When A.J. Burnett takes the mound this week, perhaps on Friday in Yankee Stadium but more likely on Sunday in either Detroit or Minneapolis, Jorge Posada will not be behind the plate. Talking to reporters today at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks’ catcher revealed, in a rather terse exchange, that Jose Molina will catch Burnett this week in the ALDS.
During a workout day interview, Posada and the reporters were chatting about the Yanks and their playoff chances when the discussion turned to A.J. Burnett and Jose Molina. “I think Molina’s probably going to catch A.J,” Posada said when the topic was broached. “So that’s it.”
After a minute of awkward silence, questioning shifted away from Molina only to return to this hot topic a few minutes later. “I just hope we win that game. That’s all. That’s all I got to say,” Posada said in a clipped tone. “Not like I didn’t see this coming.”
For the Yankees and Joe Girardi, this is a particularly risky strategy, and already, fans are debating the wisdom of it. On the season, Jose Molina was absolutely awful. In 155 plate appearances, he hit .217/.292/.268. His .560 OPS was third worst among all AL hitters with at least 150 plate appearances. Jorge Posada, meanwhile, hit .285/.363/.522 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI. He was the best hitting catcher in the AL not named Joe Mauer. I don’t need to break out MLVr to show just how more valuable Posada is offensively.
But Girardi is willing to throw that out the window because of A.J. Burnett’s splits by catcher. In 16 games with Posada as Burnett’s catcher, opponents hit .270/.353/.421. In 11 games with a Molina-Burnett battery, opponents hit .221/.307/.352. There is a difference, but there is no way of knowing if Molina is the cause of it. After all, Burnett is the one pitching, and Burnett is the one who has to make his pitches. A.J. has expressed his willingness to work with Posada this year, and he should certainly embrace that when the season has been reduced to a five-game set.
So here we are with a lineup that will either feature no Jorge Posada or no Hideki Matsui. If Girardi is going to insist on sitting Posada for Molina during A.J.’s starts, he shouldn’t further weaken the lineup by benching Matsui. I’d like to think, however, that the Yankee skipper knows this aspect to lineup construction.
As Jorge said, the Yanks better win that game. They have the lineup to overcome this bad decision, but they shouldn’t need to rely on their offense to compensate for a move that reeks of overmanaging. Otherwise, similar to the decisions to avoid bunting against Curt Schilling in 2004, to bat A-Rod 8th in 2006 and and to leave the team on the field while under attack by midges, this one will be second-guessed to no ened.