What to expect from Jorge Posada in 2010


Catchers tend not to age well. Baseball players typically start to decline physically in their early- to mid-thirties, but for catchers, who spend seven months a year squatting, it can come on earlier and more dramatically. For the past few years, Jorge Posada has defied the typical aging patterns of a catcher. He’s had two of his four best seasons, in terms of OPS, in the past three years, including his best overall two years ago, at age 35. That earned him a four-year, $52.4 million contract in the winter of 2007.

That year in the middle, though, was not good. He spent most of the year on the disabled list with shoulder issues which led to season ending surgery. When he was on the field he wasn’t terrible, hitting .268/.364/.411 in 195 plate appearances, but that’s not the production we’re used to seeing from Posada. At least not over the two years before that. It certainly left his 2009 status up in the air. Reports were that his shoulder would be ready for Spring Training, but there were no guarantees that it would hold up, or that Posada would return to his old form.

Other than a minor injury in May, Posada had a great 2009. His OPS, as mentioned, was the fourth highest of his career. This had a lot to do with power — Jorge’s .522 slugging percentage was well above his carer average of .480. Best of all, his shoulder held up just fine, as he threw out 31 of 80 base stealers, his highest percentage since 2006. But does this recovery signal that Posada will follow it with another good season in 2010?

This brings us back to the part about catchers not aging well. Posada will 39 next August (though it will be his age-38 season). Not many catchers last that long, and it’s not a great bet that Jorge somehow replicates Carlton Fisk’s late-career run. There’s certainly concern that Posada will drop off, perhaps significantly, in 2010. What some of us want to know is, just how likely is a decline from Jorge?

In The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010, Bill James writes about the topic of player performance from year. He wants to know how likely a player is to have a better year than his previous one. This is based on factors like the player’s OPS in the past year vs. his career OPS, his age, batting average on balls in play, and other factors. He explains it all in the article. You can download the PDF here, or just check it out in the embed below.

Not only does James think Posada has a poor change of repeating his 2009 numbers, but he thinks that Posada is the least likely player in the league to replicate his 2009. I’m not here to debate the merits of James’s methodology. I happen to think, though, that Jorge isn’t very likely at all to perform nearly as well as 2009. I don’t base my concern on a rigorous system like Mr. James’s, though his is an interesting study. I do, however, find concern in many of the areas James studies.

First, age is certainly a concern. Jorge is old for an effective baseball player, and very old for a catcher. Age catches up to different players in different ways and at different times. Jorge didn’t move behind the plate until he was already in the minors, so that gives him some advantage, but even still he’s been catching for many, many years now. Maybe the late move helped him stave off the typical catcher aging curve, but that won’t last forever. Next year might not be the year, but eventually it will be. I’m certainly concerned that next year will be it.

Second, much of Jorge’s 2009 production was based on power. His Iso was .238, the highest mark of his career (he was, though, at .237 in 2003), and his 17.9 percent home run to fly ball percentage was his highest in six seasons. Power is a skill that tends to decline with age. It’s highly unlikely that Posada will match his 2009 Iso mark in 2010, because he’s only been that high once before in his career — and also, in case it’s not clear, he’s 38 years old and will turn 39 during next season.

Third, Jorge’s walk to strikeout ratio plummeted in 2009. He walked 48 times to 101 strikeouts, which was his worst ratio since 2001. As James notes, some players have good years while striking out a lot and not walking much, but they tend to decline in subsequent years. Posada also experienced a high BABIP in 2009, .335, which was not quite on the level of his .389 mark in 2007, but still well above any of his seasons since 2002. This is a further concern for Posada, again, because of his age.

No one wants to see Jorge Posada’s production decline. He’s been an important part of the Yankees for over a decade, and to lose his bat at the catcher’s position would be a tough blow for the lineup. I really hope that Jorge has another year in him that he can fight off the normal aging curve for a catcher. Given his age and parts of his performance in 2009, however, I’m not that confident. Baseball’s a funny game, though. Maybe Jorge goes on and OPSs .829 at age 42 like Fisk. It’s more likely, though, that he declines before that. I’m just a little concerned that it will start next year.

The cited Bill James article comes from The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010, which you can buy here. Yeah, it’s a little cheaper on Amazon, but Amazon screws authors. Might as well support the guys who created it.

Photo credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Categories : Analysis


  1. Before you shit on Joe:

    Posada’s not the only one who’s performance will likely decline next season. No one thought he and Jeter and Damon etc were going to have the seasons they did and as the old players age more, you can’t expect them to repeat what they did.

    Granted Damon may or may not be a Yankee next year, but a decline in production from Jeter and posada has to be expected. We hope it doesn’t happen; history tells us otherwise.

  2. TheLastClown says:

    Folks, a toast, to catchers.

    Firstly, to catchers past, to manage aptly.

    Nextly, to catchers present, to decline s l o w l y.

    Ultimately, to one Jesus Montero, to catch durably, or just adequately.


    That sucks.

  4. JGS says:

    As long as he doesn’t have a post-2005 Jason Varitek-style trainwreck, I’ll be happy

  5. pat says:

    IMO I’ll be happy if Posada can catch %65 of our games next year then in 2011 he can split C and DH duties 50/50 with the Jesus. 2012 comes around the Jesus can split C/DH time with Romine. From 2013 on Romine is the everyday catcher and Jesus is BUC and primary DH giving Romine a blow when Jeets or Arod needs to dh for a day or two.


    • That is a super-duper best case scenario. I love it.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Jesus is the answer to all of the Yanks problems.

      I think the Yanks lead the universe in # of deities and will continue to do so. Seriously, who even comes close to matching them? They have Mo, Jeter, A-God, Mark,St.Nick, and soon will have Jesus. No other team has more than 1 I think.

    • JMK aka The Overshare says:

      How bad would our defense behind the plate be in 2011 with Posada and Montero? Could it touch V-Mart, V-Tek of 2009? The batter in the on-deck circle could steal off that tandem!

      • pat says:

        32% CS in Trenton last year. 14/30 shot dead.

        • pat says:

          **14/44, duh.

          • JMK aka The Overshare says:

            My analogy fails because Posada actually did well with gunning down runners, as dd Montero. Though, we often hear how CSs in the minors are more often due to the pitcher than the catcher, but I digress. I was just making a bit of a joke on how often it’s thrown around how bad Posada is as a catcher and how Montero can never make it.

            That said, remember that D is more than CS. Posada did well with base-runners but often had trouble JUST CATCHING THE BALL. Chances are the players in the majors will be much better at stealing bases on a catcher with poor mechanics, footwork and a strong but inaccurate arm and a catcher at 40, one never known for defense.

            Just saying.

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    Someone tell Jorge how to get ripped in 4 weeks so he stay healthy and produce next year.

  7. Moshe Mandel says:

    Hmmm, I don’t know. We likely could have said the same things about Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, and Jeter coming into the year. Sometimes, players are just outliers, as Jeter, RIvera, and Posada already are. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that these studies do not apply to these players, but they have spent the last few years performing at age-defying levels. Is it possible we will see a major decline? Certainly. But I wouldn’t bet on it until I see some more evidence than one year’s worth of K to BB data. If there is a decline, I think it would be modest, something like his 2001 nmbers.

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      Also, I’m pretty sure the CV is to the opposite of “Power is a skill that tends to decline with age.” All skills are supposed to decline with age, but power and batting eye are supposedly last to go, if I remember correctly.

    • JMK aka The Overshare says:

      Also, FWIW, according to Bill James’ statistics, Austin Jackson would put up .294/.356/.411 as the everyday CF.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Posada declined moderately, maybe putting up a .274/.359/.495, but rumors of his demise may be exaggerated. No, he probably isn’t going to put up 2007 (if anything, that appears to be the major outlier), but I agree with you, we’d need to see a bit more evidence to think he’ll decline that suddenly.

    • Rose says:

      The new YSIII certainly could serve as a life vest for some of these guys too…

      Jorge Posada
      Home: .325/.400/.613 (1.013)
      Away: .245/.327/.432 (.760)

      Jeter was consistent both at home and on the road…per usual. Damon was a bit better at home than on the road…and everybody else had some pretty even splits. Posada’s seemed to be the biggest gap.

    • ” I know it sounds ridiculous to say that these studies do not apply to these players, but they have spent the last few years performing at age-defying levels.”

      Aren’t these kind of the famous last words of many teams that have relied on aging players only to see them decline, though? I’m not saying Posada is definitely about to decline drastically, but there’s a reason they call it ‘falling off a cliff’ – because before the fall the guy’s on top and not necessarily showing signs of imminent decline.

  8. The Artist says:

    Third, Jorge’s walk to strikeout ratio plummeted in 2009. He walked 48 times to 101 strikeouts, which was his worst ratio since 2001. As James notes, some players have good years while striking out a lot and not walking much, but they tend to decline in subsequent years.

    Right, which James first discussed in a pretty famous piece on Toby Harrah IIRC. The theory is that a veteran hitter can maintain his production as his bat slows down by cheating a bit, which leads to more SO and less BB. So when you see a spike in tyhe SO/BB rate for an aging player, it’s a red flag.

    But it’s not always the case. Some of his 08 candidates for the “Toby Harrah effect” were Magglio Ordonez and Bobby Abreu. Bobby went on to have a stellar 09 campaign and even increased his Walk rate. Magglio proved the theory correct, seeing his production plummet across the board.

    Players don’t get younger, so you figure that Abreu was banged up in 08 and got healthy in 09. Or he started working harder off the field to stay in shape and Magglio didn’t. But if it’s injury related, that muddies the waters on Posada since Catchers are so likely to be banged up. Also, Posada’s fundamentals as a Catcher aren’t great and make him more prone to injury than most. I don’t think he’s a good bet to stay on the field, and he hasn’t for the past 2 seasons. 100 games started at Catcher in 2010 sounds about right to me, and keep your fingers crossed.

  9. Pete says:

    Heeeeeyyy, you guys just wanted to show off your Google docs plugin, didn’t you?!!

  10. [...] – Pete Caldera cites an inside source who predicts a slow winter for FAs. – Joe P. at RAB ponders Jorge Posada’s offensive production as he ages. – Keith Law (ESPN) offers his Top 50 Free [...]

  11. Rose says:

    This is all the more reason you need to pick up BOTH Damon and Matsui. Insurance. I’m not jumping on the “Jorge’s going to decline” bandwagon just yet…he’s defied some pretty hefty odds already…

    But my question is this…say he does continue to stay productive over his final 2 years on his contract…nothing extraordinary…but somewhere around 2007 and 2009…does he start to get more Hall of Fame consideration then?? What’s it going to take??

    • Shit, this is all the more reason to sign Matsui, Damon, AND Cameron.

      That way we have 4 guys for 3 spots, and can rest all of them to keep them fresh and have solid insurance for an injury or a decline from any one of them.

      • Bo says:

        I’m sure Cashman will do just that. Sign another 10 mill player when he has 3 cheap and controllable young players waiting there to play those spots in Melky Gardner and Jackson.

        And its not like this team didnt win a title with 2 of those guys playing 162 games.

        • And yet, even though we had Gardner on the team and Jackson in the org this past year, we didn’t stand pat with an outfield of Damon-Melky-Nady, we traded for Nick Swisher so that we’d have 4 or 5 quality outfielders, even though it meant that one of Nady or Swisher would end up on the bench.

          2009 Xavier Nady = 2010 Mike Cameron

          • Rose says:

            2009 Xavier Nady = 2010 Mike Cameron

            Let’s hope it’s not EXACTLY like 2009 though…lol

          • “… we traded for Nick Swisher so that we’d have 4 or 5 quality outfielders, even though it meant that one of Nady or Swisher would end up on the bench.”

            To be fair, when Swisher was acquired he wasn’t acquired just to build outfield depth but also to build infield depth (first base). Tex wasn’t around, yet… At that point, it was Damon/Melky/Nady with Swisher at first… Nady and Swisher were both going to be starters at that point.

            • Rose says:

              And we were actually aggressively dangling Swisher out there as trade bait in favor of keeping Nady…thank God we didn’t pull any triggers haha

        • Rose says:

          Bo, assuming that everybody is going to continue playing the same as they did last year is foolish. Jeter, Posada, Matsui, and Damon are all a year older and seemingly in their “declining years.” Now just because they may not have shown signs of doing so yet…doesn’t mean it’s not inevitable. Also, Melky and Gardner had above average seasons for themselves as well…not to mention inconsistency galore. Melky would hit through his shoes for a month and then go into such a slump that his numbers were worse than NL pitchers at the plate on average.

          Assuming that the older guys WON’T decline even a little and the younger mediocre guys will stay above-average another year all at the same time is being narrow-minded.

      • Rose says:


        I couldn’t agree more. This is EXACTLY what we need.

        The AL has an advantage with the DH spot…so let’s abuse the advantage as much as we can. It absolutely makes the most sense.

  12. SM says:

    Besides the injury concern that bothers C’s aging, Posada was likely somewhat less valuable due to defense and sluggishness, two traits surely not likely to increase in production levels. The question to me is does he become a 50% time catcher?

    • Rose says:

      Next year once Matsui and Damon are off of the books, yes.

      If we get Matsui back this year…you can’t catch Posada 50% of the time because then you lose Matsui’s potent bat for a good chunk of the season in favor of Cervelli’s bat. Then you’ll be resting Arod, Jeter, Damon (if he comes back) every now and again as well in the DH spot giving Matsui even LESS at bats for the year…

      I’d say Posada goes down to half catcher-half DH next year. And another DH is picked up who can also play the field IF necessary.

      • Mac says:

        If I am the Yanks, I try and snatch up Figgins. He can play LF. He can also fill in at 3B once and a while to give Alex a break. Sign him to a 3 year deal with an option.

        Then you can still go out and sign either Damon or Matsui. Both of which would DH most of the time. Obviously Damon could also play LF some days and allow Posada to DH more.

        • I’d rather have both Matsui and Damon on one year deals (or a two year deal for Damon) than just one of them with Figgins on a 3.

          None of those players is the long-term answer, so don’t give any of them a long-term deal.

          • Mac says:

            Figgins would only be 34 at the end of a 3 year deal. I don’t think that is a huge risk on a guy who can play a handful of positions, steal bags, and have a solid OBP. Plus if Alex goes down, you have a very solid replacement.

          • SM says:

            Why Matsui at say $10 over someone who is more versatile for much less?

            • Rose says:

              He’s not that versatile that’s why.

              He played LF in 1 game in 2009 and 2B in 2 games. He started at 3B in 154 games.

              In 2008, he played ZERO games in the outfield and 9 games at 2B (105 at 3B)

              In 2007, he played only 11 games in the OF, 9 games at 2B, 99 games at 3B.

              The last time he was “versatile” was in 2006 when he played over 100 games in the OF, 34 games at 3B, 9 games at 2B, and 4 games at SS. That will be essentially 4 years ago.

              • SM says:

                I said Matsui is not versatile so I know why it is so. Why does everyone want him back so bad? As a VERY limited ‘insurance’ option he seems very costly.
                Now if its in the 5M range…

                • Rose says:

                  Because his bat, for the money (1 yr deal around $10mm), is better than all over available DH’s available and most of the other options.

                  You can sign Damon to be the DH and sign a LF I guess but the LF’s are all either expensive both in years and dollars…or significantly worse than Hideki Matsui’s/Johnny Damon’s bat.

                • SM says:

                  I disagree. Maybe his bat is slightly better say .01-.02 woba but is that really worth the $5-$8M overage you need to pay, with a guy who gives you literally Zero flexibility?

                • Maybe his bat is slightly better say .01-.02 woba

                  Matsui, wOBA, 2009 and career – .367, .378
                  Figgins, wOBA, 2009 and career – .339, .358

                  That’s a whole shitload more than a point or two of wOBA.

                  but is that really worth the $5-$8M overage you need to pay, with a guy who gives you literally Zero flexibility?

                  Yes. Hideki Matsui’s bat is totally worth the flexibility limitations that he creates. Hands down.

                • Sorry, those numbers are backwards. The first number is Career, the second number is 2009. My bad.

                  Matsui, wOBA, career and 2009 – .367, .378
                  Figgins, wOBA, career and 2009 – .339, .358

                • SM says:

                  Not sure why you use Figgins since he is going to cost more than Matsui. I think saving money on a cheaper option is money better spent

                  Projected woba (bill james)
                  Matsui .366
                  Branyan .355
                  Giambi .355
                  Tracy .340
                  Giles .344

                • SM says:

                  Would your rather have Thome, older but projects better, than Matsui if cost is equal?

                • I’d have no problem with Thome.

                  The reason I want Matsui is twofold:
                  1) He’s still a good heart of the order DH bat.
                  2) He’ll take a one year deal, so we can keep DH open for Jorge Posada or Jesus Montero for 2011.

                  If you can sub in any other name who will A) be a legit 4-5-6 caliber bat and B) take a one year deal, I’m game.

                  That means yes to Matsui, yes to Thome. No to Branyan (multi-year contract), no to Giambi (decline has already set in), no to Vlad (ditto).

                  I pick Matsui over Thome because even though Matsui’s knees are horrible, I trust him to decline LESS than Thome probably does.

          • Rose says:

            Agreed. Figgins probably will get more than a 3 year deal anyway due to his “versatility” that hasn’t been used in years.

            Damon, Matsui, Cameron, Pettitte, and perhaps a cheap decent bullpen arm. That’s all we need.

      • For 2011, I’d be totally on board with making Jorge not a catcher 50% of the time but instead a catcher 0% of the time.

        Next year, after Matsui’s deal expires, move Jorge to DH permanently and either sign Mauer (pipedream) or hand catcher over to some amalgam of Cervelli/Montero/Romine. If the kids aren’t ready, sign a stopgap for a year to ease them into the role.

        Let’s squeeze one more year out of Jorge and then move him permanently to keep his body and bat fresh for the final year of the deal.

  13. Mike HC says:

    I get the feeling Jorge will be just fine. He was in great shape last year and I doubt he will all of a sudden become “old” in a couple of months.

  14. Bo says:

    Isn’t that why you need to have a DH who can hit and not use it as an open spot???

    To make up for the probable loss in production from catcher.

  15. Rose says:

    As said above:

    Without the new Yankee Stadium’s “surge” this year…Posada seems to have been a typical declining mediocre hitting catcher on the Road. And when looking back, a lot of his home runs were barely home runs (at the Stadium)…including the first controversial replayed home run in the 4th game every played at the Stadium (in which I was present for!)

    I don’t think it’s hard to say that, while the numbers might decline, the new Yankee Stadium (if it continues to be some sort of a bandbox) will help him stay afloat…at least until his contract is up (and ‘knock-on-wood’ if he stays healthy)

  16. A.D. says:

    The benefit Posada could have going into this year is that he’s not coming off of surgery

  17. [...] 38-years-old, Posada’s not getting any better defensively, and chances are his offense will take a hit next season. However, the best team the Yankees can field features him starting behind the dish, even if it [...]

  18. [...] expect right around the same playing time, while Bill James is overly optimistic — though his article on players declining is a bit more pessimistic. In terms of production the systems forecast a 2.5 percent reduction in [...]

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