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February 19, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Yankee Catchers
by SG

With pitchers and catchers now in camp, I figured I should do some kind of previews for the Yankees. I'll start with the catchers.

Back in November, I took a look at Jorge Posada and his contract. While Posada showed signs of decline last year and has a ton of money due to him over the next two years, I still have some decent hopes for a slight rebound next year.

Let's look at some projections for what Posada may do in 2006.

In this table, RARP are the offensive runs above a replacement catcher using a linear weights -based formula. FRARP is the defensive fielding runs above a replacement player.

ZiPS says Posada will hit .254/.358/.424, with 18 HR and 25 2B in 465 AB, and which would make him a 3.3 WARP player.

Tango Tiger's Marcel predicts a line of .264/.366/.443, with 19 HRs and 24 2B in 451 AB. This would be an improvement of about 3 runs over last year's performance, or about 1/3 of a win and woud make him a 3.6 WARP player.

I won't post PECOTA's specifics since it is subscriber-only, but it predicts Posada to be a 4.0 WARP(wins above replacement) player.

These WARP numbers are all factoring the offensive projections above and then using last year's defensive numbers. While Posada scored fairly high last year in defense and should be expected to give some of that back if you look at his past defensive performance, the Yankees have brought in Tony Pena to work with their catchers this season and he was one of the best defensive catchers of his time, so that may mitigate an expected return to mediocrity.

Gone, and not missed, is John "Bad Flash" Flaherty. How bad was Flaherty last year? -1.1 WARP. His replacement is Kelly Stinnett, who's biggest selling point is that he's not Flaherty. Stinnett was .6 WARP last year, so if he can repeat a similar performance, his signing has the potential to be close to a 2 win upgrade. Given his age (36) and his career line of .239/.320/.390, this is far from a given. I can't find any scouting reports on Stinnett, but he rated as an average defender last year. Stinnett is a much better hitter against lefties, so even though he has caught Randy Johnson before it is probably best for the Yankees to avoid falling into the personal catcher trap and let him see most of his playing time against southpaws. Early indications from RJ and Posada are that they intend to work together this year, so that's good news on that front.

It's very thin after this, as the only other catcher on the 40 man roster is Wil Nieves, who was acquired for Bret Prinz last season and put up a line of .289/.312/.395 in AAA Columbus last year, and will be 29.

One signing of note was Ben Davis, who was invited to spring training on an NRI. Davis was a very highly touted prospect at one point, breaking into the majors at 22 off a .308/.386/.512 season in AAA Las Vegas in the hitter happy PCL. He's probably best-known for his bunt single with one out in the eighth inning that denied Curt Schilling a perfect game back in 2001. Davis is 29, and has to this point put up the awful career line of .237/.306/.366, but he may be a better option than Nieves if catching depth is ever needed.

Anyway, assuming a slight rebound by Posada as per Marcel and PECOTA, and with the move from Flaherty to Stinnett, it would appear that the Yankee catchers are about a two win upgrade relative to last season.

And now for something completely different. Potch posted a link to a lineup toy that lets you find the RC/27 for any group of 9 players. I contacted the developer and got the code and tweaked it to work with ZiPS and Marcel projections for 2006. It chooses the order for you, but you can play around with various combinations of players and see what group of 9 players the Yankees should be running out there most days. You can even use it to see how much of an upgrade a real DH would be over Phillips/Bernie.

Here's the link for anyone who's interested.