joba pitches I yell at my t.v. that he should be listening to Jorge. It’s not like I’ve sat down with a pen and paper, so it might just be me reinforcing my own ideas, but it seems to me that every time I see Joba shake Jorge off it doesn’t end well.

    I think of Posada as basically like a sheep dog. He sees the pitchers as his herd, and he’s not afraid to bark at them and bite their ankles when he thinks they’re getting out of line. He also seems to think it’s his job to do their thinking for them. I can see why some of the older pitchers don’t appreciate that, but it doesn’t seem to bother Andy Pettitte at all.

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

      “It’s not like I’ve sat down with a pen and paper, so it might just be me reinforcing my own ideas, but it seems to me that every time I see Joba shake Jorge off it doesn’t end well.”

      This is why I blogged on the topic and opened it up for everyone. Obviously my own biases will prevail here, so I want to get a sense of what everyone else thinks of it. I’m glad I’m not the only crazy who noticed Joba’s issues seemed to come when he was shaking off Jorge every pitch.

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

    Also. I love how we have a 23 year old starting pitcher who really can struggle at times but manages to keep the team in the game. I get the bullpen was taxed and what have you but it’s a lot better compared to last years rookie experiment.

    • steve (different one)

      word.

      he still needs to get through 5 though.

      i understand nibbling with Beltran and Wright, but Cora and Castillo? come on Joba.

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

        How about walking Schneider. He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

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

          He walked Alex Cora TWICE. That is the definition of infuriating.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona

            infuriating
            adj : extremely annoying or displeasing; “his cavelier curtness of manner was exasperating”; “I’ve had an exasperatingday”; walking Alex Cora, twice; “her infuriating indifference”; “the ceaseless tumult of the jukebox was maddening” [syn: exasperating,maddening, vexing]

            You’re right Joe.

            • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

              Fan-fricken-tastic!

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

    Joe, I know this doesn’t pertain to Joba but do you ever see Joe flopping Tex and Alex? Just temporarily to get him some pitches to hit.

    • 27 this year

      i brought this up a couple games ago. I think Tex is heated up and just switching them might get Alex back on track and then the Yanks would own.

      • Zach

        Has ARod never slumped before? Has he ever got out of a slump without switching with Abreu/Sheff/Matsui?

    • Eric

      Protection is a myth. You don’t have to fix something that’s not broken.

  • dkidd

    why do guys who can throw 95 mph fall in love with their breaking stuff?

    conspiracy theory: aj bitched to joba about jorge calling a first-pitch fastball to varitek

  • Bonos

    I’ve always been a big Jopo fan but not of his game calling. In Boston he called 5 FB low and away in a row. Not surprising the next hitter was sitting on it. That said, Joba is reading his press clippings. Needs to be reined back, hard. Posada might be stubborn, not stupid. Why wasn’t Joba talking with him between innings? Show some respect, Posada has earned it.

    • Zach

      “Why wasn’t Joba talking with him between innings? Show some respect, Posada has earned it.”

      Was the camera on them 100% while the Yankees were at bat? Alright so lets not exaggerate

  • JP

    I have never liked Posada’s game calling.

    I think the pitcher should basically call his game. The proper role, if I remember hearing from McCarver or Flaherty, is that the catcher suggests, but the pitcher has the final decision.

    There is more than one way to pitch, more than one way to get a batter out. Maybe Joba is stubborn, but that is a good quality in a pitcher. Jorge should be supporting the pitchers and giving them confidence, not introducing doubt by arguing with them at every turn about pitch selection.

    Some things you have to learn yourself. It’s far more valuable for someone like Joba to pitch himself out of a game by throwing too many breaking balls and learn something from it, than it would be for him to become indecisive and go against his instincts to follow his catcher.

    Jorge is a great player but I honestly don’t believe he is the smartest baseball player. I have nothing to back that up, other than observing things like his baserunning, hearing some statements he makes, etc. But I do not think he has shrewd judgement calling pitches.

    • http://www.mydearestadam.blogspot.com/ KATGILL

      Jorge’s CERA numbers are atrocious. In as much as I love Jorge, and our history with him, it is high time we have a defensive catcher call the games.

      When Swish pitched, it softened the blow of a laugher game…fans were amused…the big picture became different. Stoic and stubborn silence that has been the New York Yankees was replaced by an energetic group of guys like Swisher, Melky, Cervelli, Gardner. Posada made it exceedingly clear that not only was he NOT amused, but the rest of mankind should also consider this event a catastrophic SHAME.

      I’m not sure if Jorge’s stoic stubborness is mingling well with PIES IN THE FACE WALK-OFFS. (And, by the way…we have Swisher, Melky and Gardner to thank for a great deal of our hits…)

      Francisco Cervelli should be catching the predominance of our games. Jorge could DH, taking turns with Matsui. (Jeez, we had Giambi and Damon BOTH DH’ing of last year…it’s do-able.)

      The Yankees were playing considerably better prior to May 30th, and the error-less streak came to an end shortly thereafter.

      Something has changed…take one guess…

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

    I did a similar post today over at TYU, I’ll post it again here.

    http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/?p=4446#comments

    Do Pitchers Like Throwing to Posada?

    By Steve S., on June 13th, 2009

    David Cone said on last night’s broadcast that Joba was clearly upset about the way he and Posada were working together last night. He thought they had trouble getting on the same page. Joba was talking to Molina in the dugout after his night was over and it seemed pretty clear to Coney what the topic was.

    This is nothing new, we’ve heard this complaint for years from almost every free agent pitcher that has come here. El Duque’s fights with Poasada were very public and often occurred right out on the mound. Randy Johnson insisted on Kelly Stinnett and John Flaherty being his personal catcher, even though Torre had an explicit policy against such arrangements. Now were seeing CC Sabathia throwing to Francisco Cervelli almost exclusively, Frankie’s caught 2 of CCs last 3 starts since Jorge came back from the DL. Posada’s a stubborn guy, he doesn’t like being shaken off and pitchers don’t like being told to throw a pitch they don’t have conviction in, especially veteran pitchers.

    Do Pitchers like throwing to Posada? And more importantly, is it affecting their performances? Andy Pettitte has always loved working with Jorge, so clearly some do and some don’t. Lets look at a few pitchers 2009 splits by catcher and see if there’s anything there. Of course, opponents will influence these stats more than pitcher-catcher relationships, which is why I’ve never been much of a fan of CERA or other stats that look at these things. But lets just see if there’s anything to this.

    Joba doesn’t appear to have much of a case. Hitters have suffered in every category while Joba has worked with Posada, tOPS tells the story as well as anything. tOPS is a stats that measures each player against his own average performance. As with OPS+ any number below 100 means your performance is sub-standard. Joba’s opposing hitters have posted +59 with Posada behind the plate, and +125 with Molina +132 with Cervelli. Opponents with Jorge behind the plate for Joba included the AL leading in Runs Scored TB Rays and #3 CLE, so its not like he faced the weak sisters of Baseball when Posada was catching. Looking at Joba splits in 08 and 07, it appears Jorge wasn’t much of a factor, though he clearly did better with Molina behind the dish in those years for whatever reason.

    AJ Burnett however, is another story. His stats have exploded with Jorge behind the plate so far this year, and its not even close. tOPS of +146 when Poasda’s behind the plate, +62 with Molina and +94 with Kevin Cash. Opponents with Posada have been Red Sox (twice), TEX and LAA. Opponents with Molina have been Rays (twice), CLE and BALT. The two horrible Sox starts could certainly be inflating these numbers, but as we all know AJ dominated the Sox last year, that was one of the main reasons we signed him in the first place. Something is different this year as compared to 08, and the Red Sox roster hasn’t changed significantly.

    One thing that cant be ignored, the team played its best stretch of Baseball so far this year while Posada was on the DL. Perhaps there will be a similar run with Posada at some point this year, the season is only 10 weeks old and Posada has missed 3 weeks of it. We all know Jorge’s loss was devastating to last year’s team, but this is a very different group. Ask any Yankee beat reporter and they’ll tell you that Girardi would prefer to DH Posada more, but can’t with Matsui on the team. CC’s wishes and AJ performances may go a long way to explaining why.

    • Mike HC

      I disagree that benching, or using Posada at the DH is a good strategy. The offensive numbers you get out of Posada from the catching position is a major difference maker. His defense is not great, but it is surely acceptable. I don’t think Joba can blame Posada for not having control. I don’t think AJ should blame Posada because he got hit all over the place. AJ had these types of starts all the time last year. Then he will go on a run where he shuts a couple of teams out, but I doubt we will give Jorge credit for those.

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

        The Pitcher is your first priority on any well run team. The difference between Cervelli and Posada offensively is not worth AJ Burnett/CC Sanathia having a poor season.

        Quick story. When Bob Watson took over as the Yanks’ GM, his first order of business was getting a defensive minded Catcher. They had (the very popular) Mike Stanley as their starting catcher in 1995, and the pitchers (Cone among them) complained often about him as a catcher and his game calling. Stanley had a excellent bat, but they gave that up for someone who could get the most out of their starting rotation.

        The Catcher Bob Watson traded for was from the Colorado Rockies, and his name was Joe Girardi.

        • Mike HC

          I completely agree that having a good defensive catcher is very important. But there comes a point where their offense can greatly reduce their effectiveness. Jose Molina has a career .278 OBP. Jorge is at .380. That is a major difference that cannot be made up by a moderate defensive upgrade. I do think Cervelli has played well so far, but to claim he should take catching days away from Jorge is a bit premature. Let’s see if he can keep up his current level of play.

          To your Girardi reference, the Yanks don’t have any catchers as good as him. He hit BA -.294, OBP-.346, SLUG- .374, and OPS – .720 his first year with the Yanks in 1996. I highly doubt the Yanks can get that production from any catcher on the roster. Then, in 1997, he hit .264 .311 .334 .645, which was in line with his career averages, and the Yanks lost in the playoffs. Even what you got in an average year from Girardi is likely still better than Molina or Cervelli. When Jorge was ready to take over the full time catchers role in 1998 and 1999, he took the job from Girardi. And Jorge was a far inferior defensive catcher in the beginning of his career.

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

            True, but Posada wasn’t the full time Catcher until Girardi left in 2000. He was eased in very slowly, and for good reason. He started 52 games in 1997, 85 in 1998, and 98 games in 1999. When Girardi left in 2000, he started his first full season with 136 games at Catcher.

            http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/stats?playerId=3341&context=fielding

            • Mike HC

              Posada took over the starting catcher role 1998, and then the Yanks dumped Girardi in 2000 because Jorge was considerably better than Girardi at that point. I believe that Jorge is a better defensive catcher now, than he was in the 90’s. Girardi was a better catcher, even when we let him go, then anybody on the Yanks roster not named Jorge Posada. To me, it is clear that Jorge should catch as much as possible, and only give him rest when necessary.

    • Eric

      I don’t like referencing tOPS as a very useful metric. The sample size produces way too much noise.

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

        I know, but with many of these pitchers that’s all we have, especially AJ. In the context of the long history of pitchers’ complaining about Posada, it has some use, but I don’t by any means mean to imply those stats are in and of themselves definitive.

  • Mike HC

    I found it interesting that the YES cameras caught Joba and Molina talking with each other at one end of the dugout, while Jorge was sitting by himself at the other end of the dugout, kinda looking, but trying not to look at the Joba, Molina conversation. Molina clearly is better at handling the pitcher, catcher relationship. And just from what I’ve seen, he seems better at calling a game than Jorge. On the other hand, Jorge’s bat is just too good, and makes up for what he lacks in other areas.

    I really didn’t think Joba pitched such a terrible game. He didn’t have much control, walked guys and hit guys, but he only gave up 2 runs in 4 innings. If he was allowed to continue, he may have shut them down for another two or three innings. At least one more inning.

    • crawdaddy

      Posada didn’t have time to worry about what Joba and Molina are talking about because there is a game going on and both of themn are out of that game while Posada had to get ready for a new pitcher. However, something tells me that Molina was trying to tell Joba to listen to his catcher. Joba can explain the pitch sequences all he wants, but he doesn’t know everything and he needs to stop being cocky like he’s David Cone out there on the mound.

      • Mike HC

        For all of his control problems, he managed to limit the damage to just 2 runs. The Mets got one hit off of him. If Joba was calling the pitches, he didn’t do that bad of a job, considering he was not even hitting his spots. If he just grooved his fastball to Beltran, he may have hit a grand slam. Everyone loves to just yell at pitchers to throw strikes, but this is the Major Leagues here, just throwing strikes can get you absolutely crushed. Sometimes it is better to nibble and leave after 4 innings, but only give up two runs. There are other pitchers in the bullpen to take over. Just because the Yanks pen is unreliable, is not Joba’s fault.

  • bryanh

    he calls inside on 3-1 all the time and it’s maddening. batters are geared up for number 1 and he gives it to em right there. atleast make them go the other way.

    • Mike HC

      It is not that easy. A lot of these hitters are waiting on the outside fastball in a 3-1 count. Throwing them inside could freeze the hitter for just long enough. I really think that is nit picking.

  • donttradecano

    Could them not being on the same page have anything to do with the team not getting to the stadium till 5? Doesnt leave alot of time to prepare…just a thought.

  • Eric

    Posada has been a negative sum player for the team behind the plate for a while now. But as long as he’s hitting the way he’s hitting, there is nothing that can be done about it.

  • ArodMVP217

    cone made a good point, to something of the effect of ‘he is in a state of doubt after he is constantly shaking Jorge off’

    maybe Joba listens to his backstop after he sees what the results are when he calls his own game

  • Dan

    I think Jorge is a horrible defensive catcher in general and that extends to the way he calls the game. In fact, I think the difference between Jorge and Varitek’s defense/handling of the staff is a huge reason why the Sox have had a leg up since 04. All those pitchers you mentioned, that Jorge supposedly worked well with, were veterans who knew what they wanted to throw and when. Jorge basically let them call the game. It’s pretty much a fact that Mussina hated throwing to Jorge b/c his idiotic game-calling and poor framing of pitches pissed him off. Coney, too, was known to prefer others. I don’t think it’s b/c Jorge is headstrong, I think it’s b/c he’s dumb.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Can one of you smart stars guys show Jorge’s ERA vs other Yankee catchers?

    • V

      With or without Wang’s starts?

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        Without :)

    • Rob in CT

      http://www.replacementlevel.com

      SG put together a post in which he poured over the numbers in order to try and figure out if there really is something to this.

      Short answer: maybe. Hard to say for sure – there could be a bunch of noise in the data.

      My position on it is that Jorge’s D isn’t good but his bat more than compensates. Just like with Jeter.