The importance of putting away hitters


On Sunday morning, I published a post about the ineffectiveness of the Yankees starters. Looking at the number of pitchers per plate appearance for four of the Yanks’ starting pitchers, I noticed that Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Hughes were all throwing more pitches per plate appearance than the league average. Only CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang were more effective than the league.

Following Sunday’s A.J. Burnett start in which he used far too many pitches to give up no runs in 7 innings, I re-ran the numbers. The following is the updated chart:

Pitcher Pitches Per Plate Appearance
Phil Hughes 3.97
Joba Chamberlain 3.93
A.J. Burnett 3.92
Andy Pettitte 3.84
League Average 3.82

While I’ve been turning over the problems that plague the Yankee starting pitchers in my head, I haven’t yet come to a conclusion. However, something on Fangraphs has attracted my attention. R.J. Anderson examined how a few young pitchers are suffering from a put-away problem. Chamberlain along with Clayton Kershaw and David Price, three highly-touted pitchers, are not doing a very good job finishing hitters off.

Anderson doesn’t really have a real explanation for it. Price, he says, is struggling in terms of pitch efficiency because hitters aren’t chasing pitches out of the zone. Based on the percentages, Joba is having the opposite problem. With just 43.9 percent of his pitches in the zone, he’s not getting nearly enough straight-up strikes and is generally throwing too many pitches out of the zone.

But Joba is not the only Yankee pitching having problems. A.J. Burnett, sneaking up the list at 3.90 pitches per plate appearances, has suffered through efficiency problems all season. So far, he’s gone to three balls on 75 of the 351 batters he faced. That rate — 21.4 percent — is nearly double Roy Halladay’s three-ball percentage of 11.1. The extra pitches add up. Joba’s rate, by the way, is a whopping 26.4 percent. That’s way too many three-ball counts.

Right now, all we have are a bunch of numbers without much of an explanation. In The Times today, Tyler Kepner points his finger at Jorge Posada. Relying on the shaky catcher’s ERA stat, Kepner wonders whether Posada is partly to blame for the pitchers’ struggles. So far this season, Jorge’s ERA is 6.31 — 5.47 without Chien-Ming Wang — while the Yanks’ other catchers are at 3.81. Considering Jorge’s track record of at least a team average CERA, I’m skeptical of a one-year difference.

In the end, we’re left with data and evidence pointing at no obvious conclusion. The Yankees’ pitchers need to be more effective and economic with their pitches. They have to go deeper into games. They have to avoid putting on too many base runners, and they have to wean the team off its reliance on a bullpen that, while better of late, still doesn’t inspire much confidence. Whether the cause be youth, a less-than-stellar defensive catcher, or the coaching staff, it matters little. Right now, the Yankees have to make a strong push to solidify their playoff status. That will begin and end with better starting pitching.

Categories : Pitching


  1. jim p says:

    Like the dog that didn’t bark, the absence of pitchers over the years saying “Jorge calls a great game” might be saying something.

    Yeah, after a game where the pitcher was completely dominant, they’ll say “Jorge called a great game” but you don’t ever hear that as a generalization about him from anyone. At least not that I recall.

    This absence of strikes is very noticeable, to my mind, with Andy Pettitte when he’s got 2 strikes. Guaranteed if there’s less than 3 balls the next pitch will be low toward the left hand batters box, and nowhere near the zone. If he’s ahead 0-2, two of the next pitches will be there with one up and in, also out of the zone. Every batter.

    But they all seem to never just throw a half-dozen strike-zone strikes in a row, excepting CC.

  2. We have two possibilities in my mind as to why the Yankees are throwing more pitches than league average. One is that we simply have a strike out staff as opposed to a pitch to contact staff. Striking out a hitter takes a couple more pitches.

    Eiland blamed the stadium the other day. He said the Yankee pitchers are afraid to throw strikes because they are afraid to pitch to contact. If thats true it just shows how important it is that the stadium get fixed in the off season.

    • Jamie says:

      I was going to say the exact same thing Ed; I think this def needs to be taken into account. Anyway to break those numbers down between home and road splits? If there is a big difference then we might be on to something..

  3. Bobtaco says:

    There is also the correlation that Javy Vazquez, Jose Contreras, Randy Johnson, and others were much less effective pitching to Posada.

    Of course there are other factors as well, but it seems that it is possible that Jorge is not the best at calling games, or maximizing his pitchers talents.

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      And I’m sure there were plenty that were more effective pitching to Posada. The meager stats we do have do not really support this idea.

      • ChrisS says:

        SG at RLYW had a pretty detailed summary that there is a significant difference between Jorge behind the plate and a replacement. It’s a good post.

        But it is terrifyingly difficult to quantify and pin the blame on Jorge. I think it’s a combination of factors and really something that’s part of the pitching staff.

      • JP says:

        Apparently when this issue is studied league-wide, it’s very common for the backup catcher to have a better ERA than the starting catcher. It may have to do with the choice of situations in which a team goes to its backup catcher.

        Still, I think Jorge is a problem.

        No, we can’t quantify it, so it’s probably best to simply disregard the stats and use our intuition and common sense. Through the years, I’ve seen many more pitchers who don’t seem to like working with him than those who do. It’s well established that he has a difficult, abrasive personality. Apparently he gets very upset when Girardi puts another catcher in there, even though he should be able to see that Cervelli is a better receiver and has a better arm than he does.

        Every pitcher and every situation is different, but the catcher’s job is to help the pitcher be the best he can be. Sometimes this might mean encouraging the pitcher to throw the pitch he wants, even if the catcher disagrees. There are, I’m sure, ways of making a pitcher come around to your way of thinking other than standing up, taking your catchers mask off, gesturing, and yelling. In front of 40,000 people.

        Posada is a very good hitter, and a huge part of the Yankees’ success in the last 10 years. But he’s also a jerk, and I don’t think he helps the pitching staff.

        • Apparently when this issue is studied league-wide, it’s very common for the backup catcher to have a better ERA than the starting catcher. It may have to do with the choice of situations in which a team goes to its backup catcher.

          Having done absolutely no research to verify this stab in the dark, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that most teams pair up their backup catcher with their ace pitcher, either by intentional design or by unintentional habit.

          That would do it for you. “Oh, CC’s on the hill, he’s gonna shut the other guys down, we can afford to give our good hitting starting catcher a breather today and put in the scrub kid backup.”

          • “Having done absolutely no research to verify this stab in the dark, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that most teams pair up their backup catcher with their ace pitcher, either by intentional design or by unintentional habit.”

            And add quality of opponent to this discussion. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that most teams are more likely to play their backup catcher when they are playing against a relatively inferior opponent (the thinking being that they can afford to sit their starting catcher for a night against a bad team and give him some rest).

    • BigBlueAL says:

      As much as they argued, I remember El Dugue pitched much better with Posada as his C than anyone else.

  4. John says:

    On the Jorge thing, I recently read an article suggesting Cervelli become full-time starter (DUMB!) and I’ll quote some stats:

    “Opposing hitters are hitting .255 off of Yankee pitchers when Cervelli catches: They are hitting .285 off of the pitchers when Posada catches. When Cervelli catches, pitchers have a 2.26 SO/BB ratio; for Posada it’s 1.42. Opposing batters have an OPS of .755 when Cervelli catches; .841 when Posada catches.

    Burnett has pitched 13 games in a Yankee uniform so far; In the4 games Burnett pitched to Jose Molina, opposing hitters hit .211; the 1 game Kevin Cash caught, it was .245; in the one game Cervelli caught, it was .174; and in the 4 games Jorge Posada caught, hitters hit a whopping .330 off of Burnett.”

    Ehh I’m still not entirely convinced,

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      These samples are so ridiculously small that they are basically meaningless.

      • John says:

        Exactly. JoPo caugth them when they were cold and he was hurt when we were hot. Though it could be that he is really bad (I doubt it) or it might just be a coincidence.

      • JP says:

        It’s hard to make alot of them, but you can’t prove they are meaningless any more than you can prove they are significant.

        These numbers shouldn’t be the basis for a decision, but they should be making the team ask questions and look into things more closely.

    • John says:

      The dumbest quote from that article:

      “And right now—who knows about September?—right now, you’re not missing much when Cervelli is in there. Posada definitely has the power advantage over Cervelli, but Cervelli is batting .298 to Posada’s .288, which is not bad. And frankly, the Yankees don’t need the home runs right now—they lead the league with 102 home runs….by 10.”

      They forgot JoPo OBP/OPS: .372/.940….Frankie: .310/.644

      • The Artist says:

        I’m not going to quote CERA (because I think its a bad stat) but if a catcher-pitcher combo produces one less run on average, then .100 of OPS is puny by comparison.

        100 basis points of OPS is one extra base every 10 ABs, or roughly 2 games. You NEVER value one players hitting over the pitcher, never. And when you’re talking about the differential between two reasonably productive players its not even worth discussing.

        • V says:

          1) Posada doesn’t cause pitchers to give up an extra run per game. I know you weren’t arguing he does, but just wanted to set that aside.

          2) A .644 OPS isn’t reasonably productive. It’s a black hole in the lineup.

          3) Posada isn’t a ‘good’ hitter. He’s a great hitter.

          In 2007, led all ML catchers with a 71.3 VORP. He had a .969 OPS in 589 PAs.

          Cervelli is .298/.310/.644. The most comparable player in 2007 I can find is Mike Rabelo – .256/.300/.357. Slight negative VORP.

          So, obviously this is a loose translation, but if Posada is, offensively, 71.3 runs better offensively, he’d have to be pretty damn bad as a catcher to make Cervelli the better option. Assuming he plays on a 140 game pace, he’d have to be proven to be half a run per game worse to make Cervelli the better option.

          • The Artist says:

            I need to have my eyes checked. I thought that was .844 for Cervelli. This is what happens when I post stuff before 8 am.

            In any case, I still cater to the #1 and #2 pitchers on my staff, because they’re too important not to. Cervelli catching twice a week (as opposed to once) isn’t that big a deal and the extra rest will do the 37 year old Posada some good. I start Cervelli/Molina on the days when those guys pitch and DH Posada if it makes them happy.

            Its hard enough to get hitters out when all you have to worry about is the hitter, I can’t have them dealing with extra stuff out there as well. We all know some pitchers don’t like working with Jorge.

          • JP says:

            Oy…bean counters.

            Nobody is disputing how good Posada’s bat is. Baseball isn’t played on calculators; you have to make decisions for many different reasons.

            It might not always be the best decision to field your best offensive team every day.

            If Posada is hurting the pitching, you have to factor this into your decisions. He’s also 37-38, with a bad arm, and questionable defensive skills, apart from any issues of pitch calling. It’s perfectly reasonable to rest him or DH him and let another catch catch a significant number of games.

            I can almost guarantee this is what would be happening if Jorge weren’t a bull-headed guy who refused to accept that he isn’t the greatest defensive catcher. Lots of guys with a different personality or a smaller ego would probably be happy to DH and let a youngster handle the catching. At least some of the time.

            I’m not talking about playing Cervelli or Molina every day. But I don’t think it would hurt the team at all – and it might help them – to have Jorge catch no more than 80-90 games per year.

            We need his bat, which means we need his legs and his shoulder to be health well into September and October.

      • JP says:

        Sometimes I think people get too caught up in OPS and similar stats. Yes, OPS is extremely important. The statement you quoted is idiotic in that it tries to equate Cervelli with Posada offensively.

        But the other point is a good one. You don’t need every player to be an offensive force. The Yankees score enough runs. If, in fact, the pitchers do much better with Cervelli, I would much rather have him in there than Posada’s bat.

  5. Drew says:

    Jober is a tough nut to crack. Eiland needs to earn his money and figure out why Joba’s FB averages 94 in one start and 90 in the next When Joba gets his velocity up he usually attacks the zone, leaving the batter confused as to whether they’ll get the cheddar or the slide piece/hammer/change. Thus, whether it is the second or 5th pitch of the AB, Joba just needs to get his control (also velocity) in order and the pitches/AB number will drop.

  6. Ed says:

    Total guess here, but, how do the home/road splits compare?

    Pettitte commented earlier in the season about how if you leave a pitch too far over the plate, it’s very likely to be a home run in the new stadium. Maybe the pitchers are aware of that and are nibbling at the corners more so that their mistakes are balls rather than being right over the plate.

  7. NaOH says:

    “Opposing hitters are hitting .255 off of Yankee pitchers when Cervelli catches: They are hitting .285 off of the pitchers when Posada catches.”

    The piece John cited is here. It’s not well reasoned and the above quote is deceptive. That difference in BA is equal to 1 hit per game over the course of a season.

    I stand by what I said the other day when Ben first broached this subject: WHIP it good.

    • John says:

      Yea, that was a horrible article with a horrible atgument which was not accurately explained.

    • BigBlueAL says:

      Good stuff. It really just has to do with the walk rate (except for Mo), especially with the D at least this season being in the middle of the pack in Defensive Efficiency compared to being in the bottom few the past few seasons.

      Love the K rate and improved team D, now if only they could throw some freaking strikes….

  8. Tom says:

    Opposing team hitters are batting .330 when Burnett’s pitching and Posada is catching. Unless Jorge averages 2 home runs a game and is batting .500 for the rest of the season I say let him and Matsui split DH and leave catching to Cervelli. Even Cone didn’t want Posada to catch for him in the 1990′s for crying out loud. Posada simply can’t call a game. He’s way too predictable and he’s not as good defensively as Cervelli.

    • Spaceman.Spiff says:

      .330 when Burnett is pitching and Posada is catching screams SSS. And for every Cone, there were plenty of pitchers who were fine with Posada calling the game for them. You can’t possibly want Posada and Matsui to split at-bats and Cervelli starting everyday at catcher. You would forfeit any possible defensive advantage by losing all that offense.

  9. jerkface says:

    You guys should check the yankees team pitching splits, and then look at the individual batters.

    The yankees are 44% worse than league average on 0-2 pitches. 144 sOPS+ against. They are bad on 1-2 as well. I don’t know if its the pitches that they are calling, or execution on the pitchers, but yankees pitchers have real trouble putting guys away even in favorable counts.

  10. Will says:

    The issue of whether Yankee Stadium is impacting the pitching staff is interesting, but it really is something that this coaching staff needs to address strongly. If Eiland really believes his pitchers are being tentative, then he needs to address it with them instead of musing about it in the media. Otherwise, it reads an excuse.

    In fact, I think it is an excuse. Looking at the offense, while it seems as if the new place is inflating HR totals, runs were pretty much neutral (until this Sunday at least). What’s more, if you really drill down into some of the splits, the YSIII impact rings hollow.

    Take AJ Burnett, for example. His ERA is actually 1.2 runs better at home. I don’t think anyone would suggest AJ is benefitting from YSIII, so why are the other pitcher’s suffering? If you drill into AJ’s numbers, you see his peripherals are nearly the same, meaning the variance is likely the result of small sample size. For the record, at home, AJ is walking 4.5/9inn; giving up a HR every 28.6PAs; striking out 8.8/9inn; and yielding an OPS against of .775. Meanwhile, on the road, he is walking 4.7/9inn; giving up a HR every 30.2PAs; striking out 7.5/9inn; and yielding an OPS against of .785.

    The irony with Pettitte is that while his splits are drastic, he is actually walking fewer batters at home. His problem at YSIII has definitely been the HR ball, but he also has a BABIP of .360. Perhaps a little bit of bad luck has come into play?

    Joba is the most interesting case because his ERA is double at home what it is on the road even though his OPS against is 60 points lower at home. Finally, C.C.’s peripheral splits are very similar, but there is a modest divergence in ERA.

    I don’t see how anyone could reach the conclusion that the Yankees pitchers are being hurt by the new ballpark. Even that “telling” stat about the Yankees BB ranking relative to split seems to be misleading (ranking are always misleading because teams can often be one or two games from jumping up or down significantly). As of today, the Yankees walk 4.1 at home and 3.9 on the road. That’s a difference of about 19 walks over the course of the season.

    Instead of blaming the Stadium or Jorge, I think Eiland and the pitching staff need to stop making excuses and simply work on being more efficient and aggressive in the strike zone. If Eiland can’t get through to them, then maybe someone else can.

    • The Artist says:

      Burnett has two horrendous outing in Boston. That’s the difference right there.

      Small sample size.

    • ChrisS says:

      If Eiland really believes his pitchers are being tentative, then he needs to address it with them instead of musing about it in the media.

      So you were in the team meetings? Anything else come up (or not come up)?

      • Bo says:

        No one makes more excuses than Eiland. If George were still alive he’d be out of amjob by now.

      • Will says:

        What does being in the meeting have to do with anything? He is has addressed it great…if he hasn’t, he should. Talking about it in the media does nothing to address the issue, but if you are going to bring it up as a talking point, why not discuss the steps being taken to correct the problem?

        • ChrisS says:

          The point is that unless you’re in the meetings, or working with Eiland and the coaching staff, you don’t know what he is or is not discussing with the pitchers. Anonymous posters making shit up on a message board doesn’t count on Eiland’s resume.

          My apologies to people that Eiland doesn’t film his coaching sessions with pitchers and post them to youtube for discussion with the general public. What he does do is answer a few questions from the beat writers about what the coaching staff and pitchers are working on.

          • Will says:

            In that case, stop all discussion now because we don’t know really “know” anything. Shut down all the blogs now…until sports team provide around the clock access to their staffs, I guess there is no reason to question anything.

            As pitching coach, Dave Eiland is accountable for his staff. If he thinks they are spooked by the ballpark, then he needs to fix that problem. All the talk in the world is meaningless.

            • Can a team change their ballpark midseason? I assumed this was something that needed to be adjusted in the offseason.

              • Will says:

                Considering the team’s road ERA of 4.56 and BB/9 rate of 3.9 are well below expectations, I don’t think all of the problems stem from the ballpark. Besides, Eiland’s point was his pitchers were tentative because of the ballpark. Unless he thinks they are using the right approach, then he can absolutely address the problem without altering the ballpark.

              • JP says:

                No. Against MLB rules.

            • ChrisS says:

              You’re still missing the point.

              You’re chastising Eiland for not coaching his players and speaking to the media about things instead when you don’t know that he’s not coaching his players.

              If Eiland really believes his pitchers are being tentative, then he needs to address it with them instead of musing about it in the media.

              How do you know he’s not addressing his players and musing about it in the media? You don’t. You’re just making shit up about Eiland and the coaching staff.

  11. Hobbes says:

    Too many pitches for seven innings and 0 runs? I’ll take that any day.

    But teh STATZ!!!11!!11!!!!

  12. Chip says:

    It’s all about throwing strike numero uno

    Anybody have handy the Yankee’s first strike percentage? If they’re worried about giving up a first pitch homerun, they’re not very intelligent pitchers. You’re going to give up a lot more homeruns from being behind in the count than you are by throwing pitches in the zone for the first strike

  13. Pasqua says:

    I wonder if the fact that Wang is actually “better than the league” in terms of pitches-per-at-bat has anything to do with the fact that so many pitches in his first three starts were meatballs that were getting pounded. In other words, was he so out of whack that that mistakes were getting hit early and often, keeping his avg. relatively low?

    • Chip says:

      In years past hitters swung at the first pitch knowing it was going to be a sinker low and still couldn’t touch it. I’d love to see the “heat chart” of Wang’s sinkers from 2007 to show just how he could dominate the bottom 2 inches of the strikezone. If you can get a flat sinker from Wang, it’s an easy pitch to hit

    • Wang’s not on the list for exactly that reason. His season doesn’t help us analyze anything really. From a statistical standpoint right now, it’s just noise.

  14. Jeremy says:

    I think there’s a good reason why we haven’t seen an advanced stat that incorporates game calling into a catcher’s overall value to his team: It’s just too subjective a quality.

    If Jorge calls a pitch, the pitcher misses his spot, and the batter gets on base, did Jorge call the wrong pitch? Maybe he did (the pitcher might have been struggling to throw that pitch all day), maybe it was purely the pitcher’s fault, or maybe a fielder failed to make a play. Maybe Jorge called the right pitch to begin with and the pitcher shook him off.

    If Jorge catches for a pitcher 80% of the time, and that pitcher performs much better when pitching to a backup the other 20% of the time, is the backup calling a better game or is Jorge the victim of a skewed sample?

    Bottom line: Either pitchers feel comfortable pitching to Jorge or they don’t. If they don’t, Jorge needs to figure out how to better communicate with his staff. If they are comfortable, Jorge is doing his job and it’s the pitchers who have to step up.

  15. Jeff says:

    when you get lit up you dont throw many pitches per batter…just a thought

  16. Bo says:

    Posada has been so bad at calling games that the only season he wasn’t playing they didn’t make the playoffs.

    Blaming him for some crappy pitchers inability to throw strikes isn’t real fair. Johnny Bench couldn’t right Wang and help anyone in that pen throw strikes.

    • YankeeScribe says:

      Posada is OK at calling games but it’s very telling that the list of pitchers who don’t like throwing to him is so long. Maybe the reason AJ Burnett had so many nice things to say about Cervelli after Sunday’s game is the fact that his ERA is almost 4 pts lower when Posada doesn’t catch him.

      • MattG says:

        I don’t think its the pitch selection they object to, I think its more the way he frames pitches. Or–more accurately–doesn’t frame pitches.

        • YankeeScribe says:

          That may be true as well. I’m sure it’s a combination of factors this year including the new stadium. This debate over Posada has been all the rage all over the NY media and internet blogs over the past few weeks. I’d like to see Posada DH more often but I hope our pitchers don’t lose confidence in him as a catcher. Even catching less games he can still be an asset to the young pitchers and young catchers like Cervelli and Cash…

  17. ChrisS says:

    So we know that the Yankee pitchers throw lots of pitches. Is there any correlation to this and successful pitchers or unsuccessful pitchers?

    • I did P/TBF for a few guys and here’s what I came up with:

      Greinke: 3.82
      Verlander: 4.08
      Lincecum: 3.83333
      Lowe: 3.84 (wanted a non K pitcher in there)
      Lee: 3.60 (another non-K guy)
      Haren: 3.81
      Webb (’08): 3.56

      • ChrisS says:

        Yeah, I found similar numbers. I’d wager that there isn’t a significant correlation between guys that are dominant and throw low pitches/PA.

        Also, somewhat to my surprise, I heard a smart description of the pitcher’s job from Steve Phillips last night (paraphrasing somewhat): a pitcher tries to force the batter to make a hasty decision. So, pitches ten inches off the plate = easy decision and pitches in the zone = easy decision.

        Of course, two batters before they were talking about not understanding why the Yankees haven’t put Joba in the ‘pen since their bullpen is in rough shape.

  18. MattG says:

    Try this: look at percentage of strikes on the first pitch of an at bat. I bet it’s relatively low.

    I would look at it myself if I knew where.

  19. MattG says:

    Anybody ever call the game along with Posada? I have no issue with his pitch selection.

    But Posada does, and always has, box the ball. The next time Posada catches a ball with his palm will be his first. Over the course of a game, I’m going to say he loses 4 strikes for his pitcher with his pre-Parkinsons style.

    If I were a pitcher, this would make me pissed. But I still want his bat in the lineup.

  20. Will says:

    The Jorge excuse is a perennial that seems to pop up when convenient. Of course, the notion that Jorge is a drag on ERA doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Going back a bit, in 2000, Posada had a CERA of 4.67, compared to the team ERA of 4.76 (Turner had a CERA of 5.13). In 2001, Posada had a CERA of 3.77, compared to the team ERA of 4.02 (Greene had a CERA of 4.83 and Oliver’s was 5.03). In 2002, Posada had a CERA of 3.78, compared to the team ERA of 3.87 (Widger had a CERA of 4.58 and Castillo’s was 3.93).

    From 2003-2005, the Yankees had a stable duo in Flaherty and Posada, so maybe we can find a trend in that range?

    In 2003, Posada had a CERA of 4.12, compared to the team ERA of 4.02 (Flaherty had a CERA of 3.72). In 2004, Posada had a CERA of 4.65, compared to the team ERA of 4.69 (Flaherty had a CERA of 4.93). Posada had a CERA of 4.65, compared to the team ERA of 4.52 (Flaherty had a CERA of 4.12).

    Considering the small sample for Flaherty (about 25% of the playing time), I think it’s pretty easy to see these outcomes as random. One year, Flaherty had a lower ERA, the next Posada and the third Flaherty again.

    More recently, in 2006, Posada had a CERA of 4.36, compared to the team ERA of 4.41 (Fasano had a CERA of 4.78 and Stinnett’s was 4.38). Finally, in 2007, Posada had a CERA of 4.49, compared to the team ERA of 4.49 (Nieves had a CERA of 4.37 and Molina’s was 4.62). In limited time, Posada’s CERA was 4.61, compared to the team at 4.28, Molina at 3.71, Pudge at 5.59 and Moeller at 4.20.

    I am sorry, but unless Posada all of sudden forgot how to call a game, using him as an excuse for this staff’s struggles is ridiculous. If we are going to blame Posada because Joba couldn’t pump fastballs past Martinez, Cora, Castillo and Schneider, we might as well just dispense with the charade and just blame that on Arod.

    • JP says:

      When CERA is cited as evidence against Posada, people scream small sample size and that CERA is a worthless statistic. So your thorough investigation of CERA above, to me anyway, isn’t really strong evidence of anything.

      I don’t know how to measure the degree of the problem – it may be miniscule – but I think Jorge is a problem, and I do think the pitchers tend to do better with other catchers. It’s a personality thing. You see it and hear about it in many ways, that Jorge is “abrasive,” etc.

      I think there are many reasons for using Cervelli more. First, Jorge IS an extremely valuable offensive player, and he needs to be kept healthy. He should be DH-ing more. He’s 38 years old, has a weak throwing arm, and balky hamstrings. Using a young catcher with a gun for an arm is a good idea.

      No reason Jorge can’t catch half of the games, splitting with the Molina and Cervelli. He can split DH duties with Matsui. Both Matsui and Posada need lots of rest. The Yankees have tons of offense; they don’t need to worry about resting important bats like Jorge and Matsui.

      Even if there weren’t any question about Jorge’s defense, it would still be a good idea to use the backup catchers half the time.

      • Taking Posada out of the lineup makes the Yankees’ offense much worse.

        • YankeeScribe says:

          He still contributes to the offense as a designated hitter

          • Which is obviously true, but his contribution is less as a DH than it is as a catcher.

            • No, it’s not.

              The opportunity cost of his bat at DH may be smaller than the opportunity cost at C, but his contribution is not “less” as a DH than it is at catcher. In fact, his contribution is likely larger at DH since his bat will need to be taken out of the lineup less frequently.

              • Would you prefer it if I said “less valuable” compared to the league?

                I see your point, though, and next year will be the time to make that move. In 2010, Jorge should be the full time DH with someone and Frankie playing catcher.

                • Yeah, it’s just a wording issue, I think. He may contribute more, offensively, as a DH, but that contribution would likely have less value relative to other DHs than his offensive contributions as a catcher would have relative to other catchers.

                • JP says:

                  Jorge, while under contract, will never accept a full time DH role.

                • Jorge, while under contract, will never accept a full time DH role.

                  If Jorge, while under contract, refuses to accept a fulltime DH role, I’m fairly sure he’d be committing insubordination, and we’d win that grievance case.

                  Jorge, while under contract, plays where he gets told to play.

                • Yeah, it’s just a wording issue, I think. He may contribute more, offensively, as a DH, but that contribution would likely have less value relative to other DHs than his offensive contributions as a catcher would have relative to other catchers.

                  But even that is overstated. I can’t remember who on here was making this comment recently, but we tend to imagine DH’s as these amazing world-champion-style future HoF hitters who hit like Lou Gehrigs, and it’s just not the case. Real, actual DH’s are good hitters, but not amazingly good hitters. There’s only a small handful of DH’s that actually put up plus .400 wOBA’s each year.

                  Jorge Posada, wOBA, with where he would have been ranked as a DH:
                  2003 – .394 4th League Leader: Frank Thomas, .404
                  2004 – .381 4th League Leader: Travis Hafner, .417
                  2005 – .341 8th League Leader: Travis Hafner, 422
                  2006 – .374 5th League Leader: Travis Hafner, .449
                  2007 – .417 2nd League Leader: David Ortiz, .448
                  2008 – .340 7th League Leader: Milton Bradley, .423
                  2009 – .398 2nd League Leader: Jim Thome, .402

                  I’d say that Jorge Posada as a fulltime DH in 2010 would be league average AT WORST. Jorge Posada being one of the top three DH’s is a very reasonable expectation. Moreover, he’s under contract at reasonable DH rates (13M) for the next two years, and represents a better, shorter investment than leaving him at catcher and adding some other longer contract to be the DH (unless it’s Manny Ramirez, who is always a statistical outlier.)

                  The cost to add a different DH bat so we can leave Posada behind the plate is probably way higher than the cost of getting a new stopgap catcher and moving Posada to DH.

                • JP says:

                  “If Jorge, while under contract, refuses to accept a fulltime DH role, I’m fairly sure he’d be committing insubordination, and we’d win that grievance case.”

                  Why, then, every time someone mentions Jeter moving to the OF, everyone yells “that’ll never happen until he is up for a new contract.” Jorgie doesn’t have the same clubhouse clout as Jeter? Or is Jeter’s contract written as, specifically, “SS?”

                • Because Derek Jeter is the exception to every rule.

                • “The cost to add a different DH bat so we can leave Posada behind the plate is probably way higher than the cost of getting a new stopgap catcher and moving Posada to DH.”

                  Good point about DHs in general, I guess they get overrated. I don’t disagree with your take, really, but I think there might be more to this conversation than you allow for in the quote above.

                  I think this is an issue to be dealt with later (during the offseason when the Yankees see who is available, for what price). The cost to add a top DH bat, like a Manny, would be high, sure. But the Yankees don’t have to go out and sign a DH like that, they could just fill their positional needs and then use the DH spot as an open slot in the lineup to rotate some of their older players through. I think, hypothetically, that’s the most ideal use of the DH slot for a team like the Yankees (who have some key players who are relatively long in the tooth).

                  Also… Sure Jorge’s numbers look just fine compared to other DHs, but that’s only half the equation. How about compared to other catchers, too?

                  Jorge Posada, wOBA, with where he would have been ranked as a DH and as a Catcher:
                  2003 – .394 4th DH, 1st C
                  2004 – .381 4th DH, 1st C (tie w/Pudge)
                  2005 – .341 8th DH, 4th C
                  2006 – .374 5th DH, 2nd C
                  2007 – .417 2nd DH, 1st C
                  2008 – .340 7th DH, 5th C
                  2009 – .398 2nd DH, 2nd C (behind only V. Martinez, who isn’t a full-time catcher)

                  Here’s the kicker, though… Those C rankings are for all of MLB, not just the AL. So, clearly his production is stronger, relative to the others at his position, as a catcher than as a DH.

                  Again, your points are well-taken. I just think it’s not as clear a choice as you implied. Posada, as a catcher, is one of the 2-3 most productive hitters at the position in all of MLB. Depending on who the Yanks wind up targeting in the offseason, it might very well be best for the team to not have Posada as the primary DH in 2010. I do agree, though, that he’ll be in the DH mix.

      • Will says:

        Then you completely missed the point. According to the anti-Jorge crowd, Posada call a bad game, and this fact” is evidenced by Cervelli having a lower CERA. The point of my most was to show the random fluctuations in CERA and illustrate why it isn’t a useful metric for proving Jorge has a negative impact on the pitching staff.

        In spite of the statistics I posted, however, you still seem to think “the pitchers tend to do better with other catchers”. I am not sure how you can say that when there is no evidence to back you up.

        Also, while we are at, where is the evidence of Cervelli having a “gun” for an arm? He has an nice arm, but a gun? Finally, you may think the Yankees have the luxury of swapping in guys who can’t hit for those who perform at a high level, but that seems to me to be a recipe for disaster.

        • YankeeScribe says:

          Stats aside, we know for a fact that certain pitchers don’t like to pitch to Jorge for a combination of reasons. We know for a fact that Burnett hasn’t had good starts with Posada(7.48 ERA vs 3.81 with all other Yankee catchers). We also know that Jorge is 38 years old and not getting any younger.

          It’s not anti-Jorge to say that he should start less games at catcher from now on especially if people are advocating keeping him in the lineup as a DH when he doesn’t start at catcher.

          • Will says:

            Do we know that for a fact? Who are the pitchers who don’t like throwing to him? I haven’t heard anyone pitcher identified. Also, I think the fact that Burnett twice pitched poorly against the Sox at Fenway is more significant than the fact that it was Jorge who caught him.

            Also, it’s fine to advocate moving Posada’s bat to DH, but that doesn’t erase the dramatic off between Matsui’s and Cervelli’s offensive contribution. With the pitching staff giving up nearly 5 runs per game, I don’t want to sacrifice any offense on the dubious claim that these pitchers can’t throw well to Podsada.

            • YankeeScribe says:

              That’s ridiculous. With Posada at DH our offense is good enough to survive without Matsui’s bat and bum knees in the lineup everyday. There are certain positions where you can’t sacrifice defense for offense. Catcher is one of them. I think first base is another postion where you need good D and hated seeing Giambi at first despite the great offensive numbers he produced.

          • YankeeScribe says:

            At 38 there’s also a higher risk of Jorge’s bat being out of the lineup due to injury. Having him DH more often might keep him off the DL…

            • Will says:

              That’s a legitimate concern and it should be taken into account. If Jorge needs rest to preserve his health, by all means do it. Otherwise, he should start as many games behind the plate as he can…in that role he is most valuable to the Yankees.

        • JP says:

          I don’t think you read my post very carefully. I freely admit I have nothing statistical to back up my opinion. But this is because there aren’t any good statistics available which can prove that one catcher handles pitchers better than another. I never said I believed anything about CERA.

          The fact that CERA is a questionable metric means that not only can differences like those cited this season with Jorge v. Cervelli be meaningless, but also that longterm numbers like you cited can potentially be obscuring real, substantial differences in effectiveness of Jorge relative to others. CERA is not useful.

          But just because you don’t have a quantitative way of evaluating a situation, it doesn’t mean you can’t make qualitative judgements and reason things out. It is perfectly reasonable to factor in something like personality and demeanor when making personnel decisions.

          I’m not going to reiterate everything I’ve said in various other posts, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Jorge’s personality and style may be having a negative effect on the pitching staff. That is a perfectly valid reason for sharing the catching duties with another guy. He also needs plenty of rest, as he’s old, and catching is a tough position that leads to injuries. We need him healthy deep into the season, and sitting him and DHing him more will only help that.

    • YankeeScribe says:

      Good job on the stats. However, the backup catchers have gotten a chance to catch more games between last season and this season due to Jorge’s time on the DL so we have better sample sizes to compare. i’m not sure who or what’s to blame for Jorge’s terrible CERA #’s this season but clearly, he’s having problems. He should be catching less games any way at 37 years old…

      • Will says:

        The backups have gotten more innings, but Jorge has gotten less. Also, Jorge has only caught C.C. one time since April 22….when you are dealing with small samples, that fact alone could go a long way toward explaining why his CERA is so high.

  21. Jesus says:

    I dont know what to make out of this catcher era stat. I was under the impression that Posada looks into the dugout for the signs. Or are these specific to runners on base situations?

    • I’ve heard people say this, but the catcher calls the game. There are signs from the dugout, but as far as I know they normally aren’t the pitch type/location.

      • JP says:

        Then what the hell would the signs be? They look into the dugout with none out none on.

      • Jesus says:

        I think that given the sample size you can’t just explicitly state Posada’s CERA vs. the backups. A better stat would be seeing what the comparison is against similar opponents.

        Also Jorge got hurt right before the yankees got hot. I’m pretty sure the yankees only played baltimore, toronto, and minny while he was on the shelf.

        • JP says:

          The most obvious problem with CERA is that it’s the pitcher who is throwing the ball, not the catcher. Variations in pitchers’ effectiveness from game to game probably dwarf any effect the catcher has on things. Even looking at common opponents, etc. is subject to the same confounding by pitchers’ performance.

          So what do you do when you can’t establish the validity or significance of a statistic? You don’t throw it out. You pay attention to it, and you think about it. Then you use your judgement.

          It will not hurt the team significantly if Jorge catches 20-30 fewer games this season. It won’t. It’s a fractional difference in offense, and if you have a hunch that the pitchers might like the change, I don’t see why you don’t do it.

          • It’s a fractional difference in offense.

            The difference between a lineup with Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and one with Francisco Cervelli and Posada is a bit more than “fractional.”

            • But Ben, the whole point of all this discussion is how much the other side of the equation, the defensive side, matters.

              Posada’s offense is a constant, so we’re talking about the offensive plus of Matsui in the lineup vs. Cervelli in the lineup WEIGHED AGAINST the defensive negative of Posada behind the plate vs. Cervelli behind the plate.

              Is the improved defense of Cervelli over Posada worth the offensive hit of Cervelli over Matsui? Probably not. Is the defensive bump big enough to make it close? Yeah, it just might be. It all depends on how much better defensively we really are with a different catcher in there besides Jorge.

              There are statistical patterns that suggest that all three alternatives we’ve seen this year–Cervelli, Cash, and Molina–all seem to correlate with a defense that allows fewer runs, but it’s a small sample size and correlation doesn’t imply causation. But still, it is a correlation and it does raise the valid question.

            • JP says:

              ‘The difference between a lineup with Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and one with Francisco Cervelli and Posada is a bit more than “fractional.”’

              Huh? 1/1000th is a fraction, and so is 1/2.

              Ok…I’ll stop being flip.

              I think we’ve gotten so wrapped up in the sabermetrics that people stop using common sense sometimes. It’s eeeeeeaaaaaasy to say that Posada is great with the bat, and Cervelli is a weak hitter, and offense matters so much more, etc.

              Everyone knows this now. Well most people do. But it’s not APBA baseball, it’s real guys playing on a real field, and there are other factors to consider.

              Yes, 162 games of Posada/Matsui v. 162 games of Posada/Cervelli is a big difference. Lots of runs. Maybe it equates to, what, 4-5 wins, in a season?

              How many games are Posada and Matsui actually going to play? 130? 120? I’m not talking about playing Cervelli regularly. I’m talking about having him share duties with Posada. So, between Cervelli and Molina, we have 60-70 games, instead of 20-30.

              The relevant comparison, then, is Posada/Matsui v. Posada/Cervelli, for 30-40 games. Significantly fewer runs. Maybe 1 win, or 2.

              If you prevent an injury to Posada by doing this, you may make up that 1-2 wins. If you get better performance out of your pitchers in those games, which is what started this whole discussion, you may be better off.

  22. Chip says:

    If I went out there and caught only CC while Posada caught the rest of the staff, I’d probably have a better CERA than Posada does right now. It’s what a statistician would call completely and utterly worthless.

    Is Posada bad at throwing out base-stealers? Obviously. Is he bad at calling games? No way

    Joba said himself after his last outing that he needs to stop thinking so much and just throw the pitch. This is why Posada needs to catch him. Posada can worry about knowing the hitters and such while Joba can just throw the damn ball

    • Chip says:

      I realize some pitchers can get comfortable with a back-up and insist on throwing to them but I think that’s something that has to be earned. Randy Johnson didn’t exactly do great while not pitching to Posada while Mussina was able to pitch well. If CC and AJ like throwing to Cervelli and Molina, let them keep doing it. If Joba or Hughes cry about his game-calling, spank them

  23. [...] 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, [...]

  24. [...] tried to explore the problems with the Yankee pitching staff. Yesterday, we looked at both the starters’ issues with pitchers per plate appearance and Jorge Posada’s impact on the pitching staff. Both provided something to talk about but [...]

  25. Spaceman.Spiff says:

    PES: Performance Enhancing Stadium.

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