Aug
07

Cervelli, a pattern emerging?

By

I believe it was back in August of 2009, that the mainstream media was trying its hardest to blow the rift between AJ Burnett and Jorge Posada way out of proportion. Although the two players both adamantly denied tension or conflict within the clubhouse, the perception was evidently convincing enough that Jose Molina ultimately wound up doing the majority of the catching for Burnett through the remainder of the year. Then in 2010, Cervelli’s name seemingly popped up on the roster each time Burnett was scheduled to pitch. At the time, many of us pondered the effectiveness of such an arrangement.

This year, Yankeeland has been spoiled by some fine defensive work behind the plate, compliments of Russell Martin. More importantly, the pitching staff has evidently built a solid rapport with the former Dodger backstop. Posada, meanwhile, is no longer contributing as a catcher as his responsibilities continue to be reduced. However, as the season continues to progress, Girardi appears to be assigning personal catchers once again. Except this time, CC Sabathia is the benefactor of Cervelli’s catching services.

By my count, Cervelli has been listed as the starting catcher 26 times this season. Of those 26 instances, he’s caught Sabathia 11 times. This represents roughly 42% of Cervelli’s opportunities. Comparatively, he’s caught Colon five times, Nova five times, Hughes one time, Burnett two times, and Garcia two times. Basically, he’s caught Sabathia almost as much as everyone else combined. Of late, Cervelli has caught the big guy in each of his past four outings (and seven of his past eight starts). From June 25th up until yesterday, the only game Cervelli did not catch Sabathia was on July 10th.

Admittedly, some of this is perfectly explainable I believe, through coincidental circumstance of typical season play. Specifically speaking, Phil Hughes missed substantial time on the disabled list which would of course limit the number of opportunities for Frankie. Similarly, Colon was out of action for about a month with a hamstring injury. Additionally, Nova spent some time on the disabled list and then in the minors. It’s reasonable to expect Cervelli to have worked more with Sabathia as he has simply had the most appearances of anyone in the rotation thus far.

Obviously, I’m certainly not Joe Girardi, nor am I privy to all of the details he contemplates when putting together a roster. While I don’t agree with necessarily assigning a catcher – if that is in fact the reality – I do understand (at least to a degree) why he might choose Sabathia as the designated pitcher for such a plan. Unlike in years past when Cervelli was assigned to work with a particular pitcher out of necessity (i.e. conflict between said pitcher and Jorge), this year the entire staff seems to run smoothly with Martin.

Simply put, perhaps the line of thinking is that Cervelli might as well be paired up with the pitcher most likely to mitigate the other team’s offense. With the offensive depth of the Yankees, Cervelli’s lack of production with the bat becomes a little less pronounced when the opposing team isn’t generating a lot of runs. One other possibility of such a relationship could stem from the mere fact that Sabathia is just a very good pitcher who isn’t particularly reliant on a specific catcher.

Categories : Musings

38 Comments»

  1. KOFH says:

    Could it be possible that CC is actually coaching Frankie through the game? The inverse of great catcher helping the young pitcher?

  2. Kramerica Industries says:

    Posada, meanwhile, is no longer contributing as a catcher as his responsibilities continue to be reduced.

    If this were a more general piece and not simply the catching aspect, that phrase could very easily have stopped after the sixth word.

    • Jorge says:

      Unnecessary.

    • Matt Warden says:

      Heh, aging with grace isn’t always the easy. As frustrating as Posada has been this year with the bat, it’s hard for me to not feel a little sad for him. You know in his heart, he still believes he’s essential to the team.

    • themgmt says:

      Are you aware that Posada is 1 for 3 in day games against RHP shorter than 6’1 in the first 4 innings of road games over the last week?

      His wOBA vs RHP is .347 this year…. .347!

  3. Granderslam says:

    What Wilkins corresponding move be for Montero? Will Cervelli get set down or a pitcher?

  4. Winston Smith says:

    Cervelli’s days are numbered as Montero’s call up is imminent.

  5. Whatev says:

    For this argument, I think it would be helpful to compare Cervelli’s distribution to other backups who have gotten similar playing time. That would roughly rule out the “coincidental circumstance of typical season play” possibility (you’d probably have to control for the starter’s age and the backup’s experience and some aspects of the rotation and a bunch of other things if you wanted to be more rigorous, but a first-order approximation is probably good enough to see any trends). Unfortunately I don’t know where to find that information aside from individual game reports, and that would be a huge time sink.

    • Matt Warden says:

      I’d be curious to see that as well. As you suggest though, that would involve quite a bit of time to compile. Maybe, I’ll hire some temps and have them do it.

  6. “Simply put, perhaps the line of thinking is that Cervelli might as well be paired up with the pitcher most likely to mitigate the other team’s offense. With the offensive depth of the Yankees, Cervelli’s lack of production with the bat becomes a little less pronounced when the opposing team isn’t generating a lot of runs.”

    This is obviously way too superficial a point to mean all that much, but I think we do have to take into account the fact that Martin’s offensive production hasn’t been so great. Since the end of April, Martin’s got a .616 OPS while Cervelli’s got a .640 OPS.

  7. mike says:

    Ironically, Cervelli was originally cast into the mold of a solid D, good game calling, no pop catcher when he was called up – basically am inexpensive placeholder familiar with the Yankee young pitchers who could caddy Posada until Montero/Romine/ could ascend.

    However, his game calling has been called into question (setting up too early, passed balls etc.) and his throwing has become a major liability….however, he has contributed more offensively, even when called upon to bunt, than anyone would have expected.

    Standing alone, he doesnt hit enough to hide his defensive defficiencies ( Nokes, Leyritz, Stanley etc) and his Defense isn’t enough to keep him around either…..

    He likely will have a long ML career, but not on the Yanks

  8. infernoscurse says:

    martin might not be hitting but hes more than capable to out of nowhere pop a homer or a double, i believe his past experience gains favor on who the better bat would be and martin isnt going to catch every day, if i were Girardi and I had to choose what games to give cervelli starts to rest martin id pick Colon and CC because they seem to show better poise and command and are the games that you think the other team would score less, problem is that cc and colon are going back to back, i would try to change that and stick garcia in between them

  9. “Simply put, perhaps the line of thinking is that Cervelli might as well be paired up with the pitcher most likely to mitigate the other team’s offense. With the offensive depth of the Yankees, Cervelli’s lack of production with the bat becomes a little less pronounced when the opposing team isn’t generating a lot of runs. One other possibility of such a relationship could stem from the mere fact that Sabathia is just a very good pitcher who isn’t particularly reliant on a specific catcher.

    My line of thinking

  10. Marc says:

    Edited by RAB: Stop with the off-topic comments. I deleted it once already, that wasn’t a go-ahead to post it again.

  11. Jesse says:

    Edited by RAB: Stop with the off-topic comments. I deleted it once already, that’s not the go-ahead to post it again.

  12. Joseph cecala says:

    There is only one solution, resign jose molina to catch for aj

  13. Mike R. - Retire 21 says:

    I think it is just good old common sense. Girardi knows that his offense and defense are both going to take a hit with Cervelli behind the plate. He wants to take that hit with the pitcher that strikes the most people out and allows the least amount of runs on the mound.

  14. Bronx Byte says:

    No matter who catches Burnett, they’re in for a day of blocking a lot of pitches and some that go wild.

  15. Ben says:

    reading one of Joe’s comments made me think that it has as much to do with the catcher being comfortable with the pitcher being that cervelli has the most experience

  16. Jesse says:

    Well, since i can’t comment off topic. I’ll talk about the topic then. So, come postseason, say Montero is raking in the bigs, will the Yankees carry three catchers in the postseason, because Cervelli and CC work well together?

  17. Bob Stone says:

    It’s just coincedence and this is a total non story.

  18. Cuso says:

    Don’t know if this falls into ‘off-topic,’ but I am 99.9% certain that if Montero gets called up, it wouldn’t be Cervelli being sent down.

    They wouldn’t do a catcher-for-catcher and send Cervy down like that. He’s been a major-league backup on this team for 3 years.

    Girardi wouldn’t allow it. He just wouldn’t. He would go to bat for him.

    You’ll see Montero on September 1. not a second earlier UNLESS…

    Posada spontaneously combusts.

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