Analyzing Jorge Posada As a Catcher

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IApril 10, 2009

BALTIMORE - APRIL 06:  Melvin Mora #6 of the Baltimore Orioles is tagged out at home plate by Jorge Posada #20 of the New York Yankees during opening day on April 6, 2009 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

A couple of days ago, I wrote an article, the central theme of which was that Jorge Posada is the worst defensive catcher in baseball.

To say the least, the article was not well received by the critics.

Some who commented suggested I try out and see how I would compare to Posada.

Some suggested I did not know a damn thing about baseball.

Some suggested that I not listen to the talking heads on SNY because it was the Mets' station.

One suggested that I had written it just to generate controversy.

One suggested I had overreacted.

In fact, in the piece, I gave a number of examples of why in my opinion, and the article was labeled as an opinion piece, Posada was the worst defensive catcher in baseball.

Since the critics were so irate, I decided to do what I usually do and go back and study the statistics.

First of all in each and every case baseball statistics are to some degree subjective.

There are a few stats that are less so. For example, a home run is a home run is a home run. If the ball goes over the fence it is a home run. Nothing subjective about that, right.

Well, not exactly. That is true in almost every single instance when it comes to home runs. But Derek Jeter's home run in the 1996 division series against Baltimore was ruled a home run despite the obvious fact that Jeffrey Maier interfered with the Baltimore outfielder.

The subjective ruling of the umpire created that home run.

The same is true if there is a close call as to whether a home run is fair or foul.

But in defensive statistics, and the first article about Posada was about his defense, the stats are much more subjective than offensive stats.

The official scorer decides whether a batted ball is a hit or an error.

The official scorer decides whether a pitched ball that gets by the catcher is a passed ball or a wild pitch.

All the sabermetric statistics that have come into vogue in the past few years are to a large extent subjective.

But I went back and looked at the career stats of twenty-five catchers through the 2007 season. I stopped with 2007 because Posada did not have a full year last year.

I simply chose the first 25 I came to by going to Baseball Reference and taking their fielding statistics. I did not have time to study the remainder.

Some of the key points in my original article about Posada were based on my impression that he was seldom balanced behind the plate, that he is almost always shifting as the pitch is on the way to the plate, that he is not prepared to receive the pitches.

I have watched Posada for many years now as I am an avid Yankee fan and watch as many games as I possibly can.

I wrote the piece after the Yankees opener with the Orioles.

Sabathia was charged with two wild pitches in the first inning and I had concern that a start such as this could have affected his entire performance.

Seeing two of his pitches make their way to the backstop has to be unnerving even to a veteran such as Sabathia.

The first wild pitch in the first inning was in the dirt, towards Posada's left foot. Watching replays of this, you would have expected the catcher to drop to the ground and attempt to block the pitch.

Instead Posada stood almost completely straight up and stabbed at the ball with his glove. The ball got by him, rolled to the backstop, and the runner on first took second.

The second wild pitch was high and to Posada's right. I admit that it was the harder of the two to stop.

Posada got his mitt on the ball but again it bounded to the backstop.

Considering my thesis of the first article, I paid particular attention to passed balls and wild pitches in my analysis of defensive skills among catchers.

Posada has caught 11415 innings in the major leagues.  He has been charged with 125 passed balls. That is an average of one every 91 innings.

Taking all 25 catchers I studied, Posada was fourth worst as far as the average of passed balls per innings caught. Only Brandon Inge, Miguel Olivo, and Jason LaRue were worse.

The average of the 25 catchers I studied was one passed ball per every 149 innings caught. So Jorge was much worse than the average on number of passed balls per innings caught.

Because passed balls and wild pitches are subjective, dependent on the judgment of the official scorer, I also looked at wild pitches.

In my opinion, Posada should have saved Sabathia at least one wild pitch in the first inning. If he had dropped and blocked the first one, he might have kept the ball in front of him, kept the runner on first and saved his Hoss a bad stat and some embarrassment.

I also calculated wild pitches per innings caught. Posada has had 426 wild pitches in his 11,415 innings. That is an average of one every 26.80 innings.

Before Heartbreak in the Bronx and all my other critics have seizures, I understand that wild pitches are supposed to be the pitchers' fault and not the catchers.

But, please pay attention here, wild pitches are also shown on the catchers' defensive stat sheet.

The average of wild pitches for the 25 catchers was one every 29.12 innings. So again, Jorge is well below average.

There were eight catchers of the ones I studied whose pitchers were credited with more wild pitches per inning caught.

There are other stats for catchers. Putouts, assists, errors, fielding average, range factor per nine innings, range factor per game, etc.

But none of these are as significant for catchers as they are for other fielders.

The other primary factor that everyone talks about for catchers is how many runners does the catcher throw out.

Again, I do understand something about baseball. And I understand that everyone always says that the runner steals on the pitcher. And I agree with that.

I also know that other subjective factors come into play such as whether the second baseman, shortstop or third baseman was in position to take the throw, made a good tag, etc.

But there is a reason we keep stats on the number of runners catchers throw out.

The average percentage of runners thrown out is 31.68 among the 25 catchers I studied.

Jorge Posada throws out 29 per cent of the runners over his career through 2007.

Again, Posada is below average. In this stat there were seven catchers who had a worse percentage that Posada.

I am labeling this piece an opinion piece also, because once again, I am giving my opinion that Posada is a very bad defensive catcher.

Perhaps, statistically he is not the worst catcher in baseball. As I have shown above there are a few who have worse stats on passed balls, wild pitches and percentage of runners thrown out than Jorge.

My first article was in large part my subjective opinion that Posada was the worst.

Now I have some statistics to show that while he is not the worst in baseball through 2007, he is certainly among the worst in the areas in which I had expressed concern in my first article.

What I would encourage the readers to do is to take their Yankee caps off for just a few moments and to consider this as a baseball fan first and not as a Yankee fan.

I will be the first to admit that Posada has been a big part of the Yankee teams that brought all Yankee fans so much joy over the period from 1998 through 2003.

And I will also admit that considering his offense (and yes, Heartbreak, he is much better than average as an offensive catcher) he has incredible value to his team.

But if my critics can look at this objectively, he is a very bad defensive catcher.


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