Posada’s Place In Yankees History

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(Photo via The Wall Street Journal)

With Jorge Posada reportedly set to hang up his spikes, we can sit back and reflect on his career. He played 15 full seasons with the Yankees and parts of two more early on, contributing to four World Championships and tagging along for a fifth (that actually came first). He went to five All-Star Games, won five Silver Slugger Awards, and owns a pair of top six finishes in the MVP voting (2003 and 2007). His 2000 season (.287/.417/.527 with 28 homers and 107 walks) should have garnered MVP votes as well, but alas it did not.

Posada was never the focal point of the Yankees’ offense but he was always a steady contributor behind the thunder in the middle of the order. Playing that many years as a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate means that Jorge is among the team’s all-time leaders in basically every offensive category, and that’s what we’re going to recap today. His place in Yankees history.

Playing Time (Games, PA, AB)
Posada is eighth on the franchise’s all-time games played list, donning the pinstripes for 1,829 contests. Two of his former teammates (Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams) rank ahead of him, as do a bunch of Hall of Famers (Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth) and Roy White. He started 1,450 of those games behind the plate, or 79.3%. Posada has the 12th most plate appearances (7,150) and 14th most at-bats (6,092) in Yankees history.

Batting Line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS+)
A career .273/.374/.474 hitter, Posada was never really the type to hit for average, topping .280 in a single season just four times (2000, 2003, 2007, 2009). As a result, he ranks just 36th on the franchise’s all-time batting average list (min. 3,000 PA). However, Jorge had a knack for reaching base on something other than a hit (more on that later), so he places 17th on the team’s all-time OBP list. His SLG is 21st in team history and his ISO (.201) is 13th. In terms of offense relative to era, Posada’s 121 OPS+ is the 21st best in franchise history. That lumps him in with guys like Hideki Matsui (123), White (121), and Hall of Famer Joe Gordon (120).

Base Knocks (Hits, doubles, homers)
Jorge finished his career with 1,664 career hits, the 14th most in team history. You can probably guess most of the guys ahead of him on the list, but he’s right behind Tony Lazzeri (1,784) and Willie Randolph (1,731). His 379 doubles are seventh most in team history while his 275 homers are eighth most. Only Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi, Bernie, and Alex Rodriguez are ahead of him on the dingers list. If you must know, Jorge is tied for 94th in franchise history with a whopping ten triples.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

On-Base Skills (BB, IBB, HBP)
Only six Yankees have drawn more walks that the 936 Posada drew during his career: Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, Bernie, Randolph, and Jeter. Of those 936 walks, 78 were intentional, or one more than teh feared Jim Rice in 1,908 fewer plate appearances. Anyway, only Don Mattingly, Mantle, and Bernie were intentionally walked more times than Jorge in Yankees history. By getting plunked with 74 pitches, Posada is fifth on the team’s all-time hit-by-pitch list behind Jeter, Frankie Crosetti, Jason Giambi, and A-Rod. Surprisingly, only one of those 74 came at the hands of Pedro Martinez. Jeremy Guthrie and Chan Ho Park (twice each) are the only pitchers to get him more than once.

Run Production (Runs scored, RBI, sac flies)
When you’ve reached base more times than all but eleven players in franchise history, you’re bound to score a lot of runs. Posada is 17th on the franchise’s runs scored list with exactly 900. That’s pretty good since the vast majority of his career plate appearances (83.8%) have come as the fifth, sixth, or seventh place hitter and not higher up in the order. Most of us understand the flaws with RBI, but like pitcher wins they do have some value over time since they show durability and general offensive competence. Jorge is 11th in Yankees history with 1,065 rib eye steaks. A number of those runs came on his 47 sac flies, a total that is tied with Mantle and Bobby Murcer for the tenth most in team history.

Sabermetric Stats (wOBA, WPA, bWAR, fWAR)
Although he ranks 21st in OPS, Posada is a little further down the line in wOBA, 24th in team history at .366. He’s sandwiched between Matsui (.367) and Mattingly (.361), so some pretty good company. Posada is 17th in win probability added at +12.714, and 0.93 of that came in one game. In terms of wins above replacement, he’s either the 11th or 12th best player in team history using Baseball-Reference (+44.9) or FanGraphs (+47.6), respectively. Yogi and Bill Dickey are the only backstops ahead of him on either list. I don’t know where exactly he ranks as far as great Yankees go, but precise placement is trivial. Jorge is an all-time great Yankee, and you didn’t need any of these silly lists to tell you that.

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  • No Batting Gloves

    And to think what he would have done with significantly more playing time his prime! Between 1996-1999 (his age 24-27 seasons), he averaged 73 games and 291 plate appearances with exactly a 100 OPS+. By contrast, Girardi was averaging 95 games those years and 353 plate appearances and a 75 OPS+. No matter how you cut it, Jorge was better and with more playing time could have been even more so. He played less than half the time.

    For those of you who might say he wasn’t ready, consider that by 1996 he was on his third full season of AAA ball. He quite literally sat on the MLB bench from 1997 to 1999 when he wasn’t playing. Nice work Torre!

    • No Batting Gloves

      Recall too that the Yankees had to quite literally not sign Girardi to put an end to the nonsense.

      Torre didn’t just become an ego maniac with success. He always was one even as early as 1996-1997. Recall as well that Girardi “hit” .133/.188/.133 in the 1997 ALDS in a series that the Yankees lost the last two games by one run. Jorge got all of 2 ABs that series. Their season stats?

      Girardi – .264/.311/.334
      Posada – .250/.359/.410

      Beware the myth of the defense-first catcher. It’s already happening all over again with Martin and Montero. When the Yankees are losing all their ALDS games by one or two runs in 2011, and their catcher is “hitting” .176/.333/.235, history is repeating itself. Montero got all of two ALDS at-bats this year, just like Jorge in 1997.

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        I have always said in most WS won by us there was a good hitting catcher except in the Ruth era. Even in 1996 we had Leyritz who while not great defensively, was a good clutch hitter.

      • thenamestsam

        What makes you say that defense-first catchers are a myth? Do you have any evidence for that? There has been some pretty convincing evidence recently that the difference between the best (Martin is near the very top) and worst catchers (Posada was on the very bottom, and Montero presumably would be as well) on defense may be extremely large, about 4 wins a season in fact. That’s far more than enough to make up for any offensive differences. Just because it doesn’t show up easily in the box score doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few days because it has a big impact on Posada’s legacy and place in history. If you buy that he was basically a just below average fielder (UZR has him at only -22 runs for his career) then he is something like the 10th best player in Yankee history and a borderline HOFer. I have a hard time swallowing that conclusion. The framing pitches study has him at -50 runs for framing pitches just from 2007 to 2011. I think those WAR values might be 10 to 15 wins too high based on defense, knocking him out of the borderline HOF group and back into more of the really, really good Yankees then the all-time greats.

    • http://unclemikesmusings.blogspot.com Uncle Mike

      In all honesty, while Torre’s sticking with Girardi wasn’t totally fair to Poasada, it worked in 3 out of those 4 seasons. It’s difficult to say that having Posada as the full-time catcher would have made the difference in 1997, the only one of those years in which there was a difference to be made.

      Nevertheless, I think we can say, in terms of on-field performance, Posada is the 3rd-best Yankee catcher, behind Dickey and Berra (or vice versa), and ahead of Howard and Munson — keeping in mind Howard spent 5 years in left field and Munson, even if he hadn’t died, was broken down and nearing the end of the line anyway.

      • gc

        And to be fair, one can point to any of a number of issues that led the Yankees to lose that series against Cleveland in 1997. Andy Pettitte lost two games in that series (giving up 11 runs in 11.2 innings), Mariano gave up that famous home run to Sandy Alomar, Bernie Williams (who was being paid to be a lot bigger force in the lineup than Joe Girardi ever was) went 2 for 17. To lay the entire thing at the feet of Joe Torre for keeping Girardi in there instead of Posada who, at the time had only 69 career Major League at bats and nobody really even knew what he was yet, is specious reasoning at best.

  • Troll Hunter

    I seem to remember Posada being really good at drawing bases loaded walks when the team really needed a run.

  • jsbrendog

    this morning when i woke up, in my homage to jorge, i peed on my hands.

    • Mister Delaware

      After that, I rolled out of bed …

    • Shamus

      I peed on my hands too — ! Wow! I feel like a tough backstop slated for Cooperstown already!

      • Darren

        Hey, I peed on your hands too!

    • Adam Parker

      I would have peed on my hands too, but I took an arrow in the knee.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Posada was a great Yankee. Being a catcher he had pretty good durability. This may help him get into the HOF, I hope. He was one of the fab five, two who are a cinch to get into the Hall. Please do an article like this on Bernie who lately has been depreciated by some Yankee fans as well as the media.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    I see these numebrs but screw it let’s put Jose Molina as a starter in a few playoff games.

  • Dale Mohorcic

    I know it’s a type-o, but I like the idea of a rib eye steak eating contest in the clubhouse and keeping career stats on it.

  • CJ

    While watching 1979 game posted last night, even Thurmon Munson wore two batting gloves. The relative intentional walks is impressive and telling.

  • Darren

    Did you know how motherf**ng tough Jorge is?

    Never spent time on the DL til 2008? Catching 130 games a year for a decade?

    Switch hitter. Power.


    I know he didn’t like to block the plate on throws home and always was technically out of position, but he took an amazing beating for a decade and was incredibly reliable.

  • thenamestsam

    You still haven’t provided any evidence that it’s a myth. Sure, playing Mathis over Napoli was almost certainly a bad choice. That doesn’t mean that playing every defensive catcher is a bad choice. Mathis is a much, much worse hitter than Martin, and Montero may not be as good as Napoli on either offense OR defense (at least 2011 Napoli).

    I don’t really understand your criticism of the pitcher framing article. Are you saying that you can’t estimate the run value of getting the call on a close pitch because it depends on what the next pitch is? You say “You can’t use statistics that assume a normal distribution of events.”, but I don’t think there is any assumption of normality anywhere in that study if I remember correctly.

    • thenamestsam

      That’s weird. There was a comment I was responding to, and then it disappeared.

  • mackeyse

    Just my 2 cents ,and i’m definitly in the minority, but something about Jorge always rubbed me the wrong way. Never was able to embrace him the way I did Yankees who played less time than him like Giambi, Moose, Matsui…and these werent “Core Four” or “pee on your hands type guys” either. In retrospect he was a Yankee great not an all time great. Don’t feel he is a HOF’er especially if McGriff and Bagwell arent in yet…and Dale Murphy was probably better too. He will get votes for being a catcher and playing the toughest position and offensive catchers are few and far between. I know this isn’t the time to argue HOF merit but “Yankee Great” doesnt always dove-tail with HOF candidate (see Bernie.) But I’m sure I’ll appreciate him more that he is gone.

  • thenamestsam

    I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the comment that I was replying to. Not sure why it would have been removed.

    Anyway I agree 100% that a number of catchers have had their defensive prowess overstated just because they were bad at offense. However I don’t agree that by definition that makes defensive catchers a myth. I think that with a lot of the new work being done on catcher defense we should start to have a much better idea of how good catchers actually are on defense. Some of the so-called defensive catchers will probably turn out to be complete myths who were just useless players. But some of them will probably also be found to be a lot better than previously thought.

    You say that it’s similar to saying you need grit to play as a middle infielder, but I don’t think that analogy lines up at all. Grit has no direct bearing on the game of baseball. It may help explain why some players succeed and some fail, but grit doesn’t add any runs for your team or take any away from your opponent. Catcher defense is a real thing. It helps you win games. Some defensive catchers may be total zeros, but that doesn’t make defensive catchers a myth.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      It’s most likely not the comment but the poster they have an issue with, based on history of not following the few rules they have around here.

    • Darren

      I would define grit as consisting of variopus levels of toughness, hustle, determination and focus.

      I don’t see how you can say that those four things don’t have a direct, important bearing on baseball.

      Toughness: – playing more games, eating more innings, making more chances in the field.

      Hustle: Getting the extra base, beating out the double play ball, cutting off the ball in the gap.

      Determination: Grinding out long At Bats, not issuing BBs, bearing down in a bad count (either rpitching or hitting)

      Focus: Everything.

      The problem that most people have with the concept of grit is when it is overvalued compared with pure talent. OF COURSE talent has more of an impact on the game than grit, but grit most certainly plays into it.

      • thenamestsam

        I agree with everything you said except that my point was the grit does not have a DIRECT impact. You have defined extremely well why it has an indirect impact, and a large one at that. For example, playing more games has a direct impact on your value to the team. If you play twice as much at the same level, you’re twice as valuable. So that is a direct impact because it is measured on the field. Toughness is what allows you to play more. That is an indirect effect. It’s having its effect through something else, namely allowing you to stay on the field.

        I wasn’t trying to say that grit doesn’t matter, just that it’s an indirect effect. The difference in my mind is that an indirect effect is something we could never measure. Staying on the field, or long at bats, or taking an extra base are all things we can, or could in theory, measure and find the value of. Grit or toughness or whatever may be very important, but it’s only important in the sense that it influences the things that directly impact the game, and we’ll never be able to measure it.

        • Mike K

          Agreed. Playing a lot of games could be pure luck. Not playing a lot could be bad luck, not an abscense of toughness.

        • Darren

          I don’t know, I think the effect is qithout a doubt a direct effect, it’s just not measureable. And that is one of the fundamental problems with SABRmetrics, or at least the people who apply it. They forget that there are actually parts of the game (HUGE parts) that can’t be quantified. the game isn’t played on the computer, baseball players are not 100% interchangeable, and there is something to be said for the “feel” for the game.

          • thenamestsam

            You didn’t really say why you think it’s direct, or why you disagree. Intangibles, etc. are a huge part of the game, I don’t disagree with that. But they’re only a huge part of the game to the extent that they effect thinks that actually happen on the field. And everything that happens on the field can be quantified I think. Much of it may be impossible to quantify outside of a controlled experiment that we will never get, but in theory I believe all of it is quantifiable. All the “feel” in the world is 100% meaningless unless it turns into something that actually helps you win ball games. That’s why it’s an indirect effect.

            “Feel” may be important. It may help make smart decisions on defense, and that has a direct effect on winning. It may help you have better at bats, and that has a direct effect on winning. It may help you make your teammates better, and that has a direct effect on winning. But “feel” itself is not something you get any runs for, or that prevents your opponent from getting runs. It has no direct effect.

            • Darren

              I guess maybe it’s all semantics. I did give examples of how “grit” directly affects the game — hustling for the extra base, never lollygagging after a shallow single and allowing a runner to advance to second, etc. Maybe you’re saying that unless grit translates into something postive, it’s not worth anything? I sort of buy that.

              Theoretically you could define and quantify grit but that
              would take so much effort as to make it impractical.

  • JoeMoes

    I don’t think posada gets in hof. Yankee hof yes. Bernie got 55 votes yesterday and I think that’s about what Jorge will get.

  • BK2ATL

    Considering Posada was clear of PED-rumors or positive tests, while his main C competition during that time in Pudge (67.3 WAR) and Piazza (59.1 WAR) were not, I think Posada’s body of work (44.1 WAR) stands up even moreso now. He’s a HOFer. He did it the right way.

    We, Yankees fans, seriously took him for granted. He was a top 5 Yankees’ catcher of all-time.

    Posada certainly wasn’t the best defensive catcher, but he certainly wasn’t the worst. Well, until the very end and even then Varitek was still playing…..sooooo. Prior to that, he was pretty competent behind the plate. He took A LOT of the blame for AJ’s struggles. We all saw that, while Posada wasn’t great, he wasn’t the problem at all. AJ just sucked.

    Offensively, the numbers speak for themselves and can be held up against any C, PED-users notwithstanding.

    Per Tom Verducci:
    “Among all catchers since 1901, Posada ranks third in walks (936), seventh in doubles (379), sixth in OPS (. 848), eighth in OBP (. 374) and home runs (275), ninth in slugging (. 474) and 11th in RBI (1065).”

    Then there’s that thing about clubhouse intangibles. He was the fire in the dynasty run to Jeter’s, Mariano’s, and Pettitte’s ice.

    Then there’s his postseason performances over the years. He caught 4 WS titles. Try to find another MLB catcher that integral to 5 WS championships who is not in the HOF.

    Bottom-line, in my book, Posada is a HOF. Not 1st ballot, but he belongs in that building.

    And, by the way, Ryan Braun should be stripped of the NL MVP and a re-vote is needed. Matt Kemp EARNED it, the right way.

    • Darren

      I agree with everything you wrote. It’s unbelievable how much shit Jorge has had to take over the years by SABR folks who can’t even fathom how much guts it takes to get behind the plate and take the constant physical abuse for a decade while putting up great numbers. He average at worst for many many years and then his eventual decline seemed to color so many opinions, as if the Jorge of 2010 was the way he caught from ’99-2009.

      He is a Hall of Famer, and he shouldn’t have to wait more than a couple of years.

      • BK2ATL

        Probably none of those SABR folks have ever played a game past junior high school. Take what you will from that. Great stats tho. LOL!!!

        Again, he can’t be judged against Pudge and Piazza, as the only thing they have in common is that they played during the same timeframe.

        However only Jorge did it all natural. He can’t be penalized for not using or being in the PED discussions. He shouldn’t. His stats hold up against the best of the best catchers since 1901.

        Being behind the plate for the 1st and final out of 4 WS championship teams cannot be understated. This should confirm that his defense was not a detriment to the team.

        I just don’t get how some writers are so readily willing to dismiss Posada, yet so willing to readily vote Piazza and Pudge in. Where’s the scrutiny that way??? Would either of them been as effective without PEDs? We know what Posada did without them.

        “Among all catchers since 1901, Posada ranks third in walks (936), seventh in doubles (379), sixth in OPS (.848), eighth in OBP (.374) and home runs (275), ninth in slugging (.474) and 11th in RBI (1065).”

  • Dalelama

    While an excellent hitter Jorge was without a doubt the dumbest player I ever saw play the game and I have been watching MLB since 1965. No way he should be in the HOF.

    • Lamadale

      You should watch a lot more baseball.