(Originally published here, reposted for discussion.)
A few days ago, über-writer Joe Posnanski published a piece in which he asked which Yankee was more valuable throughout his career: Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera?
The common answer I came across was: “head says Jeter, heart says Mo.”
The answer I came across that made me want to come here and go blog? “Jorge Posada”.
It’s almost funny, really, how spoiled we Yankee fans have been with Jorge Posada the entire length of his career. As long as Posada’s been playing, he’s been overshadowed by the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano…even other ‘core’ members of the Dynasty teams, like Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neil.
One can argue that it wasn’t until 2008, when Posada missed most of the season with a shoulder injury and the Yankees were left with the workings of Jose Molina and Chad Moeller, that the fans got any idea of how important Posada’s bat was to the team. Even then, though, the lack of Posada from that line up was perhaps overshadowed by the Yankees having Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner starting way too many games, as well as the absence of Matsui and the less-than-stellar years from Robinson Canó and Melky Cabrera.
Yet if you step back and looks at Posada’s numbers, you realize the Yankees haven’t just been lucky with their starting catcher of the past decade and a half; they’ve been downright blessed, sent a gift from the baseball gods on high.
How does it stack up?
You could look at it two ways: you could compare Posada’s numbers to all of those who caught or are still catching during the length of Posada’s career (the sheer longevity of Posada is probably one of the most underrated aspects of his career), or you could compare Posada’s numbers to those in the Hall of Fame.
Since I’ve got too much time on my hands, and B-Ref’s play index is that awesome, I went ahead and did both.
Comparison One: Posada vs. MLB catchers, 1995-2010.
Search parameters: 50% or more games played at catcher, minimum 3000 plate appearances, results sorted by my favorite offensive stat (despite its faults), OPS.
What do you notice?
Of the players listed, only Piazza–almost a Hall of Fame shoo-in–and Mauer have posted better OPS numbers. That’s not bad company, and Posada has had, by far, the longer career.
Among active catchers, Posada ranks second in these categories, behind only Joe Mauer (yes, that’s right, Posada outranks Pudge Rodriguez). Posada has more walks than any other active catcher meeting the search parameters, and trails Rodriguez by just two home runs, a virtual deadlock, if you will.
Okay, you say, but what about the game’s historical elite? How does Posada stack up against them?
Comparison Two: Posada vs. MLB catchers in the Hall of Fame
Parameters: Min 3000 plate appearances, 50% or more games at C, sorted by OPS/
Posada’s career numbers, for comparison:
The HoF table:
Posada’s career OPS of 0.857 would sit him fifth on that list–well within Hall of Fame territory, and almost .30 points higher than the Yankees’ most iconic catcher, the great Yogi Berra.
If one sorts the table by other offensive factors, Posada’s career still rates him within the fold: he’d rank 10th in hits, fifth in doubles, fifth in home runs, third in walks, ties for fourth in on base average and virtually tied for fifth in slugging.
Even Posada’s Plate Appearances (6639) would rank him eighth out of the thirteen listed; on the lower end, perhaps, but unlike everyone else on the HoF list, Posada is still active.
Has Posada been more valuable to the Yankees over his career than Jeter or Rivera?
Posada doesn’t have the ‘face of the Yankees’ watchamacallit that Jeter does, or the Godliness of Mo (apologies to my religious readers), but that doesn’t make his contributions any less important.
Getting a decent starting catcher in Major League Baseball is hard. There’s a reason that the Yankees are arguably deepest at catcher in their minor league system (Montero/Romine/Murphy/Sanchez, to name a few): it’s a premium position, and a catcher that can hit can net you lots of goodies on July 31.
To get a decent starting catcher that plays for your team for fifteen seasons without bolting is even harder, even if you are the New York Yankees.
To get a starting catcher with incredible longevity and offensive numbers that say he might very well belong in the Hall of Fame (well, given recent inclusions, definitely belongs there), well, that’s just overkill.
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