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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.

* To be fair, two other age-37 catchers also played that season in 2009, Jason Varitek and Ivan Rodriguez.

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.

17 Responses to “Jorge Posada in rare (and dangerous) territory”

  1. Then again, Posada was an fielder until he was 19 years old, maybe that’s helped last a long time, not squatting during his growth years.
    He wanted to go to college but didn’t get a qualifying grade on the SAT’S.Yankees eventually signed him, I believe out of JR COLLEGE AND CONVERTED him to catcher.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    This comes up a lot with Jorge, but the fact of the matter is he was converted to Catcher at age 19 while still in the NY Penn League. He spent one season with the Yanks in Rookie ball at 2B.

    http://www.thebaseballcube.com/Fielding/P/Jorge-Posada.shtml  (Quote)

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  2. If he falls off a cliff we get to see Montero sooner!  (Quote)

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  3. While it is reasonable to expect something of a drop in Posada’s production in 2010, to expect the sky to fall is an overreaction in my opinion. Three quick points:

    1- To use Fisk’s season at the age of 38 in isolation is a bit misleading. Fisk rebounded strongly to become a productive hitter through the age of 42 (285/18/65; 285/378/451).

    2- Posada has caught considerably fewer games at this age than other offensively productive catchers ( Fisk, I- Rod, Carter, Piazza, Berra, Bench). His body should be less abused. I would even argue that the time off in 2008 because of the shoulder problems is beneficial for future performance because it allowed the rest of his body- knees, fingers, upper body- a chance to recuperate.

    3- While it is inarguable that both his BB and K rates declined in 2009, it is probably unfair to compare them to his last full year , 2007, which was an outlier in terms of performance ( Career bests in BA, OBP, SP, OPS+). His BB rate in 2009 was very similar to his 2005 and 2006 levels and the K rate were in line with 200-2002, though admittedly worse than more recent years.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    All good points, but let me answer each:

    1-Joe noted that in his piece, which I linked. But even with that being the case, Joe and my point still stands, that the list of effective catchers age 38+ is a very, very short one.

    2-Here I think you’re looking at selective stats in isolation. The more fair way to do it is to compare him to ALL Catchers at that age (as Joe did) not cherry pick some and discard the rest. It’s also worth noting that Berra moved out from behind the plate around age 35, and was done as a hitter by age 37. Bench spent time at 1B, 3B and in the outfield his entire career, and retired at age 35.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/benchjo01-field.shtml

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/berrayo01-field.shtml

    3-I compared them to 2008, not 2007. While his BB rate and SO rates have gone up and down throughout his career, his BB/K rate is his lowest since 2001 and as I noted the drop off in his pitch type values facing fastballs and changeups is what I found most alarming.  (Quote)

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  4. It’s sort of like RB’s in the NFL.They can only have “So’ many carries before they lose the burst.That can Happen at 30 or 34, depending how many carries they had and when.Posada is reasonably lightly raced and his legs have held up fine.His defensive liabilities are more the issue than his age.  (Quote)

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  5. Agree that the fastball/changeup point bears watching. Could be a statistical anomaly or the first signs of major decline.

    Still agree with Leftylarry that Posada is somewhat different than most 38 year old catchers in that he got a relatively late start as a major league regular, has caught fewer games overall than would be expected of player his age and therefore his body should be comparatively fresh.

    Finally, I think Girardi’s background may be helpful in being able to know how and when to use and not abuse.  (Quote)

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    bobbybaseball Reply:

    im sorry classic s but jorge’s idea of bocking balls in the dirt is waching them go by and waiting for the umpire to call time. i myself am a defense maven, and cant wait for his departure…lets not forget the dirty little secret..none ofthe pitchers want to throw to him despite the politically correct statements to the press  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    the truth ..is the truth… burnett can’t throw that ball hard down and in to lefties when he is behind the plate..a hugh weapon for AJ.. next year he should be the back up.. and DH pinch hitter type..he never should have gotten four more years.. 3 like MO got were plenty. he is a great yankee but he must come to terms it’s over behind the plate.. he insist.. I’m a catcher  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    his catching days are over..90 games at the most this year.. full back up next with DH if he can still hit..  (Quote)

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  6. A few days ago I wrote; Posada wouldn’t reach 100 games at catcher…I stand on that!
    Many of those reasons are posted above;
    Slower bat…was the best fastball hitter on the team, not so much anymore.
    Age…let’s face it, everyone ages differently but, age is age.
    Defense…If the offense suffers this year, his defense is even more of a factor.
    Cervelli…may be used as was Joe and Posada in Posadas first couple years.
    Joe G…as an old defensive catcher, he will see the down turn very fast and take the action he thinks is needed. Slowly replace Posada…if and when necessary.
    Sorry Jorge…everyone ages and needs to be replaced at some time, even you. Let me say; thanks for all you have ment to the team for many years.  (Quote)

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    Ken (OR) Reply:

    I must admit there have been many others, with many of the same doubts about Posada in the years to come. Didn’t mean to sound as though I was the first or last.  (Quote)

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  7. I am not convinced. In 2009, Posada was coming off of season-ending surgery, correct? He is going to have a good year provided Girardi takes care of him. We will be fine. Indeed, would anyone give me 3-1 odds that he has doesn’t have an even better year in 2010 than in 2009?  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    I’d recommend you click the link to Joe’s piece and read it in it’s entirety. In the history of Baseball, only 2 players (Fisk/Santiago) have had productive years past age 38 and caught 100 games. Fisk’s work ethic was legendary, and while Jorge isn’t lazy he also isn’t known as being off the charts in that category. Jorge’s a good, hard working player. But so were many others who broke down at his age or sooner.  (Quote)

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  8. I think Posada will hit .270 with 20 dingers which is fine.Expect him to play DH against some lefties.  (Quote)

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  9. couldnt agree more steve..the fans love him the media loves him, but he wont catch even 90 gms, and by seasns end will be linkd with varatek as an overpaid, over the hill “team leader” Hope cervelli’s concussion isnt serious, we’ll need him…  (Quote)

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  10. I haven’t seen Jorge’s rough play, tho others may have a better eye for that. When I look, I see a guy who is trying hard, with every fiber of being, stretching his fingers in harm’s way. I saw Molina miss a few bouncers, but maybe I just love Jorge. From either side, Jorge is still a weapon, but age fells them all.

    I would vote for the prospect who brings pitcher handling first, and the better the bat, so be it. Ask the pitchers.  (Quote)

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