Through the 14-1 drubbing the Yankees took at the hands of the Red Sox yesterday, one theme became clear from the post game interviews. AJ Burnett and Jorge Posada are (still) having trouble getting on the same page again with game calling and pitch selection. Here’s some quotes from the Yank’s MLB.com website:
Though the Yankees downplayed it, Burnett again clashed with Jorge Posada, shaking off several pitches as they struggled to find a fluid rhythm.
“I didn’t have a lot of conviction in my pitches today,” Burnett said. “I threw a lot of balls that I didn’t want to throw. That’s pretty much what the outcome was.”
Burnett liked what he saw from his curveball early, especially because he had trouble throwing his fastball to the corners. Posada thought the Red Sox might be getting wise to his sequences, and either way, the results weren’t pretty.
“I tried to get on the same page as him,” Posada said. “At times we were, and then we weren’t a lot of times. It’s frustrating, because, obviously, he wants to throw a certain pitch and I want to throw another one. When they’re hitting like that, it’s tough to get on the same page.”
That first part in bold is the main problem with having a pitcher and catcher who can’t get on the same page. If a pitcher doesn’t trust a given pitch on a certain day or in a certain spot, he’ll throw it tentatively and wind up making a lousy pitch with nothing on it in terms of movement. This is why catchers shouldn’t try to impose their will on a game, because it’s ultimately self-defeating. Jorge will at times call for a pitch that isn’t working over and over to try to get it going for a pitcher. If it works, great. But most pitchers know individual pitches will come and go over the course of a game, so they prefer to scrap it and try again later.
Here’s some more from LoHud
By no means do I think Posada and Burnett work particularly well together because they don’t. But when asked about pitch selection, Posada put it well.
“I just make suggestions,” he said. “It’s up to the pitcher to throw the pitch he wants. He’s the guy in charge.”
Look at Burnett’s history. This is a stubborn guy who tends to blow up at times and let games get away from him. That is who he is. He kept saying after the game how good he thought his curveball was. From what I saw, the Red Sox were hammering that pitch, just like they have all season.
Burnett’s a two-pitch guy with an occasional change-up. It’s not like any catcher has a lot to pick from.
Does that strike you as Jorge contradicting what he said in the MLB.com piece? Why would Posada get frustrated if Burnett’s the guy in charge in his mind? And all of a sudden AJ Burnett is the ‘stubborn’ one when Posada has that reputation going back over 10 years? Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson refused to throw to Posada, and other pitchers have complained about him for years. All too common poor analysis by PA there. It’s OK for a pitcher to be stubborn, the best ones usually are. Its a catcher’s job to help the pitcher through the game. The pitcher is the one who gets the runs charged to him and the loss, not the catcher. Some pitchers like a take-charge catcher like Jorge, Pettitte has been a big fan of his for years. Andy doesn’t want to think out there, so he likes that Jorge does it for him. But everyone isn’t Andy, and even Andy needed Jose Molina to get back on track this year.
The reality is there’s always a pull and push between attacking a hitter’s weakness or paying attention to their swings (what Posada wants) and a pitcher simply attacking hitters with his best stuff (what Burnett wants) Both theories have their merits, but a power pitcher with elite stuff like AJ Burnett can beat a guy with a fastball even if that the batter knows it’s coming. Even location isn’t as important to a pitcher like AJ, he’ll get away with mistakes if he keeps hitters on their heels with his outstanding stuff. But all too often, Jorge simply doesn’t allow this to happen and/or seems to get in the way. When AJ’s on, you or I could catch him. Its the times when he’s struggling that the relationship between him and Jorge becomes a problem. The trouble is, you don’t know when those times are until he’s already out on the mound.
It’s not April or May anymore, so we can’t just tell AJ to ‘get over it’ or stick both of them in a room and tell them to make it work. We’re looking at the playoffs, and Girardi is going to have to decide whether Jorge’s bat is worth the downside when AJ isn’t right. I’ve contended that Posada shouldn’t be catching Burnett since A) They’ve had trouble working together on and off all year, and B) Jorge has all sorts of trouble handling his breaking pitches, many of which wind up as wild pitches that advance runners and lead to Runs scored. AJ Burnett has the most Wild Pitches he has had in any season of his career, and there’s still 5 weeks to go. Is he all of a sudden more wild now than he was as a 25 year old? There’s not a scout alive who would argue that.
They’re just not a match. You can cite the Yankee Stadium game against the Sox, the record Burnett has had with other Yankee catchers (small sample) or the long discredited CERA. But the simple fact remains, Jorge and Burnett have had trouble getting on the same page all year and nothing’s changed.
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