In yesterday’s recap, Larry provided several convincing reasons why Yankee fans shouldn’t hit the big red panic button quite yet despite relatively dismal performances against the Orioles and Rangers. However, the Yankees do have some concerns that could prove critical in the playoffs.
One such concern includes the defensive play (or lack thereof) by the catchers. Over the past decade-plus, Yankee fans have grown accustomed to Jorge Posada‘s catching abilities. The rationale is, and always has been, pretty straightforward: Posada’s bat is potent enough to essentially nullify any liability he may pose behind the plate.
In terms of traditional defensive catching metrics, Posada has averaged a 28% throw out rate over the course of his career (which is actually surprisingly decent considering league average is approximately 30%). This season, which has been riddled with injuries for Posada, has resulted in an 18% mark. An optimist might point out that he hasn’t had as many opportunities to improve upon this because of the injuries. I’d like to believe this but in reality, I am not sure it would make a difference. Let’s face it: Posada’s value is in his bat.
Jorge has also been charged with 8 passed balls (I’d be curious to know how much of that is attributed to A.J. Burnett) which doesn’t exactly bode well as a base-running deterrent.
Similarly, Francisco Cervelli who was initially heralded for his defensive prowess, appears to have had overly lofty reviews. He’s managed to throw out only 16% of baserunners. He’s also allowed 2 passed balls. Needless to say, his bat isn’t quite so potent. In fact, Cervelli’s bat has produced a triple slash of .258/.324/.348. If he were a legitimate back-up catcher, this wouldn’t be as hard to swallow. Given his exposure this season though, his defensive contributions are not quite as prolific as one would hope (although the Yankees’ pitchers apparently vouch for his pitch selection).
Disclaimer: In general, I’m not entirely convinced of the validity of defensive catching metrics, because they are seemingly predicated on quite a few unaddressed auxiliary factors. This includes the pace of the pitcher’s delivery, pitch location, and the runner’s ability to steal bases. A friend of mine recently raised an interesting point as well: Catchers who have reputations as defensive studs might have less overall stolen bases attempted against them. However, those who do attempt the steal might include the more elite baserunners, thus making the caught stealing percentage skewed.
Anyway, back to the point. Despite my reservations concerning catching stats, I think it’s still fair to say that throwing baserunners out isn’t exactly a Yankee forte. The Texas Rangers clearly didn’t respect either of the Yankees’ catchers over the course of the weekend. They attempted 5 stolen bases and were successful in each opportunity. Regardless of who the opposition is in the playoffs, expect to see an aggressive baserunning approach.
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