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March 11, 2007

Looking Ahead to 2007: Jorge Posada
by SG

Despite being as big a part of the Yankees' recent success as any other player, Jorge Posada doesn't quite get the recognition he deserves. Somehow, despite being involved in three World Series championships, and being one of the top offensive catchers in baseball throughout his career and playing in New York, he's flown under the radar.

Posada had a down season in 2005, losing 48 points of OBP and 51 points of SLG. At age 33, and with many innings behind the plate, it sure seemed logical that this was the start of his decline. Fortunately for the Yankees, he rebounded in 2006 to put up a solid season, ranking as one of the more valuable catchers in baseball again. He also had his best overall defensive season, at least partially due to the tutelage of Tony Peña.

Posada again projects to be one of the better catchers in baseball in 2007, despite his age.

Posada projects to be the second best offensive catcher in the AL in 2007, behind only Joe Mauer. Poster J had asked about how Posada would rate as a 1B, so I've put that in as well. His offense would still be a tick above average for a 1B.

Like I mentioned above, Posada's defense was also outstanding in 2006, as he saved seven runs above average. Here are his defensive stats over the last five years and his 2007 projection.

Last year boosts Posada up a bit, but he still has a fairly long history of being average, so his projection is a touch above average. With his projected offense that's fine.

I've been messing around a little with baserunning numbers, although it's still in the early stages, but Posada's one of the worst baserunners in baseball from what I've doen so far. From 2000-2006 I have him costing the Yankees about nine runs on the bases. This jives pretty well with what I've seen visually, but it's not a huge impact on a seasonal basis.

I thought it would be interesting to put Posada's performance since he became the full-time catcher in 1998 into context, so I put together the chart below. This compares Posada to the average catcher given the same number of PA for every year from 1998-2006.

So over this stretch, Posada's been worth 214 runs above the average catcher.

For those who can't see the embedded spreadsheets in this entry, you should be able to see them via this link.

Posada's been one of the better catchers in baseball over his career, and some people have mentioned him as a possible Hall of Famer, but does he have a realistic case? To try and answer that, I'm going to run him through Bill James's Keltner List, a set of 15 subjective questions which James used as a barometer for a player's HOF worthiness.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

It's pretty safe to answer no to this question.

2. Was he the best player on his team?
He has a reasonable argument for being the best player on the 2003 Yankees, but for the most part this was never really true.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

From 2000-2003, Posada was the most valuable offensive catcher in the American League. I think we can answer yes to this.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Uh, yeah.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

He's 35, and still going strong. Yes.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Nah. There's a fairly long list of people ahead of him here.

7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Three of his top 5 most similar players through age 34 are in the Hall of Fame. However, his counting stats are way, way low.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Right now, no. It all depends how long he can keep playing at a decent level.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

The fact that he's a catcher providing above-average offense should be a consideration, but other than that, not so much.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

Probably not. I think Ted Simmons and possibly Bill Freehan had better careers, although Posada could catch them both.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Posada placed third in MVP voting in 2003, but was never close in any other season. It's safe to say 2003 was an MVP-type season, and 2000 is close.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

Posada's been an All Star four times, which is low for a Hall of Famer.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

In 2000 or 2003, sure. In most other seasons, likely is probably too strong a word.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Aside from something that the Hall of Fame would probably not want to consider, not really.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

He seems to be a bit of a red-ass at times, but for the most part I think he has.

Posada's not really Hall of Fame material. Not unless he can play as long and as well as Carlton Fisk (his top most similar player according to Baseball Reference)did. Fisk managed 1170 hits and 207 HRs after age 34. If Posada could somehow do that, he'd end up at 2000+ hits and 400+ HRs, and likely cruise in. The odds of that are probably infinitesimal. Posada's counting stats are hurt by the fact that the he didn't get regular playing time in the majors until he was 26, and didn't get a full-time starting role until 28. The one good thing that may come out of that is that it may allow him to hang on a bit longer than a typical catcher would.

Posada's been one of the most important parts of the Yankees' success over the last decade. He will probably get a plaque and possibly get his number retired by the Yankees when he retires, and deservedly so.