By the Decade: Yankee catchers


With the baseball portion of the ’00s behind us, it’s time to reflect upon the Yankees by decade. On the whole, it was a very successful decade by the Yanks. The team won two World Series and four AL titles. They finished in first all but two years and bookended the 2000s with thrilling championship runs. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring how the team looked by position, and today we start with the catchers.

J. Posada 1186 4119 1177 274 6 199 774 648 967 55 0 31 128 .286 .387 .500
Jose Molina 173 460 105 26 0 5 38 27 89 7 11 5 16 .228 .273 .317
J. Flaherty 117 355 78 22 0 12 39 14 70 3 9 3 15 .220 .247 .383
F. Cervelli 36 98 28 4 0 1 11 2 14 0 4 1 2 .286 .286 .357
Kelly Stinnett 34 78 18 3 0 1 9 5 29 1 2 0 0 .231 .279 .308
I. Rodriguez 33 92 20 3 0 2 3 4 14 1 0 0 6 .217 .258 .315
Chris Turner 31 87 21 3 0 1 7 9 19 1 2 0 2 .241 .313 .310
Wil Nieves 30 70 10 4 0 0 8 2 11 0 3 0 3 .143 .160 .200
Chad Moeller 28 84 20 5 0 1 9 7 17 4 0 1 2 .238 .323 .333
Sal Fasano 28 48 7 4 0 1 5 2 14 3 3 0 1 .146 .214 .292
Todd Greene 27 91 19 3 0 1 11 3 20 1 0 0 3 .209 .242 .275
Chris Widger 21 64 19 5 0 0 5 2 9 2 0 0 0 .297 .338 .375
A. Castillo 15 37 5 1 1 0 4 1 12 0 3 0 2 .135 .146 .216
Joe Oliver 12 36 9 1 0 1 2 1 12 0 2 1 0 .250 .250 .361
Kevin Cash 10 26 6 2 0 0 3 0 5 1 0 1 1 .231 .250 .308
D. Navarro 5 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333
M. Hernandez 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 .333 .500 .333
B. Estalella 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 .000 .333 .000
Jim Leyritz 2 6 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .667
C. Stewart 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Totals 1797 5767 1546 360 7 226 929 729 1306 80 39 43 183 .268 .354 .450

On the whole, as the above table shows, the 2000s were the decade of Jorge. The borderline Hall of Famer caught two-thirds1 of the Yankees’ games, and he did so with spectacular results. Say what you will about Posada’s current defense, but the man can hit. As a catcher, he put up a .286/.387/.500 and fell just one dinger shy of 200 home runs. The only knock against Jorge are the double plays. He hit into 128 of them over ten years.

After Jorge though, the Yankees see a precipitous drop in backstop production. On the whole, Yankee catchers hit .268/.354/.450, and everyone not named Jorge were pretty bad as a group. Yankee back-up backstops managed just 27 home runs and a combined offensive line of .224/.263/.326 in 1648 at bats.

It’s amazing to look through that list and try to remember some of the names. Chris Stewart made one forgettable appearance for the Yanks when both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina were injured. I do not remember Michel Hernandez’s five games in pinstripes. Wil Nieves was spectacularly awful, and even Ivan Rodriguez was but a shell of his former self in 2008.

For the Yankees, Posada’s success atop this list underscores the importance of having a solid catcher. For two reasons, the team hasn’t been able to find a decent back-up. First, no one wants to play behind someone as good as Jorge. Second, good catchers are very, very hard to find. That’s the driving reason behind my belief that the Yankees shouldn’t move Jesus Montero from behind the plate quite yet, and it’s a driving reason why Baseball America’s Top 10 Yankee prospects list features four catchers. In this day and age, developing a defensively solid catcher who can hit guarantees some modicum of success.

In August of the first year of the decade of the 2010s, Jorge Posada will turn 39. He may stick it out behind the plate, seeing reduced playing time of course, for the next few seasons, but when the next decade ends, he likely won’t be the team’s leader behind the plate. From our vantage point at the end of the decade, we can truly appreciate just how good Posada has been, and when we compare him to everyone else, well, it’s not even close.

Looking at his numbers, I can unequivocally say that Posada is the league’s catcher of the ’00s too. Perhaps Mike Piazza turned in some better offense numbers early on and perhaps Joe Mauer beats him these days. But no one else has sustained this level of play for as long as Jorge did. For the Yankees, behind the plate, it truly has been the decade of Posada.

1 Due to availability of the data and some late-inning replacement situations, the total numbers of games played by position will not add up to the 1620 games the Yankees played from 2000-2009. Numbers are from both Baseball Reference and the Baseball Musings Day-by-Day Database. (Return)

Categories : Analysis


  1. Steve H says:

    We already know who the next decade belongs to.

    /still believes there’s a chance Jesus sticks

  2. Salty Buggah says:

    Holy crap .887 OPS in the 00′s by a catcher? We Yankees fans were spoiled

  3. Steve H says:

    Considering all of the Yankee catching prospects, does anyone think it’s worth it to move Jesus off of catcher even if he had the ability to make it? If one of the other guys works out, I’d consider it. I know Jesus offering a potential MVP caliber bat at catcher is extremely valuable, but if his bat is truly Frank Thomas like, does he have more value playing 155 games a year in say LF, or 130-140 games a year at C? I think it’s likely as the catcher still, but if the replacement catcher is one of these prospects who becomes well above average, I think you consider moving Jesus off due to the rest of your roster.

    • If one of the other prospects is well above average offensively and Jesus is well above average offensively, then you move whichever is the worse defensive catcher. No one knows if that’s going to be Montero or not.

    • A.D. says:

      Worry about that when there is another catching option & Jesus’s bat has reached its potential.

    • pete says:

      i would absolutely do that. It depends on how bats play out though. I think if Jesus’s bat becomes what we believe it will, and one of the other catchers becomes a capable MLB bat and plays solid catcher, I think you take Jesus off C. I know I’m in the minority, but I think getting 155 games a year for 15+ years of elite production from one spot in your lineup beats getting 130-140 games a year of elite production that might not only diminish at the end of each year but also might start to fade in 10 years due to wear and tear.
      A lot of people forget that jorge posada is a freak of nature, and not a feasible comparison. I think part of the reason why he might not stick at catcher is not just defensive ineptitude, but rather the fact that catching can destroy a player, and DHing can preserve a player for a long time. If our system were bereft of catchers, then I would be more in favor of thinking of him as a long term catching solution, but I think he need only be catcher until another of our bevy of catching prospects shows himself ready and capable of catching and hitting at the major league level. The idea of a new piazza is tantalizing for sure, but long-term it might be better to focus on keeping Montero’s bat in the lineup every single day while still keeping him healthy.

  4. Evil Empire says:

    Damn right he’s a borderline HOF catcher. If he manages to swing the bat well for 2 more years you’d think he’ll have enough cred for sure, especially if he gets some more jewelry for his other hand. FWIW, in Neyer’s top 100 of the decade, he says Posada is clearly the top catcher of the aughts and ranks him 15th overall.

    I’d like to think the argument that Posada was the most feared catcher of the decade is arbitrary enough, but with enough truthiness to it, to convince old school voters who are on the fence. He’s definitely the most feared player in the league in terms of who you want to shake hands with.

  5. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Is 128 double plays that bad for a slow-footed catcher? Jeter hit into over 160 in the same time frame.

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    Imagine if Jorge could hit breaking balls better…

  7. ColoYank says:

    Haven’t spent too much effort to rank Jorge in the all-time Yankee catchers, but off the top of my head, it looks like:

    1. Berra
    2. Dickey
    3. Posada
    4. Munson
    5. Howard

    And how about all-time Yankee switch-hitters:

    1. Mantle
    2. Bernie
    3. Posada
    4. Roy White

    I’m always compiling all-time Yankee lists. I like the perspective. Maybe because I’m old.

  8. Johan Iz My Brohan says:

    I assume the ‘total’ at the bottom is actually Montero’s rookie year numbers?

  9. ADam says:

    What a list of bums man, I mean i know Jorge was the man for the decade, so not much chance for anyone else to really play, but I forget some of these guys…

  10. Richard Deegan says:

    For a catcher, Jorge sure hit a lot of doubles (OK, I-Rod is ahead of him).
    The one backup (until Cervelli) I never felt nervous about was John Flaherty. I think he has a good future ahead (MGR or coach) if he ever gets tired of his YES gig.
    In a related area, I recall that at one point in the 50s (’58 or ’59) every AL team but one had a catcher traded from the Yanks’ farm system, including at least two all-stars (Lollar and Triandos). This was then considered the ultimate compliment to Yogi, whom nobody but Time could budge. Anything similar with player movement behind Jorge?

  11. pete says:

    Posada is absolutely a HOFer. People just don’t see it because he has spent his career as a yankee in the shadows of jeter, a-rod, bernie, etc, and as a catcher in the shadows of Piazza then Pudge then Mauer. However, 15 years of 124 OPS+ from a catcher who led pitching staffs to 5 (and counting) WS championships and playoffs in all but one of his seasons is crazy. He still ranks as one of the best hitting catchers ever

    • vin says:

      For what it’s worth…

      Prime 9 had the top catchers of all time… Posada didn’t make the list.

      Off the top of my head, the guys on the list were:
      Gabby Hartnett
      Fisk (i think)

      Don’t recall who else made it.

      • Keanu Reeves says:

        Well I-Rod isn’t on that list either (unless you forgot him), so it sounds like the list is only retired players.

    • dalelama says:

      Not to rain on Jorge’s parade but in the name of objectivity it needs to be noted that he is also the worse base runner of the 00′s. Nobody has made more bone headed base running decisions that Jorge. Just ask Robinson Cano.

      • Evil Empire says:

        Thanks for supporting your claim with one single recent memory. I guess you say that Jorge is the worst base runner of the 00′s because you’ve seen it with your own eyes?

        Its not like catchers are particularly known for their base running abilities. Now getting on base in the first place, that’s what Jorge is good at.

        • dalelama says:

          I am assumed everybody on this board watches Yankee games so the statement did not need documentation. It is also the type of weakness that doesn’t come out in statistics.

          • You’re absolutely right. It’s also the type of weakness that’s rather benign and negligible.

          • No. Any time you make a grand statement, like someone is the worst of something, we need some kind of evidence. Your memory is not valid. The human memory is not a reliable source of information.

            • dalelama says:

              Whatever…anyone who has watched a significant quantity of Yankee games and understands baseball knows what I am referring to.

              • No one’s saying that Jorge’s a good baserunner. But to say he’s the worst with no evidence. Weak. Even weaker is the “anyone who understands baseball knows what I’m saying” argument.

                You made a statement. You have no evidence to back it up. I don’t find that acceptable, nor do the majority of people here. That kind of argument might work on some people, but not people who make arguments with veracity.

                • dalelama says:

                  Everybody can make up their own mind based on what they have observed. I have stated my opinion that Jorge Posada is the worse base runner of this decade and stand by it. Base running judgment is like class it can’t be quantified but a lack of it is evident. I am confident astute observers of baseball will agree with me.

                • Baserunning can and has been quantified. And yeah, it has Jorge as bad. The worst on the 09 Yanks. But that doens’t mean he was the worst of the decade.

                  Also: “Everybody can make up their own mind based on what they have observed.” That does not, however, mean you are correct.

        • Keanu Reeves says:

          There was the ball he hit in the gap this year in the World Series that he then tried to stretch into a double. That was really awful haha.

          Though I maintain that he simply knew his RBI had given Mo a sufficient enough lead and decided to forfeit the out so we could get to bed a little sooner.

      • Salty Buggah says:

        Yea, but that really shouldn’t be factored (or at least should not play a significant part) into his HOF consideration.

  12. Evil Empire says:

    Speaking of best of the decade:

    Crasnick says Mo is the Cy Young of the aughts.

    As much as I want him to be, I think I have to respectfully disagree.
    Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, Mike Mussina (even with only 9 years put in), and Randy Johnson, off of the top of my head, were more valuable. I’m sure there are many others.

    Mo is great for a narrative, and his post season numbers need to count for something – they’re amazing and substantial – but I just can’t say the best pitcher of the past 10 years was a closer. I just can’t. I can only imagine WAR and other stats support my claim (at work, don’t have the time to check for sure)

    • Rose says:

      Damn, beat me to it lol

    • Mo is the greatest closer. Greatest closer of any given year, greatest closer of each decade he pitched in, greatest closer of all time.

      That’s a great honor.

      Many people want him to be more than that. Those people have their heart in the right place. They’re all wrong. All of them. Every single time.

      You know who Mariano Rivera is? He’s Jan Stenerud. The greatest kicker ever. An amazing player. Surefire, first ballot Hall of Famer. But not one of the very, very best players ever. Just the very best player at the small specialized role that he is tasked with doing.

      • Rose says:

        Meh. I think being a closer is a little more respectable than being a kicker…

        Especially being a closer of Mariano’s capacity…for as long as he’s been doing it.

        • That’s because we’ve created years and years of narrative lionizing closers so that they’re now praised and valued more than their actual worth is, and we’ve done the exact opposite for kickers, marginalized and marginalized them with narratives where they’re disrespected.

          But, they’re quite similar.

          Mariano Rivera = Adam Vinatieri (except he never started sucking with age)

          • Steve H says:

            You could potentially weigh Vinateri higher though because he owns a skill that few others do, Mo doesn’t. CC would be an all time great closer, would Tom Brady be an all time great kicker? We don’t truly know, but doubtful.

          • Neon Noodle says:

            Ok, here’s a semi-hypothetical situation.

            You are tied up and held at gun point in the 3rd row behind home plate.

            The guy holding the gun let’s you chose one pitcher to throw to one batter. If the batter reaches first base safely, he shoots you.

            Who do you choose?

            What would you call the award given to the pitcher who you choose, ya know, assuming he saves your life.

  13. Rose says:

    Speaking of “By the Decade”, Jerry Crasnick writes a nice piece on his Cy Young of the Decade…fittingly, as he even says, it’s the man who closed the decade as well.

  14. ev says:

    Yankees fans have really been spoiled by his production and I have always been a huge Jorge fan. Having said that (h/t Curb), does anybody know if he has ever been linked to any type of PED allegations?

    I don’t remember hearing anything about PEDs related to him and I guess I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been any mention of it that I know of. Given the years he excelled in, his age now and his continued power and production, it’s a little weird that no one has cast any doubt on his legitimacy.

    I am by no means anti-Jorge or his case for the Hall, but it seems like an interesting question to raise when we see the way things are shaking out for Pudge now and maybe Jorge down the line.

  15. NC Saint says:

    I remember Widger fondly enough, but if you had asked me what catcher of the past decade had hit .297 for us, he would not have been on my short list. Or my medium-length list.

  16. [...] afternoon, I launched our decade retrospective of the Yankees in the ’00s with a look at the catchers. Today, we continue with another position held by one player over ten seasons. That player is, of [...]

  17. SheldonCooperPHD says:

    fangraphs hints that Posada might be a latino clone of Carlton Fisk.;type=full

  18. [...] continues today with a look at first base. After talking about the decade of Derek yesterday and Jorge’s time behind the dish on Wednesday. Today, we have an actual [...]

  19. [...] Jorge Posada 1B: Jason Giambi but not for his defense 2B: Robinson Cano/Alfonso Soriano SS: Derek Jeter 3B: Alex [...]

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