Yankee fans have been abuzz with the news that super-prospect Jesus Montero will get an opportunity to win the starting Catchers position out of Spring Training. Jorge himself was asked about this at a charity function over the weekend, the Daily News has the story:
But when blue-chip Yankee catching prospect Jesus Montero’s name was broached Sunday, and that there have been reports the Bombers’ front office wants Montero to assume the starting role behind the plate in 2011, Jorge Posada didn’t cede the baton yet and accept a new role as full-time designated hitter.
“I’m going to prepare for (the starting catching job). I love catching, love being behind the plate. I take a lot of pride – that’s my position,” Posada said at the charity bowling tournament at Chelsea Piers to benefit his foundation. “If (the Yankees) want me to be DH or catch, just be honest and let me know what’s up.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the idea from Jorge, and clearly he doesn’t plan on losing his starting gig without a fight. As fans familiar with his personality over many years, we would expect nothing less from Mr Posada.
But how has Jorge fared as DH? Is this an area of the game where he’s enjoyed success in the past? Here’s the numbers, courtesy of BR:
I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ as C 1517 6198 5274 824 1471 344 9 246 954 16 19 818 1235 .279 .380 .487 .868 2571 156 66 1 39 66 58 .320 102 as 1B 21 68 56 7 19 5 0 1 7 0 0 12 11 .339 .456 .482 .938 27 0 0 0 0 1 0 .409 122 as DH 90 351 296 33 66 13 0 9 34 1 0 47 89 .223 .336 .358 .694 106 7 5 0 3 4 0 .284 64 as PH 152 152 127 15 28 3 1 5 26 2 0 21 45 .220 .329 .378 .707 48 6 1 0 3 3 1 .288 66 as PH for DH 6 6 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .200 .333 .200 .533 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 30
While the sample size (351 PA) is pretty good, I still wouldn’t take these numbers as gospel as an indicator for how we should expect him to perform as an everyday DH in 2011. Throughout his career, Jorge gets banged around behind the dish like all Catchers do. DH will often be a spot where a manager will use him when he can still swing the bat, but is otherwise injured. So it’s safe to assume many of these ABs were logged when Jorge wasn’t 100% healthy. The whole point of DHing Jorge in 2011 is to keep him healthy, and get use of his potent bat without the wear and tear of daily catching on his 39 year old body. As a practical matter, it’s apples and oranges.
But it’s also something I wouldn’t dismiss entirely. As he said, Jorge prides himself on being an everyday player. As Catcher, your mind is in the game on every pitch and your daily focus is different, much more intense than that of other everyday players. Riding the bench can make it difficult for him to get in the flow of a game and be prepared to hit. The fact that he’s had almost as much trouble as a Pinch Hitter as he’s had as DH is further evidence along these lines. Jorge has always been an outstanding performer at his position, but if he repeats his past performances as DH/PH then a .700 OPS out of DH spot is going to be a problem for the 2011 Yanks. He should be given every chance to get comfortable at the position, but there’s a good chance the role of DH may not wear well on Jorge, and at the very least a period of adjustment should be expected.
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