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Backstop Blues
2006-02-21 19:46
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Last Friday, Alex posted a link to a Bill Madden puff piece speculating as to what Yankee life would be like after Mariano Rivera. Certainly Rivera deserves his due, but at a time when we're all desperate for some meaningful baseball news, this seemingly annual bit of warmed over column leftovers turned my stomach.

Part of my problem with the piece, I now realize, is that, while Rivera has undoubtedly been one of the greatest closers in baseball history and is a level above even the best closers in the game, the gap between what he does and what a journeyman such as Todd Jones is able to do in a given season is much smaller than the gap between the what one can expect from an ace starter or one of the league's top hitters and a comparable journeyman. I mean no affront to Rivera, but it's true that, in this post-Eckersley era, closing ballgames is no more difficult than kicking field goals. The league average success rate of both is in the area of 75-80 percent. In 2005, Rivera converted an excellent 91 percent of his save opportunities. Todd Jones converted 89 percent of his. Those of you who play fantasy baseball already know this. Nearly every team has a guy who can rack up 30-plus saves with a decent ERA and a handful of strikeouts. Unless you get completely caught napping, you'll wind up with at least one of them on your fantasy team. Getting something useful out of your catching position, on the other hand, is something only a lucky few are able to do.

Indeed, the man the Yankees will miss most when the time comes just might be Jorge Posada. For all the lumps he's taken over the years for his defense and baserunning, Posada has been the second most productive catcher in all of baseball since 1998. Only Mike Piazza, the most productive catcher ever, has contributed more to his team(s) over that eight year span. Now that is going to be hard to replace.

What's more, though Posada, who will turn 35 on August 17, is nearly two years younger than Rivera, who turned 36 this past November, history suggests that the Yankees will have to replace their catcher before their closer. Let's use some very simple standards to determine a productive season for a closer and a catcher. For closers we'll use 30-saves (a standard Rivera has reached in eight of his nine seasons as Yankee closer, saving 28 in his injury-shortened 2002 season). For catchers we'll use 15 Runs Created Above Position (or 15 more runs created than the league average catcher, a standard Posada has reached in seven of his eight seasons since taking over the majority of the catching duties in 1998, with 17 RCAP in his disappointing 2005 season).

While 16 pitchers have had 30-save seasons after the age of 35 (three of them, including Todd Jones, doing so in 2005, and seven of them doing so more than once), there have been just 12 catchers who have been 15 or more runs above average in a single season after the age of 35. While this suggests that a third more closers than catchers have had productive seasons after age 35, the gap is actually far wider. Remember, the first 30-save season in baseball history was Ted Abernathy's 31 saves in 1965. Meanwhile, Hoyt Wilhelm, who is second only to Eckersley in saves recorded after the age of 35, never once saved 30 games in a single season. If I lower the standard to 20 saves twelve more pitchers join the list, and Ellis Kinder, who save 27 in 1953 at age 38, is the earliest among them chronologically.

The list of catchers with 15 RCAP seasons after the age of 35, meanwhile, stretches back to Jim O'Rourke's 1887 season with the New York Giants. O'Rourke created 28 more runs than the average National League catcher in 1887 at age 36. The following year he move to left field.

Thus, there have been barely more than a third (37.5 percent as many to be precise) as many 15 RCAP catchers over the age of 35 in the last 119 seasons than there have been 20-save pitchers over the age of 35 in the last 53 seasons.

For yucks, here are the dozen backstops that made the cut, four of whom, lead by extreme outlier Carlton Fisk, did so more than once. Note the absence of many of the greats of the position, including Bench, Berra, Cochrane, Dickey, Carter, and, yes, Piazza, who is entering his age-37 season:


CatcherYearAgeRCAP
Carlton Fisk19904228
Carlton Fisk19894126
Carlton Fisk19884026
Wally Schang19283821
Fred Jacklitsch19143815
Ernie Lombardi19453726
Carlton Fisk19853719
Earle Brucker19383717
Gabby Hartnett19383717
Ernie Whitt19893717
Greg Myers20033717
Gabby Hartnett19373643
Bill Dickey19433637
Jim O'Rourke18873628
Wally Schang19263626
Walker Cooper19513621
Mike Grady19063617
Ernie Whitt19883615

So what does the future hold for Posada and the Yankees' catching situation. Well, to begin with, Posada has a $12 million option for 2007 that will vest when he catches his 81st game of the season. He'll also become a 5-and-10 player on June 27 (ten years in the majors, five with the same club), giving him the ability to reject a trade. So barring a complete collapse, Jorge will at the very least be the teacher part of a student-teacher platoon in 2007 (scary thought, I realize).

That said, with no in-house prospects other than 19-year-old Jose Gil, who has yet to catch an inning above rookie ball, the next Yankee catcher will have to come from another organization. With that in mind, we'd all be well advised to keep an eye on the Dodgers, who have a pair of catching prospects in camp this spring competing to become the next L.A. backstop. According to this article from yesterday's Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers will likely have to commit to either 23-year-old home grown prospect Russell Martin or erstwhile Yankee prospect Dioner Navarro sometime in the next year. Navarro is a full year younger than Martin and will likely be the Dodgers starting catcher this season. Martin has yet to crack triple-A, but could prove to be the superior hitter in time. Either one could greatly improve the Yankees future behind the plate if he finds he no longer has a future in Tinseltown.

As for Posada, the Yankees have long hoped that because he wasn't converted to catching until his age-20 season, and was brought along slowly in the majors, splitting parts of three seasons with Joe Girardi, he would age slower than the typical catcher. However Jorge's declining production over the past two seasons at age 32 and 33 (from an admittedly staggering high of 49 RCAP in his near-MVP season of 2003) seems to have dashed that hope. Entering his age 34-season, I'm hoping for one last gasp from Posada before his decline takes full hold. If we do get such a season from Posada, be sure to enjoy it. As the Yankees will find out all too soon, catchers who can produce like Jorge, at any age, don't come around nearly as often as reliable closers.

Comments (60)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2006-02-22 04:43:17
1.   Levy2020
Rob Gee's going to go nuts!

I feel like there have to be other statistics (ERA? K/9? WHIP?) that differentiate Rivera from journeyman closers while there are offensive statistics that usually show Varitek or Pudge beating Posada.

Also, isn't there an abundance of younger catching on the Indians? Like they had two before Stoppach?

2006-02-22 05:23:00
2.   sabernar
The thing that you gloss over with Rivera is his amazing consistency. For every Todd Jones who racks up a surprising 30+ save season, there is a Danny Kolb that is a total bust. Rivera, year in and year out, has been one of the top 3 relievers EVERY YEAR. Try and find any reliever with a track record like that.
2006-02-22 05:28:45
3.   Rob Gee
Hopefully Tony Pena (who couldn't hit but sure could field his position) will also take a lead teaching role asssuming there's someone to teach!

That said, a few days back I did the research regarding what top catching prospects are out there, and to be had for the price of Eric Duncan (our best chip right now but reasonable considering we'd probably take on a prospect at similar development/ceiling) I used the Baseball America top ten lists for each organization (http://tinyurl.com/aop93) within which there's usually a steep drop-off and so even slimmmer pickings at No. 11 and down.

Not surprisingly, there isn't much, but some decent options:

1) One of the Dodgers duo Cliff mentions

2) The Braves have two guys:
a) Brian McCann (who's their starter this year): http://tinyurl.com/epjmg
b) Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who has a much higher ceiling): http://tinyurl.com/zhjuc

3) Depending on how their Japanese import goes, the Mariners have:
- Jeff Clement: http://tinyurl.com/n9z59

4) Indians, with V. Martinez well situated:
- Kelly Shoppach: http://tinyurl.com/gkbe3

From that list, Jarrod Saltalamacchia projects as the highest ceiling but may not be ready even next year.

Less likely as no clear replacement in their organization or other factors:
- Miguel Monterro, D-backs (http://tinyurl.com/rm9v7)
- Chris Iannetta, Rockies(http://tinyurl.com/lp5mn)
- Jason Jaramillo, Phillies (http://tinyurl.com/ecg4z)
- Jeff Mathis, Angels(http://tinyurl.com/hlwrv)
- George Kottaras, Padres (Piazza heir)
- Brandon Snyder, Orioles (not to us)
- Kurt Suzuki, A's (Kendall heir)

Others:
- Neil Walker, Pirates (no way they're trading as from the area and high ceiling equals seat filler)

There's not much, but you better believe that the price will only go up if Jorge goes down. We can pray that Duncan starts strong to at least keep that option tenable.

2006-02-22 05:32:16
4.   joejoejoe
How easy has it been to replace the vintage Stanton/Nelson combination? Karsay, Hammond, Quantrill and Heredia have all been less than stellar. Rivera has been lightning in a bottle for 10 years. You are correct about Posada been difficult to replace but just look at the problems the Braves had replacing Smoltz as closer last year. It ain't easy.

OT: Ken Arneson at Catfish Stew has a cool post on possible A's lineups based on PECOTA projections and some PERL script. I'm not sure how much work it would be to run the Yankees but it would be awfully cool to see.

2006-02-22 06:57:48
5.   NetShrine
Chris Chambliss, Damaso Garcia, and Paul Mirabella for Rick Cerone, Tom Underwood and Ted Wilborn. There's always a way to fill a hole when it happens.
2006-02-22 07:11:09
6.   Sliced Bread
Good work, Cliff.
Indeed, Jorge will be very difficult to replace when the time comes.
To weigh the popular Posada's value against the revered Rivera's is a bold move, but I think you presented a strong case on the catcher's behalf (without diminishing Mo's value).
Rivera's arm, and Posada's switch-hitting bat have provided crucial advantages for the Yanks for many years.

Who can replace Posada? That's one of the $5.5 million dollar questions for Cashman (or however much they're paying him over the next few years).

Clearly, Kelly Stinnett is not the longterm plan.

Having two young catchers at their disposal, the Dodgers can set a very high price for the hot commodity of backup catcher. Unfortunately, the Yanks will be scrambling with the rest of the league.

Meanwhile, this is from the Yankees blog on the Bergen Record's website today:

More on coach Tony Pena's elaborate (or sadistic) catching drills: At five-second intervals, he sends three pop-ups in the air -- and the catcher has to grab all three.

Jorge Posada did it, making a scrambling, diving, tumbling play to snare the third, and received a huge ovation from the 1,000 people gathered to watch practice at Legends Field.

2006-02-22 07:27:36
7.   Count Zero
I don't disagree with your central point, Cliff -- a good catcher is the hardest spot to fill on your roster. However, I don't think this is an "apples to apples" comparison.

Basically you're judging a catcher by the standard RCAP > 15 = good season. Then you're judging relievers by the standard Saves > 30 = a good season. The first number is a good, objective measure of the position. The second isn't because it's much easier to rack up 30 saves for the Yankees than it is to rack up 30 saves for KC. Basically, if you can't rack up 30 saves on a > .500 team as the full-time closer, you pretty much suck at your job.

I'm not sure what the proper closer metric is, but I would suggest that it's more likely something like Save%>85 or something similar. Mariano is a rarity...to wit, here are some lifetime save% numbers of top career relievers with total career saves:

Keith Foulke 84.4% (190)
Todd Jones 79.0% (226)
Armando Benitez 85.9% (263)
Billy Wagner 86.3% (284)
Troy Percival 85.9% (324)
Mariano Rivera 87.9% (374)

Mariano just posted a 91% season at age 35, in a career with 374 saves...that's further out from the curve than you're giving it credit for. Forget the post-season numbers which make for a very nice frosting. :-)

2006-02-22 07:27:40
8.   Rob Gee
One bit Cliff left out (in the sweet comparison): We know well the decline for catchers, and can PREDICT/PREVENT it to some degree. Jorge can be saved if there's a competent alternative on the bench. Further - he's a great hitter to have on the bench for those days. The lack of a decent alternative should be reason to fire CASH-man enough if we come up a game or two short. That's a difference maker - both the games Stinnett starts and the lack of bats off the bench.

And for all of you that deal with Haters, be sure to ram down their throats that the Yanks are great attendance boosters on the road. Tickets went on sale this morning at 7:30am down here in Philly. By 8:30am, the Yankee series (on M, TU, W nights, no less) was sold out - even standing room only. One check on stubhub shows tickets going for at minimum 300% increase over face value. At those costs, I can get just as decent seats (150 -200% markup) and save cash making my way to the Bronx.

2006-02-22 07:46:05
9.   Rob Gee
Forgot to mention in #3 that the reason that the Dodgers (1st or 3rd), Indians (3rd), and Braves (1st) make good trading partners for Duncan is because they have holes to fill at the major league level that match up.

Do it CASH-man - doooit! NOW!

2006-02-22 07:53:16
10.   Cliff Corcoran
Joejoejoe, I've actually been having Ken run some Yankee line-ups through that script. I'll have a post about it up tomorrow.

As for the first half of your comment, Hammond was actually very good, but got put in Torre's doghouse because of one bad game against the Red Sox. Karsay and Quantrill had their arms fall off once put on the Torre "my guy" pitching plan (see my old "Lesson of Stevie Hearsay" post under Suggested Reading on the sidebar). While all of this was going on, the Angels put together one of the best bullpens in the league from spare parts. A similar thing could be said of the Indians' pen from last year. The key appears to be finding guys like Sturtze who can be converted to useful short releivers (and not pitching their arms off after you do), and taking fliers on guys like Dotel coming off of injury. That and a fair share of minor league vets who never got a shot, like, oh, i don't know, Colter Bean?

Sabernar, I absolutley agree, Rivera sits above everyone else, but my point is that, the gap between, say, Rivera and the sixth best closer in the majors isn't nearly as big the gap between the first and sixth best catcher in the majors. Here's a fun game. Make two lists of active players, one of reliable closers (Mo, KRod, Wagner, Nathan, Street) and one of productive catchers (Victor Martinez, Mauer, Posada, Varitek, Pudge), alternate adding one name to each list and see where you get stuck. As for Danny Kolb you knew was going to wash out because of his miniscule K-rate.

Finally, Levy2020, the Indians have the best catcher in baseball in Victor Martinez. Kelly Shoppach will be 26 in April. After that, their cupboard is as bare as the rest, as Rob Gee's digging shows. As for differentiating Mo from your typical closer, yes absolutely, he's a cut above as I've now said many times in the above post and this comment. I am not in any way trying to diminish Rivera's greatness as much as I'm trying to expose the degree to which even we Yankee fans tend to overlook the tremendous advantage the team has gained by having Posada behind the plate. The Rivera comparison was more any entry point for that discussion than my central point.

As for Posada vs. Varitek & Pudge:

Career EQA:

Posada - .297
Pudge - .285
Varitek - .279

Career OPS+:

Posada - 121
Pudge - 115
Varitek - 107

Three best WARP3 totals since 2000:

Posada - 10.9, 10.4, 8.8
Pudge - 8.6, 8.3, 8.1
Varitek - 8.4, 8.1, 7.3

Varitek had a better age 33 season than Jorge in 2005 and might be his equal at this stage of their careers, but overall it's not close. Rodriguez is Jorge's closest competition, but he posted a dreadful .290 OBP last year, pushing him below league average with a 94 OPS+. Rodriguez's career length and defensive reputation push him ahead of Jorge in the big picture, but Jorge's been the better catcher this century.

2006-02-22 08:00:39
11.   Cliff Corcoran
I should add that Count Zero is very much correct is stating that my saves-to-RCAP comparison is not apples-to-apples, as saves are not a true indication of a pitchers' quality, but ultimately, all the Yankees have asked Rivera to do over the past nine seasons is record saves, almost exclusivly one-inning saves during the regular season. As the Count says himself: "if you can't rack up 30 saves on a > .500 team as the full-time closer, you pretty much suck at your job." That more or less proves my point. Again, not that Rivera isn't the best possible closer, just that the best possible closer isn't as big of a difference maker as the best possible catcher.
2006-02-22 08:04:42
12.   Rob Gee
Great work again Cliff. Jorge gets discounted by most of the league (probably because of his defense - but even that is league average, no?) but it's good to see his offense clearly outpaces everyone but Piazza. Too bad we didn't give him an earlier shot - he couldve been a (HOF) contender.

Last rant today:
The latest BA rankings (http://tinyurl.com/gd75n) show Duncan ahead of Andre Ethier. Who's that you say? The "stud" the A's traded to LAD for MIL-ton. Shows MB was there for the taking. Again, we'll revisit this bit of history at the break...if I don't stab my eyes with a fork first.

2006-02-22 08:19:19
13.   Mike A
I wrote a bit about the catching situation a few weeks ago:

http://tinylink.com/?KrEIRDi1Vs

I think Shoppach is the guy to go after, he's great with pitchers and is a very good lcubhouse guy. He's ready to go, so he could come up after the All-Star break and catch maybe 40 games to rest Posada for October.

Of course they'd have to get him from the Indians first, which won't be easy.

2006-02-22 08:26:06
14.   Sliced Bread
Rob Gee,

Colletti, as the Dodgers virgin GM, probably would have been hesitant to do business with the big bad Yanks this winter for Milton, Navarro, etc.

If he wasn't blatently establishing the Pacific Red Sox, he was more comfortable and inclined to do business with his contacts in the Bay Area, and work the free agent market.

I think you underestimate how difficult it is for the Yanks to not get fleeced on the trade market.

Milton was probably dismissed by the Yanks (see Torre) on his reputation alone, but I imagine any Dodger discussion with the Yanks with respect to Milton would have started with Wang or Cano, and you should be glad NY wouldn't part with either of them.

Let the Milton and Navarro thing go, and keep the eating utensils away from your eyes.

2006-02-22 09:33:19
15.   Zack
This is a discussion on Jorge, not Bradley, Damon, ARod or anything else, lets keep it there...

While it wouldn't surprise me to see Cashman trade for Schoppach, I bet the price would be a lot lot higher than just Duncan. I am sure, like most AL teams, the Indians would be loathe to trade the Yanks a player who would make immediate impact and greatly save their team for prospects...Just seems to be the way it goes these days...

What I strongly suspect to happen is that they will pull another Girardi type move, get a middle of the road catcher to use up some time and see what we have in the minors, perhaps getting/drafting a low level guy to be ready by the end. Just a hunch.

And as for Jorge getting rest, yeah, we have all heard that tune before, but it ain't happening. Torre is so afraid to use his second catcher in a game, and so used to playing the same guys over and over, and so scared of the bench, that even on the rare day Jorge gets a day off, he usually pinch hits...

2006-02-22 09:36:31
16.   Rob Gee
See, I was all ready to sit back and enjoy the view for the rest of the day. And you, YOU, Sliced, have to go and ruin things.

1) Don't read minds, read statements. All the public statements from Yankeeland were that they were staying away from Bradley because of his attitude. My only point all along: The price of MIL-ton was well-below market value for a 27 y.o. starting CF with legit offensive and defensive numbers on a one-year 3mil contract. That is fact and that I will not, er can not, let go (unless he's maimed in a horrible and disfiguring accident). But zany conspiracy theories are best left to wild imagingation for they do not compete with Truth on the battle field of good vs. evil baseball analysis.

2) Navarro is a completely separate issue. That was a HUGE duckup for our organization and I blame CASH-man. Now said CASH-man could still redeem himself by acquiring a competent understudy for Posada - and the sooner the better. Today's blog and comments reflect the limited options there and my view is those options will only get more limited as time passes or injuries occur or prospects do not meet expectations. Whereas the Navarro duckup could be shifted (in theory only) to Tampa, the current hole falls squarely on Bossman CASH-man.

2006-02-22 10:04:24
17.   rilkefan
Snark: How many teams were there in 1887? And was the quality variance comparable to today?
2006-02-22 10:14:09
18.   sam2175
As much as I would have liked the Yankees to acquire Bradley, if it meant Yankees had to pay Duncan for that acquisition, the bets are off. I agree with the OPP signing of Damon in this specific case, not just the total number of years.

Duncan is only 20, was younger for the competition in AA. If he were not rushed, he would have ranked much higher. In my opinion, not the guy I would like to give up for Milton Bradley. Not for his make-up, but his health is a big question mark.

I dont really believe when it comes to Yankee prospects, much reliable information could be gleaned from overall prospect rankings. I am pretty sure Wang was not ranked high in any prospect rankings, but he has contributed quite significantly to the Yankees campaign thus far, and much more than much better "prospects".

That said, I agree that trading Navarro in the Johnson deal was the height of stupidity. And it would not be very wise to trade Duncan now, unless it is a Jeff Mathis type of a guy, with the thinness of the Yankee system, he is untradable. Yankees would need to have young, cheap position fillers, and if Duncan can get his bat to be that of an above average first baseman, he should be held on to.

2006-02-22 10:35:27
19.   Cliff Corcoran
There were eight teams in the NL in 1887, just as there were in 1957. As for the variance of quality, I believe the playing field is more level now than in those frontier days, but I don't have the means of checking my source for that assumption at this particular moment.

A note on a potential Duncan-for-Shoppach trade. Regardless of Shoppach's potential or lack thereof, the Indians are overstocked with 1B prospects, and just picked up Marte as their future 3B, but have nothing behind Martinez and Shoppach in terms of mL catching. That said, Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro quickly emerging as one of the best in the game (see my essay in the upcoming Baseball Prospectus 2006). I wouldn't put it past him to get a chip like Duncan when the getting's good then flip one of his many corner IF prospects for something else, much like Theo did with Marte.

2006-02-22 10:36:34
20.   sabernar
ENOUGH ABOUT FRIGGIN MILTON ALREADY! GIVE IT UP! JEEZ! 99% of the people here don't give a rat's ass about how much you (Rob Gee) want to have his babies, so just give it up already!
2006-02-22 10:40:54
21.   Nick from Washington Heights
sorry to go off topic, but anyone see this piece about where certain franchises rank at certain positions. Fun stuff. Turns out the Yankees center fielders are as good as everyone thinks:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-all-time-all-franchise-all-star-team

Also, regarding Shoppach for Duncan. How is this even a possibility? Shoppach essentially was just traded for Bard and Riske. How much value does this guy really have? The Yanks would never trade Duncan in a million years for Shoppach.

2006-02-22 11:07:30
22.   sam2175
And the John Sickels ranking of Cleveland Indians farm system has Marte as their top, and a grade A prospect.

I know the Sox had to overpay for their CF, depending on how Crisp does and how Marte turns out, it could be a few interesting years, and might be the biggest yardstick to judge Theo and Co.

2006-02-22 11:33:59
23.   Sliced Bread
"Zany theories," Geeman? "Truth on the battlefield of good vs. evil baseball analysis?"

This lecture from you, YOU, who pines for somebody like Milton Bradley to be on Joe Torre's Yankees? Now, that's living in fantasyland.

And you advise me to "read statements, not minds"? I suggest you read Cashman's repeated statements this winter that EVERY trade discussion during his search for a center fielder started with a demand for Cano or Wang.

Nobody is suggesting there's a conspiracy against the Yankees on the trade market, but anybody who believes the Yanks are quoted the same prices as other teams doesn't know which way the wind is blowing, and I suspect you're smarter than that, Geeman.

2006-02-22 11:37:18
24.   sam2175
22

Actually, to be fair, I should make it a test case for Schuerholz as well, depending on how Renteria does.

2006-02-22 11:38:06
25.   Rob Gee
sabernar -

But how do you really feel?

Even as I advocated it in the past - there's no need to fixate on Shoppach. Cliff mentioned Navarro and Martin - they'd work esp. since the the Dodgers have needs at 1B and 3B. There's also:

2) McCann and Saltalamacchia (Braves need a 1B)

This one's though: one is ML-ready the other has a much higher ceiling (and is now ranked at their top prospect).

3) J.Clement - though the Mariners are locked up at 1b and 3b for dollars and donuts.

See, I'm okay if CASH-man just does his damn job and picks up something and soon. If he's his consistent average self - it won't be great but it won't be horrible either. Shoppach and McCann fall nicely there. Martin and Saltalamacchia would be super but Stinnett is still with us all of this year. Navarro would cause me to light myself on fire.

2006-02-22 11:39:07
26.   Cliff Corcoran
Sliced, Rob Gee: Flame off.
2006-02-22 12:10:00
27.   Rob Gee
I don't know about Sliced, but I'm no flamer.

It's all in good fun on this end (and I'm fine with the abuse) - hopefully the same is said for all.

Shoot, can't we have some games already?

2006-02-22 12:16:20
28.   Cliff Corcoran
Just trying to nip things in the bud is all. Good rule of thumb: attack the message all you want, but lay off the messenger (16, 20, 23).
2006-02-22 12:17:19
29.   Sliced Bread
Sorry for the snarky response, Rob Gee. No flames here, just the occasional cigar smoke.
For what it's worth, I enjoy reading your comments here.
I Bronx-banter in peace.
2006-02-22 12:22:30
30.   Rob Gee
Aww, group hug everybody? Maybe a "Whoa, Bundy!"

Yes, yes the folly of ad hominen - that's what drove me nuts about MIL-ton in the first place. And I still am!

Hey, and how do you do the nifty "link to other comment thingy"? The bold I found --- by accident.

2006-02-22 12:22:47
31.   Cliff Corcoran
Word. Group hug.
2006-02-22 12:24:21
32.   Cliff Corcoran
To link to another comment put the number in in brackets like this [#].
2006-02-22 12:55:27
33.   DarrenF
I always assumed it was understood that Mariano's playoff successes separated him from the pack and ensure his spot in the Hall of Fame.
2006-02-22 12:55:29
34.   DarrenF
I always assumed it was understood that Mariano's playoff successes separated him from the pack and ensure his spot in the Hall of Fame.
2006-02-22 12:55:29
35.   DarrenF
I always assumed it was understood that Mariano's playoff successes separated him from the pack and ensure his spot in the Hall of Fame.
2006-02-22 13:23:30
36.   Cliff Corcoran
Actually, Rivera's been above and beyond during the regular season as well. Consistancy, as sabernar pointed out 2 is part of it, but so is his career 2.33 ERA against a league average of 4.60 (career 197 ERA+!). By way of comparison, Pedro Martinez's career ERA+, which leads all pitchers with a minimum 1000 IP, is 166. Mo's at 806 2/3 IP. Here are the ERA+ figures for some of the most comparable closers:

Hoffman - 146
Wetteland - 148
Henke - 156
Nenn - 138
Wagner - 180

Big ups to Wagner, who is a year and a half younger than Mo, spent the past six years in extreme hitters parks and is moving to piching friendly Shea. I've always thought of Rivera and Hoffman as the two premier closers of their era, an end-game answer to Pedro and Unit (who have a nice habit of switching leagues at the same time to maintain balance), but clearly Wagner is the superior NL rep. Still, Rivera's clearly the man in the regular season, and when you factor in his 0.81 ERA in 111 2/3 postseason innings, he's flat out untouchable.

2006-02-22 13:37:40
37.   Rob Gee
Good stuff Cliff - the stuff of legend.

What do you think it is? The cutter? His attitude? The ability to make adjustments? Last year was it his straight fastball as a balance to the cutter? Why will remember him - short of the numbers?

2006-02-22 13:45:11
38.   Cliff Corcoran
By the way, interesting to note that the four defining pitchers of the era as listed in my comment 36 will all wear an NY on their cap in 2006. Mo closing for Unit, Wags closing for Petey. If only the Mets had handled their rotation better this offseason . . . with the one that got away (Beltran), an old foe (Delgado), and a young stud (Wright) in their line-up, a 2006 subway Series (as in World) could have been a lot of fun.
2006-02-22 13:47:57
39.   misterjohnny
JETER-CAM coming to Directv!

http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/060222/20060222005721.html?.v=1

2006-02-22 13:59:25
40.   Rob Gee
The crazy question: How many Serious do we lose even if Mo posts his career regular season ERA in the post season?

The guy is facing the best line-ups in the whole damn league and sheds 1.5 runs!? First time I've been confronted with it that way. Wow! The living legend...

How do you even honor him? First ballot sure, but the man should have his own wing. And we win at least two (2001, 2004) maybe three (1997) more if he pitches just a tad better, or hits fall in gloves, in those make or break games (Game 7, Game 7, and Game 4 respectively). Un-freakin' believeable.

2006-02-22 14:12:18
41.   DarrenF
The most compelling stat may be Mariano's postseason save% compared to the postseason save% of Yankee opponents during the same time period.

Cliff, you certainly don't have to convince me that Mariano's regular seasons are HOF-worthy, whether he played in the playoffs every year in NY or in relative obscurity in KC. I should have said his regular season save% doesn't separate him from the pack. His postseason save% certainly separates him from the pack. In my estimation, Mariano is the most dominant postseason performer (pitcher or non-pitcher) in baseball history.

2006-02-22 14:16:07
42.   Count Zero
I gotta' agree with that Rob. It's amazing how you can sometimes take players for granted while they're active. When Mariano's done, he will likely be considered the best relief pitcher of all time. His career numbers are just unbelievable.

Similarly, take a look at A-Rod's career numbers. You will at once see that IF he stays healthy and IF he declines gracefully he will end up with 800 HRs, 3000+ hits, 2000+ RBIs, 600 2Bs, 350 SBs, several gold gloves at two different positions...

Sometimes it's nice to reflect that no matter what Costas says about the guys from the 50s, we may very well be watching four of the greatest players ever to walk onto a diamond in Clemens, Bonds, Mo and A-Rod. :-)

2006-02-22 14:37:49
43.   Rob Gee
Right on Count. But Bonds in there does have a way of tainting everything (except maybe Mo - he sure hasn't juiced) esp. if he produces a bit this year. As we look back suspicion will always linger and anyone that wants to argue the 1950's line will always fall back on the 'roids. A-Rod doesn't deserve it, but it can be argued that his numbers are inflated due to juiced pitchers. And even with Roger who can be sure? It just plain stinks - the whole damn era is tainted and Bonds, McGwire and Sosa are the poster boys.

Even still Yankee baseball in the prime of my life - wow - 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 - just amazing... to say nothing of the innumerable individual feats (but how about Abbott's no-hitter - remember that!?)

Can we play some games already?

2006-02-22 15:10:26
44.   Shaun P
That's great news 39, misterjohnny - for people with DirecTV who happen to live in the YES 'footprint'. For those like me who live, say, outside of Boston, and got the dish so we could get Extra Innings - it sucks.

The FCC garbage about regionalizing 'local' sports channels really angers me. I have no interest in watching NESN and would gladly pay extra money to receive YES instead - which indeed I could do . . . except that I'd still have to pony up $160 for ExtraInnings to actually see Yankees games! Sigh. Sorry for the rant about something completely off topic from Rivera/Posada, but I know there are other NY expats in Bronx Banter world and I wondered what they think - esp. the folks who live near Boston, as I do.

2006-02-22 15:16:11
45.   Rob Gee
Shaun -

I'm in Philly after five years in Pittsburgh. The MLB.com package isn't bad - esp. if you get it at the beginning of the season. You just can't watch full-screen unless they improved the resolution. Otherwise, the radio broadcast alone is like $20 for the year.

2006-02-22 15:21:17
46.   misterjohnny
I would think it would be part of Extra Innings. At least I hope it is. While not a diehard Yankee fan, I love the Red Sox-Yankees and Mets-Yankees rivalry games. I'm in LA so I buy Extra Innings too.
2006-02-22 15:50:26
47.   Start Spreading the News
I wanted to put into context Mariano's postseason performance. Shaving of 1.5 runs off his ERA when facing better lineups more often is an astounding feat.

I wanted to see who else on the Yanks step up in the postseason. For the definition of "step up," I will use "putting up the same numbers as the regular season." In the postseason, the Yanks are seeing a higher caliber of pitchers and seeing them more often. To still put up good numbers against such opponents is impressive.

So among the Yankee hitters, I would have to say that Jeter, Bernie, Matsui, ARod, Giambi and Paul O'Neill are the ones who have stepped up. Matsui has actually put up better numbers in the postseason than the regular season, though the usual caveats of sample size apply.

Among the ones who have played a bunch of postseason series, Tino, Soriano, and Jorge have really struggled. But each of them has had memorable hits in the postseason to their credit.

Derek Jeter:
Post -- .307 .379 .463 .842
Regular -- .314 .386 .461 .847
23 Postseason Series

Matsui
Post -- .319 .377 .556 .933
Regular -- .297 .370 .484 .853
6 postseason Series

Bernie:
Post -- .277 .373 .483 .856
Regular -- .298 .384 .480 .863
24 Postseason Series

Jorge:
Post -- .229 .349 .369 .718
Regular -- .269 .375 .469 .845
21 Postseason Series

Arod
Post -- .305 .393 .534 .927
Regular -- .307 .385 .577 .962
8 Postseason Series

Tino:
Post -- .233 .321 .351 .672
Regular -- .271 .344 .471 .815
21 Postseason Series

Sheffield:
Post -- .262 .421 .423 .844
Regular -- .297 .399 .527 .925
8 Postseason Series

Giambi:
Post -- .301 .432 .496 .928
Regular -- .295 .413 .539 .953
7 Postseason Series

Soriano:
Post -- .233 .287 .336 .623
Regular -- .280 .320 .500 .820
7 Postseason Series

Paul O'Neill
Post -- .284 .363 .465 .828
Regular -- .288 .363 .470 .833
19 Postseason Series

Brosius:
Post -- .245 .278 .418 .686
Regular -- .257 .323 .422 .744
12 Postseason Series

Chuck Knoblauch
Post -- .258 .339 .324 .663
Regular -- .289 .378 .406 .783
14 Postseason Series

2006-02-22 16:08:58
48.   Rob Gee
Nice one SSN.

I knew Jetes doesn't quite deserve his Captain Clutch label. And I had a sense that Matsui comes through more. But who knew Jorge and Tino stink up the joint in the PS? Jorge, I hardly knew ya!

2006-02-22 16:23:34
49.   Cliff Corcoran
Funny this post should come back around to Jorge bashing. I chalk his depressed postseason slugging up to fatigue. Check his career splits on Retrosheet. His numbers start slipping in September. Here are his monthly lines (through '04 since Retrosheet has yet to update with 05 stats):

April .277 .379 .533
May .268 .378 .471
June .258 .393 .444
July .285 .406 .516
August .282 .384 .488
September .251 .338 .404
Postseason* .229 .349 .369

*includes '05

Meanwhile, for all the remaining Rodriguez bashers, I repeat SSTN's findings:

Alex Rodriguez
Regular .307 .385 .577 .962
Postseason .305 .393 .534 .927

2006-02-22 17:22:08
50.   bloodyank78
RE: 47

I always thought Sheff became a more patient hitter in October, if that OBP is correct I guess my hunch was on point. If anyone remembers him in the 97 postseason, he walked a lot.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2006-02-22 17:32:25
51.   Start Spreading the News
Actually, Rob, if you look at my post again, you would see that I was hardly knocking Jeter.

In fact, it is quite the opposite. I think it is impressive that given the number of postseason games he has played that Jeter has put up almost exactly the same numbers as he does in the regular season when he faces lesser talent.

I would argue that Jeter "steps up" during the postseason against higher caliber players just to maintain the same production. His .842 OPS in the postseason is impressive considering his .847 OPS in the regular season. You would think that facing Johan Santana, Randy Johnson, Curt Shilling, etc... would cause his numbers to decrease. But they haven't.

I don't want to appear to be Jorge bashing. I can never say anything against the guy who got a huge hit against Pedro in Game 7 of 2003 ALCS.

2006-02-22 18:08:05
52.   Levy2020
Re: 32 Does the Baseball Toaster have some sort of glossary?
2006-02-22 18:28:57
53.   Cliff Corcoran
No. The only comments tricks I know are that surrounding a word or phrase with asterisks will make it bold and putting a number in brackets will link to another comment.
2006-02-22 19:09:41
54.   wsporter
SSN, that's a great and subtle point about Jeter stepping it up against better competition in the post season to maintain numbers that are at least on par with what he does during the season. I can think of some guys who went nuts for a series or two during the post season, Brian Doyle springs to mind, but look at the number of series the guy has performed this way over. He is a horse.

When will people give in and admire that guy for the player he is. I think even some Yankee fans have fallen prey to the "overrated" nonsense. He's not A-Rod and he's not the Babe, he's Derek Jeter and that should be good enough.

MLB.com is a god send. It's a pain in a lot of ways especially when it freezes or goes of line or if there is a National Broadcast that causes a black out but it's my life line to civilization down here in the wilderness. The cool thing is you can watch any game you want and switch back and forth. If your monitor is decent you can actually see pitches which is key. Has anyone bought the technology to hook it up to a TV monitor?

This was an interesting topic today and the thread is really kind of fun to read as a whole. You get the idea things got a little hot and heavy but that cooler heads prevailed. This is really one of the few places like this on the web that is worth reading and coming back to. People here all care about the same thing but in different ways and all manage to express themselves respectfully and with a sense of humor. I really hope you boys keep plugging along with this thing. It really is and has been appreciated (back to the pre-toaster days).

2006-02-22 19:33:39
55.   Zack
mlb.com is great, I agree. For those of us who live on our computers, its actually easier for me to watch a game that way than on tv often.

I'm not sure I'm allowed to post this or not, but wsporter, there is a way around the blackouts that involves using a proxy from europe. You have to find a free, working one that mlb accepts as well. No blackouts across the puddle. Cliff/Alex, if I am breaking any laws or rules, edit it out...

2006-02-22 19:36:21
56.   wsporter
Zack, Thanks I'll check it out. I think were ok vis mlb, at least to talk about it.
2006-02-22 19:48:07
57.   Rob Gee
Thanks Cliff -

I thought it was that, but I was too lazy to check.

Just to be sure (can't find splits for before 2002 - ugh - NOTE: Huge gap):

2002 (143 G):
Aug .272 .374 .424 .798
Sept .273 .340 .352 .692
PS .235 .222 .412 .634 (4 G)

2003 (142 G):
Aug .326 .386 .609 .995
Sept .319 .425 .542 .967
PS .222 .310 .365 .675 (17 G)

2004 (137 G):
Aug .276 .409 .500 .909
Sept .267 .364 .430 .794
PS .244 .352 .267 .619 (11 G)

2005 (142 G):
Aug .253 .330 .398 .728
Sept .294 .388 .494 .882
PS .231 .474 .538 1.012 (5 G)

Without those early years, it's a tough call. Same number of games in each from 2002 - 2005. 2003 sticks out. He was cruising right along and had a really bad Div and WS with a good LCS in between. Then last year he really heated up even though he played the same number of games as past years. There may be something like fatigue/injuries but it's hard to know when he's dealing with the added injuries.

Even still I'm not so sure he doesn't lose something else (patience?) once the PS starts. I'd want to see 1997 to 2001 for comparison. Also, what happens to other catchers during the PS? If they tend to show other dips, I might be convinced.

I will say this is interesting though:

10 Lg Div Series .250 .322 .389 .711
6 Lg Champ Series .222 .380 .370 .750
5 World Series .208 .337 .338 .675

If it was fatigue you'd expect him to show a linear downward trend - instead there's a spike in OBP right in the middle - strange -whereas AVG and SLG both dip down steadily. Sample sizes aren't great though.

Can anyone fill in 1997 - 2001?

And SSN -

We'll just have to disagree - I guess I'm a bit more conservative than you in defining stepping up. For me it means doing better than standard performance.

2006-02-22 20:57:30
58.   Start Spreading the News
Rob,

We will have to disagree. For me, performance is contextual. Batting .350 for the Columbus clippers is not as impressive as batting .350 for the New York Yankees. Similarly, Jeter putting up the same OPS as the regular season is impressive because of caliber of the playoff opponents.

Now I wouldn't give him credit if he had one or two hot series. Anyone can get hot. But Jeter has done it for 115 games over 462 at-bats. He did it against playoff-level rotations and bullpens.

To require someone to actually put up better stats than their regular season stats really puts the player at a disadvantage. By your standard, when Barry Bonds put up a regular season OPS of 1.422, the same OPS in the postseason would not be considered "stepping up." WOW. That is a high standard.

Even in 1927, Babe Ruth after his 60 homers would have struggled to meet that mark. His season OPS was 1.258. His postseason OPS was a mere 1.244 with only 2 homers and 7 rbis in 4 games as the Yanks swept Pittsburgh.

2006-02-22 22:25:34
59.   Rob Gee
Oh, okay, you convinced me SSN - Captain Clutch he is and your definition is both precise and appropriate. But if that's stepping up - how would you describe Mariano shedding 1.5 runs in over 100 innings? Historic? Legendary? Immortal? Any player comparisons appropriate?
2006-02-22 23:10:12
60.   Start Spreading the News
Maybe the trouble is that we are equating "stepping up" to "clutch." For me those are two different terms. I think players have to have gears to be big time players. In the postseason, the conditions are more intense and tough. So you have to be able to perform well under those conditions. As illustrated by my list, few Yankees have consistently done so.

Clutch would be what Ortiz has been this past year -- improved performance in late innings. I don't know if Jeter is clutch.

But I raised Jeter's performance as a point of comparison to illustrate how absolutely amazing Rivera's performance has been. If it is impressive to maintain one's performance in the postseason, then Rivera's enhanced performance would require words like "legendary" to properly describe it.

Or you could use "Ruthian":
Babe Ruth pitching:
Regular season career ERA: 2.28
Postseason ERA: 0.87

Of course, I kid -- Ruth only pitched in three games, totalling 31 innings. He pitched 14 innings in one game. If he had maintained this level of performance for a few more years as a pitcher, then his numbers would have been "Riveraesque."

I don't know Rivera's place in history. I would have to look up how other great relievers did in the postseason. A quick glance at the top 10 saves leaders show that most had poorer ERAs in the postseason. A few had better numbers. None show the improvement that Rivera does. So then Rivera is an "immortal" and his performance is "historic."

Of course, even this is contextual. Can you compare Rivera who averages 82 innings a year to Rollie Fingers who averaged 117? I just finished "Bronx is Burning" which is a great book. In it, it describes a game where Billy Martin takes out the struggling starting pitcher after 3 innings. Gossage comes in and pitches the remaining six to earn the save.

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