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Amidst all the glory and celebration of our 27th World Championship, a disturbing trend for Yankee fans began to pop up this year. One that many announcers and pundits alluded to, but never spoke to directly or put any names to. After the corks were popped and the champagne flowed, I’m sure you heard someone in Yankeeland say ‘The Yanks have some aging players, who you cant expect to repeat their performance from this year’. We all know who the aging players are, the ‘Core 4′ veterans are among the oldest members of this team. You could include Damon and Matsui if you like, but they aren’t signed for next year. Of the Core 4, only one of them showed the kind of age-related red flags that would concern you about his ability to perform going forward. That player, that member of the Core 4, is Jorge Posada.

When looking for signs of decline, there are many methods you can use. You can use visual clues, such as if the player in question has trouble with hard throwers (esp. same handed ones) or if he’s getting uncharacteristically fooled frequently by off-speed stuff, where other members of the lineup are not. But these methods can be subject to perception or personal bias, so you need to cross check what your eyes are telling you and look at the numbers.

In the early stages of a player’s decline, his overall numbers might look good. But even if his BA/OBP/SLG seem fine there can be hidden clues that signal decline. Look at a players Walk Rates and Strikeout Rates, and see if they’re going in the wrong direction. Check out his numbers facing Power/Finesse pitchers. The theory goes that a veteran hitter might maintain his production as his bat slows down by cheating a bit. This will make him less patient since he’s starting his bat sooner and leads to getting fooled on breaking pitches. Therefore, more SO and less BB. So when you see a drop in the SO/BB rate for an aging player, it’s a huge red flag. But it’s not always the case. One candidate for this age-related decline was Bobby Abreu. Abreu saw his Walk Rate plummet his last two years with the Yankees, but went on to have a stellar 09 campaign where he increased his Walk rate at age 35. But Bobby’s 3 years younger than Jorge, and cases like that are the exception, not the rule.

Here’s Jorge’s numbers courtesy of Fangraphs:

BB%-11.1%

K%-26.4%

BB/K%-0.48

That Walk Rate is the lowest he’s had in any full season of his career, though he posted similar numbers in 2001 (11.4%) and 1998 (11.6%). The Strikeout Rate is the highest he’s posted since 2002 (28%) and is a significant jump from his 08 showing (22.6). It’s an even bigger jump from his 04-07 numbers, when he hovered around 20% annually. The overall BB/K% is his lowest since 2001, and 2nd lowest of his career.

2009 Power/Finesse splits courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
vs. Power 60 94 76 19 2 0 4 14 16 25 .250 .383 .434 .817 33 5 1 0 1 1 2 .313 89 131
vs. avg.P/F 92 283 255 76 19 0 16 55 24 65 .298 .357 .561 .918 143 7 1 0 3 3 2 .339 106 141
vs. Finesse 30 61 52 14 4 0 2 12 8 11 .269 .361 .462 .822 24 1 0 0 1 0 0 .300 88 105

Career Power/Finesse splits courtesy of Baseball Reference:

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+
vs. Power 842 1376 1133 282 59 2 52 192 220 371 .249 .378 .442 .820 501 25 18 0 5 18 11 .322 92
vs. avg.P/F 1252 3513 2988 812 187 3 131 521 467 697 .272 .373 .468 .841 1398 95 30 1 27 40 31 .311 96
vs. Finesse 589 1423 1244 394 96 4 60 251 151 210 .317 .395 .545 .940 678 43 17 0 11 13 14 .339 118

He seems to be holding up against power pitchers. Although his numbers dropped substantially from his 07 splits, that was a career year for him and they seem to be in line with his overall career averages.

It’s possible that his numbers declined this year due to the effects of the shoulder surgery, which could be better with another year of rest and rehab. Or maybe he was just a little banged up this season, as many Catchers will be over the course of a year. But if it’s injury related, that doesn’t necessarily play in his favor going into next year. Posada’s fundamentals as a Catcher have never been great and some of his flaws make him more prone to injury than most. He’s not a good bet to stay healthy, he hasn’t been for the past 2 seasons. Whether its age related, health related or a little of both, it’s difficult to imagine Jorge Posada continuing to produce with his bat going forward. If he’s walking less and striking out more, you can be sure pitchers will notice and adjust accordingly. You may have seen his last good offensive year this past season. Most Catchers don’t have soft landings.

17 Responses to “Has Jorge Posada started to decline as a hitter?”

  1. He’s 37 if this is the first time you have suspected him of slowing down than he has done a damn good job of aging… He hit 22 HRs this year, came up big in some big situations and even got a walk off pie…

    Posada isn’t who he was even a few years ago but he is still better than a good majority of the catchers in this league offensively and with Montero and Romine coming up we should be fine offensivley behind the plate and with Cervelli as the backup for next season we are fine defensively.

    Does anyone not think Posada has dropped? Hell even Jeter has dropped of from who he was it happens with age.  (Quote)

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  2. “it’s difficult to imagine Jorge Posada continuing to produce with his bat going forward”

    I’m going to strongly disagree. Will he decline at least a bit? Probably. But it is going to take more than a single season’s worth (438 PA’s) of decline in his K/BB for me to buy into the idea that we just saw his last good offensive season.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    The BB/K rate decline is a trend that spans 3 seasons. This stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum, scouts and opposing pitchers notice these things. Also, when I cite ‘worst number since 98 or 02′ he clearly wasn’t the mature hitter he became in his prime years of 04-07. He struck out less, and his BB/K numbers were among the best of his career. So you see the arc of a player’s career, getting better and better, then starting to trend in the other direction.

    I don’t think he got dumber in the past few seasons, so the obvious conclusion to draw is his physical skills have declined. Which is to be expected of someone his age. I left the door open that it may have been injury related, and if they reduce his workload behind the dish next year (which I know you don’t support) he may hold up better. But if I had to bet the mortgage payment, the trend line appears age related to me and most Catchers don’t have soft landings .  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    The trend line that you cite is the same one people used to suggest Jeter was declining after 1 rough year. Yes, his BB% in 2008 was a decline from 2007, but it was an increase from 2004 and 2005. That is not a legitimate trend. The K rate is a more legit trend, but again, he has been effective with a K rate of that sort. Basically, I have one year of decline for BB rate and 2 years of K rate- more than I stated in my initial comment, but still not enough for me to suggest a decline, particularly when he had such a good year despite that decline.  (Quote)

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    The other Chris H Reply:

    Let’s also not forget he got injured during the season and had to miss some 20 games due to injury so his numbers before and slightly after the injury should drag down his full years numbers.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    That’s a stretch. He had a pulled hamstring. If you could show me a drop off after the thumb injury he suffered in Late August, we might have something. But September was his best (full) month of the season last year, so that’s out.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/splits?playerId=3341  (Quote)

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    The other Chris H Reply:

    Seems like a Hammy would affect your swing, power and contact… You start from the legs up if they aren’t strong you aren’t strong… If the numbers don’t bare out they don’t bare out but I would assume it would affect your abiltity considering you would try to play through it at first and when you came back you could be a little rusty.  (Quote)

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  3. What a dilemma, you would like him to catch less and DH a little more. Get Arod & Damon(?) some DH at-bats too. But how can we let the man who provided GREAT lineup protection for ARod go in Matsui! Am I the only one who thinks we absolutely need Matsui? He would be the clean-up hitter on 60% of the teams in MLB IMO.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Steve S. Reply:

    I could see them bringing him back, but only on an Andy Pettitte-like low base deal with incentives, and in all likelihood he won’t get enough ABs to reach any of them. I don’t think the market for Matsui will be strong, many of the teams that could use him the most are in the NL and he can’t play the OF. Seattle brought back Griffey, so they’re out. He’ll have to accept 4-5 mil to play for the Yanks next year, and he may get better offers from a Japanese team.

    BTW-You missed the entire point of this post. Even as a DH I still I think he’s poised for a drop off next year, based on the BB/K rate.  (Quote)

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    Basil Fomeen Reply:

    My bad, I know I went a little off topic but I had to show my affection for Matsui’s contributions. Your post seems to indicate that Posada in the DH role could be somewhat detrimental, thus, the dilemma.  (Quote)

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    The other Chris H Reply:

    I don’t believe Posada is just going to not be able to play next year… It’s ludicrous to think he will fall that hard after hitting .285/.363/.522/.885 with 22 HRs and 81 RBI in only 111 games…

    Matsui has already said he won’t go back to Japan so even if they do give him more he won’t go and I would much rather have Matsui at 8 million for next year than sign Damon to any contract for any length of time! I DO NOT WANT DAMON IN LF! I don’t think there is much chance in hell we can win another WS with Damon in LF… You let Matsui leave and he takes his 28 HRs with him, Damon isn’t going to hit his career high again and his batting average and defense is only going to get worse so his offense will go down and his D will be even worse, combine that with losing 28 HRs from Matsui and a rotating DH spot that makes Ramiro Pena and everyday player and we have a severley reduced offense and the defense will only be worse in the outfield.  (Quote)

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  4. Someone (I forget who) once said; “Youth is wasted on the young”, (something like that). Those words are as true today as they ever where. Almost to a man, if they were asked, would admit, they wish they knew then what they know now.
    The curve one sees in a players career has a lot of meaning when looked at that way. After awhile the body slows down but, the knowledge one has gained over the years lets one go on as if they will never slow down. But all of a sudden, one poor year becomes two then three, then bye-bye.
    Of course in between those poor years, there is almost always one very good year…that’s why one has to watch a player very carefully as he ages.
    Posada, Mo and Jeter are at that time of life where next year could be their last…or, not!  (Quote)

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  5. Sure, Posada may decline. But even if he hits .260/.340/.440 with poor defense, he’ll still be an above-average player at the position. All he needs to do is hang on for one more year before Romine and Montero are ready.  (Quote)

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    Old Ranger Reply:

    I agree with that assessment of Posada. The good thing is, after next year, we may have three very good catchers. One very good “D” (Cervelli) with so-so “O”, one good “D”/”O” (Romine) and one very good “O” and Posada like “D” (Montero)…I would say, “that ain’t all bad”.
    If one were to combine all the attributes of each of those three, Romine is the one that stands out the most; Cervelli is a bit better on “D” then Romine and Montero is a bit better hitter but, add it up into a package…one is left with Romine.
    I admit I have only seen Montero play twice but, he was slow (to react) behind the plate and didn’t seem to slide side to side as well as one would look for him to do. Sounds somewhat like another catcher we know…but by no means was he bad or even half bad…he just wasn’t Cervelli or Molina.  (Quote)

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    The other Chris H Reply:

    What do you expect from a kid who is so huge? He is 6’4 225+ and he will only grow more, in the end I think you are looking at Romine as the starter for the future and Montero will be the guy who they toy with C, LF, RF and eventually he will settle in at DH, not anytime close but eventually they will realize his offense is just to good to keep trying to find a position for him and just let him hit.  (Quote)

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  6. “”"”MIKE Dunn strikes out four … in one inning”"” Arizona league.

    He’ll get plenty more chances to do that with Jorge catching him. ROTFLMAO!  (Quote)

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    The other Chris H Reply:

    I saw he did good, Dunn really does have some impressive stuff for a lefty, and for the short time he was up he showed a much better changeup than I though he would have he can really be a 3 pitch pitcher from the left side out of the pen. He has more potential than Coke if he can get his control down pat.  (Quote)

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