The best seasons at each position by a Yankee during the RAB era

2007 A-Rod was a hell of a thing. (NY Daily News)
2007 A-Rod was a hell of a thing. (NY Daily News)

RAB celebrated its tenth birthday Monday. Tenth! I can’t believe it. Ben, Joe, and I started this site as a hobby and it grew into something far greater than we ever expected. The site has been around for a World Series championship, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez getting to 3,000 hits, Mariano Rivera becoming the all-time saves king … we’ve seen lots of cool stuff these last ten years. Thank you to everyone who has been reading, no matter how long you’ve been with us.

For the sake of doing something a little out of the ordinary, let’s look back at the best individual seasons at each position by Yankees players during the RAB era. Who had the best season by a catcher? By a right fielder? That sorta stuff. We launched on February 20th, 2007, so this covers the 2007-16 seasons. Come with me, won’t you?

Catcher: 2007 Jorge Posada

Very easy call behind the plate. Posada had the best offensive season of his career in 2007, hitting .338/.426/.543 (157 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 589 plate appearances. He caught 138 games that year — it was Jorge’s eighth straight season with 120+ starts behind the plate — and went to his fifth and final All-Star Game. Posada also finished sixth in the MVP voting. By bWAR (+5.4) and fWAR (+5.6), it was the third best season of his career behind 2003 (+5.9 and +6.0) and 2000 (+5.5 and +6.1). Honorable mention goes out to 2015 Brian McCann and 2016 Gary Sanchez. (Sanchez’s +3.0 bWAR last year is second best by a Yankee catcher during the RAB era.)

First Base: 2009 Mark Teixeira

Another easy call. Teixeira’s first season in pinstripes featured a .292/.383/.565 (142 wRC+) batting line and AL leading home run (39), RBI (122), and total bases (344) totals. He went to his second All-Star Game and won his third Gold Glove at first base as well. Teixeira was the MVP runner-up to Joe Mauer, though Teixeira and the Yankees swept Mauer and the Twins in the ALDS en route to winning the World Series. Got the last laugh that year. Both bWAR (+5.0) and fWAR (+5.1) say Teixeira’s 2009 season was far and away the best by a Yankees first baseman since RAB became a thing. Honorable mention goes to a bunch of other Teixeira seasons.

Second Base: 2012 Robinson Cano

The only question at second base was which Cano season to pick. His run from 2009-13 was truly the best five-year stretch by a second baseman in franchise history. Cano hit .313/.379/.550 (149 wRC+) with 33 homers in 2012 while playing 161 of 162 regular season games. He set new career highs in homers, slugging percentage, total bases (345), bWAR (+8.7), and fWAR (+7.6) while tying his previous career high in doubles (48). Robbie was a monster. He went to his third straight All-Star Game and won his third straight Gold Glove, and also finished fourth in the MVP voting. The club’s best season by a non-Cano second baseman during the RAB era belongs to Starlin Castro. Quite the drop-off there, eh?

Shortstop: 2009 Derek Jeter

The Captain circa 2009. (Paul Bereswill/Getty)
The Captain circa 2009. (Paul Bereswill/Getty)

As great as Teixeira was in 2009, he wasn’t even the best player on his own infield that year. The Yankees flip-flopped Jeter and Johnny Damon in the batting order that season and the Cap’n responded by hitting .334/.406/.465 (130 wRC+) with 18 home runs and 30 steals in 35 attempts as the leadoff man. It was also the first (and only) time in Jeter’s career the fielding stats rated him as above-average. I remember thinking Derek looked noticeably more mobile in the field. That was the year after Brian Cashman reportedly told Jeter the team would like him to work on his defense after finding out Joe Torre never relayed the message years ago. The 2009 season was the second best of Jeter’s career by fWAR (+6.6) and third best by bWAR (+6.5) behind his monster 1998-99 seasons. The Cap’n was an All-Star that year and he finished third in the MVP voting behind Mauer and Teixeira.

Third Base: 2007 Alex Rodriguez

The single greatest season by a Yankee not just during the RAB era, but since Mickey Mantle was in his prime. I went to about 25 games that season and I swear I must’ve seen A-Rod hit 25 home runs. He went deep every night it seemed. Rodriguez hit .314/.422/.645 (175 wRC+) that summer and led baseball in runs (143), home runs (54), RBI (156), SLG (.645), OPS+ (176), bWAR (+9.4), and fWAR (+9.6). All that earned him a spot in the All-Star Game (duh) and his third MVP award (second with the Yankees). A-Rod received 26 of the 28 first place MVP votes that year. The two Detroit voters voted for Magglio Ordonez. For reals. What an incredible season this was. I’ve never seen a player locked in like that for 162 games. Alex was on a completely different level than everyone else in 2007.

Left Field: 2010 Brett Gardner

With all due respect to Damon, who was outstanding for the 2009 World Series team, 2010 Gardner was better than 2009 Damon. Gardner hit .277/.383/.379 (112 wRC+) with five home runs and 47 steals that season to go along with his excellent defense. Damon, meanwhile, hit a healthy .282/.365/.489 (122 wRC+) with a career high tying 24 home runs and 12 steals in 2009. His defense was so very shaky though. Remember how he used to take those choppy steps that made it seem like he had no idea where the ball was? Both bWAR (+7.3 to +4.2) and fWAR (+6.1 to +3.6) say 2010 Gardner was better than 2009 Damon, but forget about WAR. Gardner got on base much more often and was the better baserunner. I think that combined with the glove more than makes up for Damon’s edge in power. Honorable mention goes to Matsui’s .285/.367/.488 (124 wRC+) effort with 25 home runs in 2007.

Center Field: 2011 Curtis Granderson

Remember how much Granderson struggled the first four and a half months of the 2010 season? He was hitting .240/.307/.417 (91 wRC+) with ten homers in 335 plate appearances prior to his career-altering pow wow with hitting coach Kevin Long that August. Granderson made some mechanical changes and hit .259/.354/.560 (144 wRC+) with 14 homers in 193 plate appearances the rest of the way. He went from a passable outfielder to one of the game’s top power hitters seemingly overnight. That success carried over into 2011, during which Granderson hit .262/.364/.552 (146 wRC+) with 41 home runs. He led the league in runs (136) and RBI (119), went to the All-Star Game, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. My man.

Right Field: 2010 Nick Swisher

We’re picking between Swisher seasons here, and I’m going with 2010 over 2012. Swisher managed a .288/.359/.511 (134 wRC+) line with 29 home runs in 2010, making it the best offensive season of his career. Add in right field defense that was better than Swisher got credit for, and you’ve got a +3.7 bWAR and +4.3 fWAR player. Right field lacks that big eye-popping season like the other positions during the RAB era. Swisher was reliably above-average but not a star.

Designated Hitter: 2009 Hideki Matsui

Happier times. (Al Bello/Getty)
Happier times. (Al Bello/Getty)

I came into this exercise with a pretty good idea who I’d have at each position, and I assumed 2009 Matsui would be the easy call at DH. Then when I got down to it and looked at the stats, I realized 2015 A-Rod was pretty much right there with him. Check it out:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR XBH RBI bWAR fWAR
2009 Matsui 528 .274/.367/.509 127 28 50 90 +2.7 +2.4
2015 A-Rod 620 .250/.356/.486 130 33 56 86 +3.1 +2.7

That’s really close! Matsui hit for a higher average and got on-base more, though A-Rod had more power. A lefty hitting 28 homers in Yankee Stadium isn’t as impressive as a righty hitting 33, even when considering the 92 extra plate appearances. Since they’re so close, I’m fine with using the postseason as a tiebreaker. Matsui was excellent in October while A-Rod went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Wild Card Game loss to the Astros. Tie goes to the World Series MVP.

Now that we have our nine position players, I’m going to build a lineup, because why not? Lineups are fun. Here’s how I’d set the batting order:

  1. 2009 Derek Jeter
  2. 2012 Robinson Cano
  3. 2007 Alex Rodriguez
  4. 2009 Mark Teixeira
  5. 2007 Jorge Posada
  6. 2011 Curtis Granderson
  7. 2009 Hideki Matsui
  8. 2010 Nick Swisher
  9. 2010 Brett Gardner

Look good? It does to me. Dave Pinto’s lineup analysis tool tells me that lineup would average 6.87 runs per game, or 1,113 runs per 162 games. The modern record for runs scored in a season is 1,067 by the 1931 Yankees. (Several teams from the 1800s scored more.) The 1999 Indians were the last team to score 1,000 runs. They scored 1,009.

Starting Pitchers

Moooooose. (Nick Laham/Getty)
Moooooose. (Nick Laham/Getty)
IP ERA ERA+ FIP bWAR fWAR
2008 Mike Mussina 200.1 3.37 131 3.32 +5.2 +4.6
2009 CC Sabathia 230 3.37 137 3.39 +6.2 +5.9
2011 CC Sabathia 237.1 3.00 143 2.88 +7.5 +6.4
2012 Hiroki Kuroda 219.2 3.32 127 3.86 +5.5 +3.8
2016 Masahiro Tanaka 199.2 3.07 142 3.51 +5.4 +4.6

Chien-Ming Wang‘s 2007 season as well as a few more Sabathia seasons (2010 and 2012, specifically) were among the final cuts. Late career Andy Pettitte was steady and reliable, but he didn’t have any truly great seasons from 2007-13.

Sabathia is the gold standard for Yankees starting pitchers during the RAB era. From 2009-12, he was the club’s best pitcher since guys like Pettitte, Mussina, David Cone, and Roger Clemens around the turn of the century. Mussina had that marvelous farewell season and Tanaka was awesome last year. Kuroda? He was the man. One-year contracts don’t get any better than what he did for the Yankees.

The Yankees haven’t had an all-time great pitcher during the RAB era, a Clayton Kershaw or a Felix Hernandez, someone like that, but they had four years of a bonafide ace in Sabathia plus several other very good seasons. Everyone in the table except Kuroda received Cy Young votes those years. Sabathia finished fourth in the voting in both 2009 and 2011.

Relief Pitchers

IP ERA ERA+ FIP bWAR fWAR
2008 Mariano Rivera 70.2 1.40 316 2.03 +4.3 +3.2
2009 Mariano Rivera 66.1 1.76 262 2.89 +3.5 +2.0
2011 David Robertson 66.2 1.08 399 1.84 +4.0 +2.6
2014 Dellin Betances 90 1.40 274 1.64 +3.7 +3.2
2015 Dellin Betances 84 1.50 271 2.48 +3.7 +2.4
2015 Andrew Miller 61.2 2.04 200 2.16 +2.2 +2.0
2016 Dellin Betances 73 3.08 141 1.78 +1.1 +2.9

So many great relief seasons to choose from. I had to leave out several Rivera seasons (2007, 2010, 2011, 2013), several Robertson seasons (2012-14), a Miller season (2016), a Rafael Soriano season (2012), and even a Phil Hughes season (2009). Remember how great Hughes was in relief in 2009? Hughes and Rivera were automatic that year. The Yankees have been blessed with some truly excellent relievers these past ten years. The great Mariano Rivera retired and somehow they have replaced him seamlessly. We’ve seen some amazing performances since launching RAB.

It’s looking more and more likely Jorge Posada will fall off the Hall of Fame ballot this year

Team Jorge. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Hip hip. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

One week from today, the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2017 will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast. At this point Tim Raines, who is on the ballot for the tenth and final time, seems to be a lock for induction, as does Jeff Bagwell. He’s on the ballot for the seventh time. Trevor Hoffman, Vlad Guerrero, and Ivan Rodriguez are all on the bubble as well.

Among the 34 players on the ballot this year is Jorge Posada, the first member of the (groan) Core Four to be eligible for Hall of Fame induction. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte hit the ballot in two years, Derek Jeter the year after that. Bernie Williams, the fifth member of the Core Four, was on the Hall of Fame ballot in both 2012 and 2013. He received 9.6% of the vote the first year and 3.3% the second year, which is why he dropped off.

Players need to appear on 75% of the submitted ballots to be elected into Cooperstown. They also need to receive at least 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot another year. Bernie didn’t in 2013, so he dropped off. So it goes. Posada, it seems, is on a similar path. Current voting results indicate he’s in real danger of slipping off the ballot in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility.

According to the Hall of Fame public ballot tracker, which is the product of the hard work by man of the people Ryan Thibodaux, shows Posada has appeared on only 4.2% of the public Hall of Fame ballots as of this writing. He’s already been mathematically eliminated from received the 75% necessary for induction this year, not that I expected him to get in anyway. Jorge is very much a borderline candidate. Borderline at best, really.

So far 185 ballots have been made public — those are from voters who posted their ballot on social media, in their newspaper, on a blog, whatever — while six others were sent to Thibodaux anonymously. That makes up roughly 44% of the voting body. Posada needs 14 more votes to clear the 5% threshold and remain on the ballot another year. We’re still waiting on ballots from many New York voters, which could help Posada, though historically players have received less support from private ballots than public ballots. It’s a long shot.

Now, I don’t think it would be some kind of grave injustice if Posada doesn’t make it into the Hall of Fame. Hardly. He’s one of my all-time favorite players, but I recognize him as a borderline candidate. Posada was unquestionably one of the best catchers of his era and one of the best in Yankees history, though you have to squint your eyes a bit to really see his Hall of Fame case. It comes down to his offense, because Jorge wasn’t a great (or even good) defender.

Among catchers with at least 5,000 career plate appearances, Posada is 12th all-time in OPS+ (121) and 14th all-time in wRC+ (123). He’s ninth in OBP (.374) and eighth in SLG (.474). As a catcher only, meaning ignoring time as a DH and all that, Posada is seventh all-time in homers (246) and sixth in extra-base hits (599). He’s also first in walks (818) and ninth in times in base (2,356). Posada hit .279/.380/.487 as a catcher. That’s pretty awesome.

There’s no question Posada, a career .273/.374/.474 (123 wRC+) hitter overall, was far better than the average catcher offensively. Far, far better. The question is whether the 12th or 14th or whatever best hitting catcher of all-time is worthy of being inducted into Cooperstown. For the vast majority of Hall of Fame voters this year, the answer has been no. Being part of four World Series titles teams (technically five, but Posada wasn’t exactly a key component of the 1996 Yankees) hasn’t helped his case much.

The fact the ballot is stuffed isn’t helping matters either. Of the 191 ballots on Thibodaux’s tracker, a whopping 110 voted for the maximum ten players. It’s really easy to come up with about 12 players worthy of Hall of Fame votes this year, but there’s only room on the ballot for ten, so inevitably a few deserving players get left out in the cold. Posada’s an easy one to cast aside. Heck, if I had a ballot, I’m pretty sure Jorge wouldn’t be among my “top” ten players, though I haven’t put a ton of thought into it.

Posada’s best shot at getting into the Hall of Fame was always going involve a long stint on the ballot with a gradual increase in support each year. Perhaps a Rich Lederer/Bert Blyleven, Jonah Keri/Tim Raines style campaign would have been necessary. The longer he stayed on the ballot, the more voters would consider him and realize how great he truly was. That was the plan. (As an added bonus, the longer the stayed on the ballot, the more unclogged it would get it.)

In all likelihood Posada is going to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot this year, his first year of eligibility. That stinks. At least Bernie stuck around for a second year. Posada is one of the greatest Yankees ever and no one will ever wear No. 20 in pinstripes again. Most players couldn’t dream of having his career. Jorge seems destined to be overlooked as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, which is kinda fitting I guess, because I always felt he was a bit underappreciated during his playing career.

This time, it’s personal

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Just a bit less than a year ago, I wrote  a piece detailing my inability to let go of caring about the Baseball Hall of Fame process. Now, all this time later, I still can’t stop caring. I’ve managed to let go of caring about the postseason awards voting, but the Hall of Fame stuff still lingers. In 2015, I talked about the idea of rational debate, of a love of logic and reason being behind my enduring attachment to the Hall of Fame process; this year, though, it’s different. I care his year for reasons that are wholly personal.

The first baseball mitt I clearly remember using was a small black one that I used up until middle school. On the palm in gold lettering was a signature that read “Tim ‘Rock’ Raines.” It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how good Raines was as a player, that he was more than just the dude whose signature adorned my first mitt, which I’ll seemingly never forget. Given that this is his last year on the ballot, it’s hard not to care, not to want to see him get in. It’s possible–maybe even probable–that he does this year. That would be sweet and a long time coming or a great, great player.

Jorge Posada, on the ballot for the first time–and probably the last–was a favorite player of mine growing up. The same is probably true of a lot of you. Whether it was his consistent, excellent bat or his passion for the game, it wasn’t hard to root for Jorge. Always the player surrounded by stars, Posada’s career is likely highly underrated by anyone outside of Yankee fandom. He’s not going to garner a lot of support–and he probably shouldn’t be a Hall of Fame player–but it’d be nice for Georgie to get some recognition.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

All of us–well, except Michael Kay–loved Mike Mussina’s time on the Yankees. Combining his peak performance for the Bombers and his longevity, he’s got a case as one of the Yankees three best starters of the last twenty years.  He was a fantastic pitcher for a long time and is also underappreciated on a large scale and deserves Cooperstown just as much as any pitcher has in recent years.

The odds of all three of these favorites of mine getting in are incredibly long, nigh impossible. But having that connection to them is why I can’t stop caring, at least not this year. Maybe once this spate of ex-Yankees–ending with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and (hopefully) Alex Rodriguez in the next few years–comes to an end, I can finally put an end to caring about this damned process. Until then, though, I’ll continue to root, root for the home team and hope my favorites make it in.

Jorge Posada among newcomers on ’17 Hall of Fame ballot

Count 'em. (Getty)
Count ’em. (Getty)

For the first time ever, a member of the Core Four (groan) is eligible for the Hall of Fame. Longtime Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is one of 19 newcomers on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot. The BBWAA officially released the 34-player class of Cooperstown hopefuls earlier today. Here’s the ballot.

Posada played his entire career with the Yankees and is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball history. He retired as a career .273/.374/.474 (121 OPS+) hitter with 275 home runs in parts of 17 seasons from 1995-2011. During his peak from 2000-07, Posada hit .283/.389/.492 (130 OPS+) and averaged 23 homers and 136 games caught per season. He won five World Series rings too, though he wasn’t exactly an integral part of the 1996 team.

Among the other first time eligible players joining the Hall of Fame ballot this year are Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Vlad Guerrero. Manny won’t get in because he was suspended not once, but twice for performance-enhancing drugs as a player. Rodriguez never tested positive but there was plenty of suspicion. Vlad? With Vlad it’s a question of whether his career warrants induction, not PEDs.

In addition to Posada and Rodriguez, other players on the ballot with ties to the Yankees are Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Gary Sheffield, and Lee Smith. Fred McGriff is also on the ballot. He never played for the Yankees because they traded him as a minor leaguer, but they did draft him. Raines is on the ballot for the tenth and final time, so this is his last chance to get in.

My guess is Rodriguez, Raines, Jeff Bagwell, and Trevor Hoffman get in this year with Vlad falling just short. Raines, Bagwell, and Hoffman all came close to getting in last year and I expect them to get over the hump this time around. Posada’s case is borderline, and while I don’t think he’ll get in, he’ll no doubt receive enough votes to remain on the ballot going forward.

As a reminder, players need to receive 75% of the vote for induction and 5% to remain on the ballot another year. The Hall of Fame voters have to send in their ballots by the end of the year. The 2017 Hall of Fame class will be announced during a live MLB Network broadcast on Wednesday, January 18th.

Spring Notes: Captain’s Camp, Tanaka, Pineda, Pettitte

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

We are now a day and a half away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Of course, a bunch of players are already working out at the minor league complex, so a bunch of spring notes have been trickling in the last few days. Here’s a quick roundup, via Bryan Hoch, Anthony McCarron, and Erik Boland.

2016 Captain’s Camp underway

The second annual Captain’s Camp is underway and the Yankees have been shuttling in former players, executives, and media folks to talk to their top young prospects. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, and Darryl Strawberry have all stopped by the Tampa complex to spend time with the kids. Derek Jeter took them all out to dinner last night.

“What’s encouraging to me is that we don’t pay anybody to come. We have a lot of really good people that are coming in to talk to our guys, just to voluntarily share what they’ve learned over the years,” said farm system head Gary Denbo, who came up with the idea for Captain’s Camp last year. Denbo confirmed more prospects were invited this year as the Yankees look to groom their next young core.

Interestingly, the Yankees selected two Captain’s Camp “leaders” this year: outfielder Aaron Judge and right-hander Brady Lail. “We picked a pitcher and we picked a position player that we thought could lead by example and through their actions. They’ve done a tremendous job,” said Denbo. I think the whole Captain’s Camp idea is pretty cool. Being a big leaguer is hard and it’s great the Yankees are doing whatever they can to help their prospects get to the next level.

All goes well as Tanaka throws off a mound

Over the weekend Masahiro Tanaka threw off a mound for the first time in Tampa — he threw off a mound at Yankee Stadium last week — and everything is going well with his surgically repaired elbow so far. “(Tanaka) didn’t try to push it too much, but it was good. He wasn’t midseason form, but he was where he should be,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild of the 20-pitch throwing session. Tanaka played long toss yesterday as well.

Tanaka had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October and depending who you ask, he is either right on schedule or the Yankees are handling him carefully. I suppose both can be true. Tanaka says he’s unsure if he’ll ready for Opening Day, Rothschild says he’s right on schedule, and Brian Cashman says they’ll take it easy with him in camp. Either way, so far, so good. “We’ll keep throwing. We’ll probably do a mound (session) within the next couple days, and then just keep progressing from there,” said Rothschild.

Pineda wants to throw 200 innings in 2016

Standard Spring Training story alert: [Pitcher] who has never thrown 200 innings in a season wants to throw 200 innings this year. In this case [Pitcher] is Michael Pineda. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. That’s my goal,” he said. “You always want to do better. Sometimes we have good games, sometimes we have bad games … Now it’s a new year and a new season is coming and I want to be ready and prepared to have a great year.”

Pineda built a gym in his home this offseason and he is “looking slimmed down,” according to Boland. Of course, the biggest issue with Big Mike is health. He was on track to throw roughly 200 innings last season before missing most of August with a forearm issue. Pineda seems like the biggest wildcard on the staff. His upside is so obvious and yet, as we saw last year, the results don’t always match the stuff. He’s frustrating and also way too talented to give up on.

Pettitte throws batting practice, may be back later in spring

While in town for Captain’s Camp, Pettitte threw batting practice to several of the team’s top prospects for about 30 minutes yesterday. “If I’m going to be here, y’all ought to use me. The wind was blowing out. Judge, I think, hit a couple on Dale Mabry (Boulevard),” he joked.

Pettitte may return to Spring Training in a few weeks — he was asked about coming back as a player and answered with a straight “No,” in case you’re wondering — depending on his schedule. “I’m going to try to, but I have to see the kids’ games, the way it works out” he said. “I love being down here, love being around these young guys. It’s extremely important to me, also, because of what the Yankees have been to me.”

Hip, Hip: Previewing the Hall of Fame Case for Jorge Posada

It's a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)
It’s a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)

I would not have realized this without Mike mentioning it in a post last week, but Jorge Posada will be up for induction into the Hall of Fame during the next round of elections. He last played in 2011, a season that was humbling for him to say the least. His career ended on a positive note, though, as he was one of the few Yankees to show up during the ALDS against Detroit; in that disaster series, Jorge hit .429/.579/.571, notching six hits in the five game set. Amazingly enough, he didn’t drive a single run home in the series. Regardless of the ugly times in 2011, it wrapped up a fantastic career that deserves its share of inspection.

Posada’s Major League career started in earnest in 1997, when he played in 60 games and racked up 224 PAs for the Yanks; it got fully rolling in 1998, when his playing time jumped up and he played in 111 games and went to the plate 409 times. 1999 was rather similar; he played in 112 games and had 437 PA. 2000 was Jorge’s real breakout. Amassing 624 PA across 151 games, Posada raked, hitting .287/.417/.527 with 28 homers and an OPS+ of 139 (.405 wOBA; 140 wRC+). It started a string of four straight All Star Game appearances and four straight Silver Slugger awards. All told, Posada made it to five All Star Games and won five Silver Slugger awards (2000-3, 2007) and had a career line of .274/.374/.474/.848, good for a 121 OPS+ and a .367/123 wOBA/wRC+.

(Photo via NY Daily News)
(Photo via NY Daily News)

If we judge a player by the company he kept, then Posada was nothing short of an offensive leader at his position. His only offensive “sin” during his career was that he was not, in fact, Mike Piazza. Among catchers with at least 5000 PA from 1995-2011, Posada ranks second to Piazza in wOBA; wRC+; and home runs. He’s third in fWAR (44.3) behind Ivan Rodriguez (60.3–whom Posada outhit by 19 points in wOBA and 16 in wRC+) and Piazza (51.2).

Doubtlessly, Jorge Posada was the AL’s best offensive catcher for the years of his career; hitters like Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer definitely caught up to him in the later years of his career, but Posada’s offensive longevity and consistency were marvelous. Only twice–1999 and 2011–did Posada fail to hit at a league average rate, and that’s not adjusting for his position. Eight times, he notched marks at least 20% better than league average.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)
(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

But in the end, it probably wasn’t enough. Jorge wasn’t as good a hitter as Mike Piazza and he wasn’t as good a catcher as Ivan Rodriguez. He falls somewhere in the middle there, which definitely hurts him. This isn’t to say that his numbers are necessarily Hall-Worthy, but to say Posada was anything short of the second best offensive catcher of his time is unfair. The other big slight against him is another over which he had no control. Posada appeared in games for the Yankees staring in 1995, but wasn’t the full time catcher until 2000. Those years of being a part time player robbed him of the counting stats that a lot of voters take into consideration. Regardless, Posada managed to club 275 homers and drive in over 1,000 runs in his career, good marks for anyone, let alone a catcher. had he received more consistent playing time before 1998-2000, his candidacy might be more than something to dream on.

Considering the fate we just saw Jim Edmonds suffer–falling off the ballot ungraciously and undeservingly after just one appearance–it’s not likely that Posada sticks around very long. That wouldn’t be a big injustice or a travesty or anything, but as a player we feel a lot of emotional connection with, it’ll be a touch sad to see Jorge–like his teammate Bernie Williams–disappear from the ballot easily. In the end, though, it doesn’t change anything about the man and the player Jorge Posada was for the Yankees for so many years. It’s years too late, but thanks for the great career, Jorge. A retired number in Monument Park isn’t Cooperstown, but it’s a damn fine consolation prize.

The Speed of the Game

It’s Friday night and I’m standing in left-center at Teufel Field. It’s the bottom of the first inning and there are runners on first and second with one out and the fourth hitter for the opposing team is at the plate with a 1-1 count (thank you, speed up rules). Our pitcher sets on the mound, rears his arm back, and arcs the ball towards home plate. The batter swings and sends a sinking line drive in my direction, slightly to my left. Eyes squinted in the less-than-idea lighting, I sprint towards the ball charging forward, sliding at the last second, securing the second out before popping up and trying (and failing) to double up the runner at second. This play could’ve happened at least three times in the amount of time it took me to write this and for you to read it. The game is fast, and that’s just slow-pitch softball. On Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, I got even more education on the speed of the game.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time, I sat in the Legends seats–Section 14B, Row 2. As someone who played ball growing up and has watched and attended countless games, viewed from all over various in-stadium locations, I certainly knew how quick the game could be, but being so close hammered the point home (rudely at times, like Abraham Almonte’s screaming foul liner that buzzed our collective tower).  From Didi Gregorius‘s speed to the velocity of the pitches delivered by Luis Severino, Danny Salazar, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller, “fast” was the best way to describe yesterday.

With regards to that ‘micro-level’ speed, sitting so close to the action only furthered my appreciation for just how incredibly difficult baseball can be. The way hitters can react quickly enough to not just hit the ball, but hit it with authority, driving it all over the place, never ceases to amaze me. The way infielders can react to sharp ground balls and calmly field them is a near marvel; that they can seemingly flick their wrists and throw the ball harder than I could overhand is another feat that leaves me speechless. Because the players aren’t zooming around the field like they would be in basketball, hockey, soccer, or football, we don’t necessarily think of baseball as a speed sport, but it is unavoidably so.

On the ‘macro-level’ of speed, there was the pregame ceremony for Jorge Posada. As I watched him receive his plaques and gifts, I couldn’t believe almost four calendar years have passed since Jorge suited up for the Yankees. While his former teammates lined the infield grass, I remembered playing Wiffle Ball with friends in my front yard, imitating the batting stances of the men I was looking at–Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Posada himself… Obviously, many years have passed since then, but the memory didn’t–and still doesn’t–seem all that distant. Like the thrown and batted balls, like the lighting-fast pitches, the memories of players passed reminds us that the game moves quickly no matter how you look at it. We could all do well to slow down and appreciate it, from the tiny bursts of speed on the basepaths, to the (hopefully) magnificent careers blossoming in front of us.