Aug
16

Would Jorge have made a good backup catcher?

By

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Yankees made one thing clear early this past off-season: Jorge Posada was done as a catcher. Who would take over was anyone’s guess, but the conclusion came with no ambiguities. Posada wouldn’t even back up the new starter. Instead he’d slide into the full-time DH role, with the hope that a removal from the rigors of catching would keep him healthy and productive in the final year of his contract. The plan, as we’ve seen this season, didn’t follow the script.

If Posada had his way, though, he wouldn’t have shed the tools of ignorance. Instead, he would have moved into the backup role that Francisco Cervelli inhabits. As he told ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews, “I could have (caught) this year. I could have been a backup this year.” The only question is of whether this arrangement would work out better than the current one.

In purely offensive terms, it certainly would. Cervelli, after producing serviceable numbers in 2010, has in 2011 hit in a manner you’d expect from a backup catcher. There’s nothing wrong with that, since he is the backup, and it does appear that at least some of the pitchers on the staff — most notably CC Sabathia — like throwing to him. The problem is that we can’t measure that value. We can measure offense, though, and in those terms Posada comes out with a distinct advantage.

The Yankees have started the backup catcher in 29 games this year, 27 for Cervelli and two for Gustavo Molina. In that time they have combined to produce 1.8 runs below average. Posada, in his 92 games, has produced 1.9 runs below average. That is, in more than three times the number of games he’s been only 0.1 runs worse, meaning he’d be a ton better than the current backup catchers in those 29 games. (Some quick math puts Posada at 0.6 runs below average, using his 1.9 runs below average on a per-game basis.)

That leaves me with four questions, none we can answer with any certainty.

1) Would Posada have performed better, both at catcher and DH, if he had played behind the plate roughly 30 times?

2) Would Posada have remained healthy enough to stay behind the plate?

3) Would Posada, as the backup catcher, have started more than 30 times, therefore giving Russell Martin more time off and perhaps keeping him fresher and more effective?

4) What kind of effect would Posada have had on the pitching staff?

The first two questions can be answered only with guesses. Posada might have better career numbers as a catcher than as a DH, but those splits never tell the whole truth. How many of Posada’s ABs as DH have come when he’s been too banged up to catch? Wouldn’t any nagging injury that prevents him from catching also affect him at the plate as he DHs? To the second question we might guess that he wouldn’t remain healthy, since he hit the DL before catching 30 games in every season from 2008 through 2010. But again, that’s just a guess.

Chances are, if he stayed healthy, the answer to No. 3 would be yes. Again, it’s a guess, but I think it’s a better guess than the first two. The Yankees clearly avoided using Gustavo Molina early in the season, leveraging off-days in order to play Russell Martin in almost every game until Cervelli’s return. But Girardi almost certainly would have gone to Posada before he went to Molina, if only to keep Jorge sharp behind the plate. (Sharp being a relative term.) The other aspect of this answer plays into the next question, too.

It’s tough to tell what kind of effect Jorge would have had on the pitching staff, because we don’t have any reliable measure of such an effect. It is pretty clear, however, that Posada would not have started with either A.J. Burnett or Freddy Garcia on the mound. Both throw plenty of pitches in the dirt, and those would give the aged Posada trouble. That’s the only thing that might have held him back from starting more often than Cervelli/Molina. He would have been essentially limited to starting with Nova, Hughes, Colon, and maybe Sabathia on the mound.

Since Jorge hasn’t played the role of backup in over a decade, since we don’t know how he’d hold up physically, and since we don’t know how he’d affect the pitching staff, it’s difficult to find a solid answer to the posed question. Offensively the arrangement surely would have worked better, at least to the tune of a run and perhaps more, if you think that Jorge would have hit better if he played the field. But again, that’s an argument from theory with little usable evidence behind it. All we have to go on is speculation. Would Jorge have fit better with this team as the backup catcher, or would that have only led to more problems?

Categories : Musings
  • TCMiller30

    I honestly think I’d be more comfortable just going with Cervelli for the year than having Posada as the backup. Posada’s bat isn’t exactly anything special that you need to keep in the line-up and his defense, as we all know, is brutal. Like many, I would have loved to have seen Montero as the back up catcher/DH this season, but if the option was Cervelli vs. Posada, I’d take the likelihood of Cervelli staying healthy, and offering a little bit defensively over Posada offering a slight upgrade offensively, terrible defense, and a constant injury risk.

  • AaronGuielWithASmile

    You’re missing one important question: what kind of longterm damage could catching another season have done to Posada?

    If not for his concussion history, I bet the Yankees would’ve let Posada catch again this season.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      good point…when all is said and done, not having jorge catch probably prevents any further injury to his head and body…one final year to ride out a great career. i hope jorge has the sense to retire and spend time with his family.

      • the Other Steve S.

        This is it exactly. How can you value a man’s life or mental health against a run or two in a baseball season. Let’s get some perspective here please.

    • Sayid J.

      Maybe this makes me a bad person, but if Posada had wanted to risk long term damage, I often feel its not up to me/the Yankees to prevent him from doing so.

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        right, but the yanks could mask it by signing martin and having cervelli on the team. to me, the yanks handled this well…they notified posada in the off season so he could prepare for it. i’m still amazed at how some think the yanks have mistreated jorge. he’s still got a decent amount of at bats, more than most 39 year old get who can’t contribute a lot. other teams would’ve unceremoniously released him.

        • Sayid J.

          oh no, I definitely don’t think the Yankees mistreated Jorge. I think he was treated very fairly. I also think that the Yankees might have been a better team this season with Jorge catching 1-2 games per week while DHing 2-3.

      • nsalem

        It would make the Yankee’s an incredibly irresponsible employer. At the end of 2010 Posada showed he was washed up as a catcher. Him catching again would not serve him or his team well. I doubt team would be dumb enough to let him catch again.

      • nsalem

        It would make the Yankee’s an incredibly irresponsible employer. At the end of 2010 Posada showed he was washed up as a catcher. Him catching again would not serve him or his team well. I doubt any team would be dumb enough to let him catch again.

        • CS Yankee

          This (although you stated it twice)

          OSHA makes employers responsible for employees health despite the employees themselves…meaning that you must protect the ignorant, wrongful employee that doesn’t listen or lay them off.

          The Yankees could have been convicted of willful neglect if they had a medical position stating that catching would be harmful to his health and choose to do so because it decreased their negative (projected) WAR.

          • Sayid J.

            Do you really think OSHA would have been involved? What about all of the other athletes who have sustained significantly more head injuries (Chrebet, Lindros, etc)? What makes Posada’s case different from theirs? I’ve never heard OSHA mentioned before in the case of athletes, I’d be interested to hear why this is different.

        • Sayid J.

          I really don’t think he would have been worse than Cervelli.

  • MattG

    This is my question: why didn’t the Yankees let Posada catch 3-4 games in April and find the hell out? Cervelli wasn’t around, couldn’t they have left Molina in AAA and give Posada a few reps?

    • JoeMoes

      He didn’t catch all spring training why throw him in the fire and risk him injuring himself.

      • MattG

        Damn, I thought the comment would’ve been more self-explanatory than that. The point is, why didn’t the Yankees explore using him as the back-up catcher? What prompted them to decide he wasn’t an option at all?

        • Rainbow Connection

          Concussion history.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          The point is, why didn’t the Yankees explore using him as the back-up catcher? What prompted them to decide he wasn’t an option at all?

          (clears throat)

          Posada wouldn’t even back up the new starter. Instead he’d slide into the full-time DH role, with the hope that a removal from the rigors of catching would keep him healthy and productive in the final year of his contract…

          It is pretty clear, however, that Posada would not have started with either A.J. Burnett or Freddy Garcia on the mound. Both throw plenty of pitches in the dirt, and those would give the aged Posada trouble. That’s the only thing that might have held him back from starting more often than Cervelli/Molina. He would have been essentially limited to starting with Nova, Hughes, Colon, and maybe Sabathia on the mound.

          /JoePaw’d

          I’d take the likelihood of Cervelli staying healthy, and offering a little bit defensively over Posada offering a slight upgrade offensively, terrible defense, and a constant injury risk.

          /TCMiller30′d

          Yes, it’s possible to be worse defensively than Cervelli. Way, way worse. And if any man is up to the task, it’s Whore-Hay.

          /Me’d

          Jorge Posada, Defensive Runs Saved, 2007-2010: -31 (145th out of 145 catchers with at least 50 innings)

          /Fangraphs’d

        • jsbrendog

          his inablilty to handle it last year and his poor testing on mental aptitude tests (which is being linked to his concussion history)

          for fuck’s sake the guy couldve very well become a vegetable with one more shot to the head from a 95 mph fb or a bat.

    • TCMiller30

      I think they were hoping he’d be a competent DH and didn’t want to find out if he could stay healthy or not as a catcher because if they found out he couldn’t they would have lost their backup catcher AND DH.

      We just gotta ride it out the rest of the way, and hope Posada steps down gracefully after the season.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    As he told ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews, “I could have (caught) this year. I could have been a backup this year.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

    • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      Awesome comment

  • bg90027

    I thought when he was still slumping in May and June that they might give him a game or two at catcher to try to see if getting it out of his head would help turn the bat around. The goal of avoiding nagging injuries to keep him healthy and productive seemed much less important at that point. The fact that they didn’t even really consider it seems pretty telling to me. Either they considered him such a defensive liability that it just wasn’t worth it or as others have guessed, they didn’t think it was worth the risk of causing him longterm damage to his health.

    • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      The goal of avoiding nagging injuries to keep him healthy and productive seemed much less important at that point.

      I’m not sure if you did say this, in which case ignore me, but avoiding injuries is always more important.

      • bg90027

        My point was that we probably all cared much less about the risk of him having to be dl’ed because of nagging injuries/wear and tear after he had OPSed in the .600′s for two months.

  • Kilgore Trout

    Couldn’t have been any worse than Cervelli. But ultimately Jesus Montero needs to be called up immediately and take that backup catcher position/DH position for the rest of the season. But it’s this organization’s philosophy to hold back those young kids as much as they can and that often stunts their growth.

    • Jim S

      Yeah you have absolutely no proof of that last statement.

    • pat

      But it’s this organization’s philosophy to hold back those young kids as much as they can and that often stunts their growth.

      Just like they did with Nova, Robertson, Hughes, Joba, IPK, Noesi, Melky,and Gardner. Right?

      • jsbrendog

        seriously, the kid is 20 god damned years old. people need to get some freaking perspective.

      • nsalem

        Melky was a starting CF at 21. Robertson has been their since he’s 23. Nova has established himself at 24. Cano has been starting since he’s 22. Hughes was handed a starters job at 21.

      • CS Yankee

        I thought the spin was that the FO was evil for rushing Melky, Joba & Hughes because they didn’t live up to the hype?

        Which brings up the fact that their are right-wing and left-wing batshit insane crazies out there posting on a daily basis.

    • jsbrendog

      this is batshit insane

    • steve (different one)

      Well, it’s your opinion that it “stunts their growth”. This is far from a fact, despite you stating it as a given.

      Montero will be here in 2 weeks, and will prob never see the minors again. I doubt an extra month or so in AAA will have any long term effect whatsoever, but that’s just my opinion.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Couldn’t have been any worse than Cervelli.

      Oh, absolutely he could have. We all love Jorge, but he’s easily one of the three worst defensive catchers of the past 5 years, and he keeps getting older, slower, and has a documented concussion history. 2011 Jorge Posada the catcher could make Jesus Montero look like Johnny Bench. Any increase he offers offensively could easily be wiped out and turned into a net negative by his horrible defense.

      But ultimately Jesus Montero needs to be called up immediately and take that backup catcher position/DH position for the rest of the season.

      (checks team W/L record)

      No. Nobody “needs” to be called up/added to this team. This team does not have “needs”. It has potential upgrades, sure; every team does. But the Yankees are not a team that “needs” to upgrade its backup catcher/DH rotation.

      The Indians, Angels, White Sox, Cardinals, and Giants have needs. The Yankees, on the other hand, have a 73-46 record and a 98% playoff odds.

      But it’s this organization’s philosophy to hold back those young kids as much as they can and that often stunts their growth.

      I’m going to file this little nugget of wisdom right next to the idea that the Yankees have a “no trading for/signing ex-Braves pitchers” policy.

      • CS Yankee

        TJSC,

        Your mis-stating the facts a little…the Yankees have about a 99% chance to make the playoffs, not 98%.

        /nitpickingwisea$$’d

    • Jorge

      Yes, they absolutely held back Joba Chamberlain, except when they didn’t. Choose your narrative, please.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Offensively the arrangement surely would have worked better, at least to the tune of a run and perhaps more, if you think that Jorge would have hit better if he played the field.

    Even as fantastically awful as Frankie Cervelli has been at times this year both at the dish and behind it, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that the run or run and a half of “improved” offense that Posada the BUC would offer over Cervelli the BUC would likely be wiped out by a run or run and a half of worse defense he probably provides.

    Yes, it’s possible to be worse defensively than Cervelli. Way, way worse. And if any man is up to the task, it’s Whore-Hay.

    • CS Yankee

      plus Cerv’ is clutch (bats over .320 with RISP) and leads the league in fist pumps (unproven non-Saber stat).

      I’m not getting why Jorge needed to catch an inning this year? When they (managers, GM, etc) finally listen to their staff (pitchers) and ratings (WAR, etc) they should be praised; regardless of the outcome. BTW, the outcome is pretty damn good.

  • nsalem

    By the end of last year Jprge was dropping strikes that weren’t even swung at. It was sad to watch.
    I would imagine paying off his contract and asking him to retire was discussed by the FO internally.
    No responsible party will ever let him catch for their organization again.

  • Monteroisdinero

    And does Jorge play in the post season? Does he DH over Chavez?

    • JB

      I’m not real happy with Chavez’s swing lately. Looks like he’s stepping out and throwing his arms at the ball. Very disconnected. Almost like waving at the ball. Hopefully its just a small slump. that or I have no idea what I’m talking about..

  • mike

    Not that I want Posada behind the plate, but if his concussion history is one of the major issues why he is not the backup…..then how could they let him bat against a FB pitcher? slide head-first? not wear an oversized batting helmet? shag balls in BP? While i grant he is more likely to get hurt with a foul-tip, if the risk is that high, in good conscience how could they let him play at all?

    Even more silly is the fact that he intentionally was told to not catch so he is-in a sense- unavailable to catch in an emergency after spending 15 years catching if the situation presents itself.

    Not only have the Yanks hamstrung themselves with a roster spot, but they have absolutely no flexability with Jorge

    • Monteroisdinero

      They should have been smarter and figured out a way to not let him play this year but 13M reasons were found to not do that.

      Freddy G cut his pitching hand finger in the kitchen which is hard to do if one assumes you hold the knife with your pitching hand and the object you are cutting with your non-pitching hand but I digress….

      • CS Yankee

        ever heard of reaching for a falling knife?

      • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

        No one said it was a knife. It was labelled a “kitchen accident” last I heard, so that could be any number of things.

  • Jorge

    I have no argument with how Posada has been utilized this season. While I don’t/rarely/ever have stats in front of me, I can’t imagine that he would have done a better job behind the plate than Frankie Cervelli. Yes, Cervelli’s been bad, but bad is the calling card of the grand majority of backup catchers out there.

  • LitterallyFigurative

    It was time to DH Jorge. He wasn’t the greatest catcher to begin with, but with age and injury, his defense became unwatchable. Passed balls, dropped foul tips, missing pitches in the dirt, struggling to throw, etc. He was hurting our pitching and defense.

    I was one who thought that being a full-time DH would 1) extend Jorge’s career, 2) improve the offense by having a close to 100% switch hitting 20+ Hr bat like Jorge’s, and 3) help the defense.

    Martin has been a defensive God-send when compared to what Jorgie was giving us.

  • Rainbow Connection

    Lots of bad spelling in this thread.

  • Marcy

    I just wish they had let him try –
    I don’t believe it had anything to do with concussions – that became a topic late last year (I believe), to start the movement to get Jorge out of there.
    We’ve heard so many times (Kay, Curry, etc.) that the Yankees were so angry with Jorge for forcing them to give him a 4th yr. Well, they found a way to hurt him back – and yes, I really believe that. And I believe it hurt him.
    The entire off season was peculiar with how they handled Jeter and Posada. I think the off season hurt Jeter, too.
    I don’t particularly like Tim McCarver but when he said early in the year that of all of the positions on a team it is most difficult for a catcher to go to being a DH – it made a ton of sense.
    I wondered why Jorge even went to Spring Training early for pitchers and catchers after the way Cashman spoke to him – don’t even bring your catching gear – nice. Yesterday Susan Waldman answered that, she said it was because he had promised the young catchers – especially Montero that he would be there.
    But, you’re right – we’ll never know for sure-
    The Yankees do a lot of things well – treatment of their own is not one of them.

    • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      I also hear that we faked the moon landing.

    • jsbrendog

      right, because jorge was never quoted in an atricle that has been linked here a million times where he himnself states that it is def a concern because he has to think of his family and wants to be coherent for his kids

      oaktag.

  • CS Yankee

    This is a BS comment from a player trying to keep his options open next year. When Gene asks Jorge to get geared up to catch during his “first pitch” honors, Jorge told him he didn’t even had a mask in his locker anymore.

    If his passion was still catching, he could help with the kids side sessions to keep in game form. No mask equals “no mas”, IMO.

    • Jorge

      Exactly.

      He’ll get offers, though.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I have watched Jorge his whole career. He’s been a warrior behind the plate. The last few years behind the plate have displayed his short comings. I use to watch a lot of professional fights on t.v. and in person. Jorge reminds me of the fighter in his mind who thinks he can still fight at the age of 40. The pounding to the head and body that the less defenseless fighter takes would be Jorge behind the plate.

    I thought the Yankees treated him well and gave him an everyday position. He just could not hit, something we all thought he could without the rigors of catching. I hope he retires and enjoys his family. I would love to see him in some capacity in the Yankee system coaching or managing but he’s got enough money to hold him over.

    • DCBX

      On one hand, I bet he could teach the kids in the minors quite a bit about hitting. Defense… meh, not so much.

      OTOH, I’ve heard what may just be unfounded rumors that he’s kind of short-tempered, and we wouldn’t want Jorge going all Tony Bernazard on us.

      j/k

      He should go hang out with Laura and the kids. Hopefully he can pick up ring #6 this year and go out in style.

  • Carl

    Wow, easily the worst write up I have ever read on RAB. When no facts or stats are available to back up a write-up, it’s better not to write it up at all. Speculation becomes a debate all on it’s own, with endless worthless arguements.