Friend of TYU Joe Pawlikowski (of RAB and Fangraphs) has a new piece up where he looks at Jorge Posada in historical context, comparing him to other Catchers at age 38. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the results aren’t pretty. He writes:
History provides us with the beginnings of an answer. While nine players caught more than 100 games at age 37, only five did so at age 38* — and only three have done it since 1940. Only one, Benito Santiago in 2003, slugged over .400. Fred Jacklitsch holds the highest OBP in the group, .376, but he did it in 1914. Among the post-1940 players, Santiago’s .329 OBP leads the way. The catchers that did make it to age 38, it appears, were known more for their defensive skills than offensive prowess.
On the age-37 list, the only other catcher to post an OPS of .800 or above was Carlton Fisk, who posted a .348 wOBA in 1985. In 1986 he played in 125 games, but started only 65 behind the plate. But even if he had caught 100 games in 1986, his numbers would rank him as the worst among his peers. His OPS sat at a lowly .600 that season, resulting in a -1.5 WAR. Age 38 does not appear to be a catcher-friendly one.
He goes on to add that even if he continues to produce at the plate, his recent injury history (shoulder/hamstring) make you wonder if he’ll be able to get on the field in order to produce. Girardi has said he only plans on starting Jorge at Catcher between 100-120 games, which represents a concession to age by the Yanks. Girardi further adds that he doesn’t plan on DHing Jorge on his off days, preferring to rest him over giving him ABs.
I have my own doubts about his bat. His BB rate and SO rates both went in the wrong direction last year, which is typical of a player whose bat is slowing down. Further, in 2009 his pitch type value on fastballs went down while he destroyed change ups. Posada has destroyed fastballs for most of his career, but even in his down years he never started looking for the change. All of that leads me to believe he’s poised for a drop off, and nobody knows just how steep it will be. Pitchers aren’t stupid, they will notice these trends and start challenging him more. Given his position and all the wear and tear that comes with it, fans would be wise to tread carefully with their expectations for Jorge this year.