Does Jorge Hurt the Yanks When He Catches?

June 16, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Well, it seems that more and more people are starting to believe he does. And since Jorge Posada has returned from the DL, there has been a lot of talk about his ability to call games and work with pitchers. Today, Tyler Kepner tackles to topic:

“One unsettling fact for the Yankees is the difference when Jorge Posada catches. With Posada behind the plate, the Yankees’ pitchers have a 6.31 E.R.A. The combined E.R.A. with Francisco Cervelli, Jose Molina and Kevin Cash is 3.81.

“Posada has caught four starts by Chien-Ming Wang, whose job status is now evaluated on a game-by-game basis. Even removing those starts, the staff’s E.R.A. with Posada is still high, at 5.47.

“Posada, 37, has handled many exceptional pitchers in his career. Although some, like Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina, have preferred other catchers, Posada does not have to apologize for his résumé. Posada takes his job seriously and is an emotional engine of the team.

“Yet Burnett, in particular, seems to struggle with him. In Burnett’s four starts pitching to Posada, opponents have batted .330. In nine starts with the other catchers, the average is .223.

“When he lost a six-run lead in Boston in April, Burnett questioned the pitch selection, though he blamed himself, not Posada. Asked Sunday about the difference in pitching to the rookie Cervelli, Burnett gave a careful but revealing answer.

“‘I think it’s just a matter of—I don’t know if it’s the catcher—but we threw curveballs in fastball counts, we had them looking for something and they had no idea what was coming, I don’t think,’ Burnett said. ‘That’s huge.’

“Manager Joe Girardi has started Cervelli once in each of the five series since Posada came off the disabled list May 29. But Posada remains an elite hitter, and there is substantial value in having his bat in the lineup. Only Teixeira has a better slugging percentage than Posada’s .568.

“‘Jorge is obviously that rare combination of being a catcher and an offensive player,’ Cashman said Monday. ‘Cervelli and Molina are more one-sided, to the defensive side. I can’t really say why there’s a difference. It could be sample size. It could be that the other guys are just better defensive players.’

“Girardi is the one who must match the catchers to the pitchers and make the juggling work. The fate of the pitching staff and, by extension, the season, might depend on it.”

This wasn’t the only article today about Yankees catchers; Paul Catalano of Dugout Central says it’s time for Francisco Cervelli to catch:

“I think Francisco Cervelli should begin taking over the catching duties for the Yankees.

“OK, I’m not putting Jorge Posada out to pasture….yet. But the time is coming. He is 37 years old, which is positively Jurassic by catching standards. And to put it mildly, his best days as a catcher and game caller might be behind him. If the above sentence from Burnett is any indication of how the pitching staff feels, then maybe Posada should spend more time at the DH position than at the catching position.

“OK, here are some stats. Opposing hitters are hitting .255 off of Yankee pitchers when Cervelli catches: They are hitting .285 off of the pitchers when Posada catches. When Cervelli catches, pitchers have a 2.26 SO/BB ratio; for Posada it’s 1.42. Opposing batters have an OPS of .755 when Cervelli catches; .841 when Posada catches.”

“And the truth is, Posada was never the best game-caller; he was always a “hitting catcher.” That’s not a knock—he wasn’t a bad catcher…he just wasn’t the best game caller. He was never a Varitek or Charles Johnson type.

“And right now—who knows about September?—right now, you’re not missing much when Cervelli is in there. Posada definitely has the power advantage over Cervelli, but Cervelli is batting .298 to Posada’s .288, which is not bad. And frankly, the Yankees don’t need the home runs right now—they lead the league with 102 home runs….by 10.

“And defensively, you gain by having Cervelli back there. His fielding percentage is higher (.993 to .986) and has a better caught stealing percentage than Posada (38% to 32%).

“Of course, this is overstating it a bit. But not as much as you would think. The Yankees went out and spent the national debt on the front end of a pitching rotation. Why would you then put them in a position not to succeed? To not put them in the best position to pitch well?

“It’s just that this year—when the Yankee rotation is completely overhauled; when we have two new pitchers in Burnett and Sabathia (by the way, the stats holds true for Sabathia; opposing hitters hit .256 in the 5 games Posada called; a freakish .190 in the 6 games Cervelli was catching.), 2 young pitchers in Chamberlain and Hughes, and a pitcher struggling to return to form in Wang—what the Yankees need more than ever, is a catcher who is going to call the best possible game so that our staff feels comfortable and produces.

“And if Burnett is any indication, the staff feels more comfortable with Cervelli.”

They probably should, but I know the Yankees aren’t going to stop playing Posada everyday. Between what he has done for this team in the past and the money they have tied up in him, they’re going to continue to run him out there. I know those are two terrible reasons to play someone, but you guys know that’s how the Yankees (and a lot of teams) work. That’s the only reason they gave him that stupid four-year deal in the first place.

For now, I don’t think he should catch A.J. Burnett anymore; that’s the least the Yanks can do. Clearly, Burnett doesn’t like throwing to Posada and has done better when he someone else is behind the plate, whether it’s Cervelli, Cash, or Molina. And with how important he is to this staff, I think the Yankees should keep Cervelli behind the plate for his games.

If it were up to me. I’d probably have Cervelli catch CC, too. He’s pitched his best with Cervelli behind the plate and let Pettitte, Joba, and Wang/Hughes throw to Posada.

But like I said, I don’t think the Yanks are ready to stop playing Posada every day, even if the stats say it continues to hurt them in certain situations.

What about you, how would you handle this situation?

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