Bob Klapisch of NJ.com published a piece yesterday profiling Jorge Posada. They discussed where he is in is career, where he is in relation to past players at the position and what the future may hold. He writes:
Posada says, “I still feel pretty young” which is a remarkable statement for a catcher this close to 40. The cutoff point for most is 34. Yogi Berra, Gary Carter and Johnny Bench, for instance, all hit the wall after their age-34 seasons – none of them ever caught 100 games after that.
Of course, there’s a chance Posada could turn out to be Carlton Fisk, who caught 134 games at age 43, but he knows the odds are long. For one, Posada will already be transitioned out by 2011; he’ll likely catch no more than 80 games next season, after which his contract expires.
And then? That’s the question Posada can’t and won’t answer. He’d like to keep playing, reminding the Yankees his bones are considerably younger than his birth certificate.
“The fact that I didn’t start catching until late [in the minor leagues] has helped keep me strong to this point,” Posada was saying Thursday night. “Most catchers get to a certain age and things start to break down, like their knees. But except for my shoulder [which was operated on in 2008], I’ve never had a major injury. I like to think it’s because I’ve taken care of myself.”
Lots here to discuss. First, the stuff about him getting a late start behind the plate is a bit overrated. He started Catching at age 19 in the New York Penn League (Rookie ball) and was a full time Catcher the very next year. Also, many other Catchers throughout Baseball history began their careers at other positions (Gary Carter played OF) and still didn’t last past age 35. The one who did, Carlton Fisk, had a conditioning regimen that was legendary. So his point about ‘taking care of himself’ plays in his favor, and is probably the main reason why he’s still the Yanks 1st string Catcher at age 38.
Chances are it won’t be his defense that will get his playing time reduced all that much. I think it’s fair to say that at his age you may prefer a younger, more athletic backstop to catch someone like AJ Burnett, whose stuff can be very hard to handle. But Jorge’s ticket to the bigs was never his glove, it was always his bat. His triple slash from last year looked great (.285/.363/.522) and looking at that you’d never suspect he could be poised for a decline. But digging a bit into his advanced stats and there are causes for concern. His BB/SO rate was the lowest of any full season since 2001, which makes you think his bat may be slowing down. As a player ages, he will typically cheat a bit on fastballs, leaving him more prone to SO and less likely to BB. Another thing that jumps out at me is his Pitch Type Values, and the way he hit change ups last year. Anyone familiar with Jorge’s scouting report knows he has always been a player that devours fastballs. Even as a raw rookie in the late 90′s, he was one of the few Yanks who could hit Randy Johnson in his prime. Seeing such a huge jump in hitting the change tells me that he’s looking for it. Opposing pitchers will notice this trend and begin challenging him more with hard stuff. That’s when we’ll see just how much Jorge really has left.
We all know Jorge is stubborn, and that’s a big reason why he’s been a great player for so many years. But these decisions tend to be made for you as a player. It’s not something you have much say about. As Yankee fans, we’ve already got more than anyone could have reasonably expected out of Jorge, so we shouldn’t be surprised if enters his decline this year. He’s actually long overdue.