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Catching On
2007-03-20 09:42
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Pat Borzi has a nice piece about the relationship between Jorge Posada and Tony Pena today in The Times.

Comments
2007-03-20 11:04:23
1.   C2Coke
As great as Posada is, he is often under-appreciated. He has always been one of my favorite Yankees.
2007-03-20 12:30:26
2.   Alex Belth
Yeah, he's a great-hitting catcher and not a terrible fielder either.

It's funny...Fisk-Munson was such a hotly-debated Sox-Yankee position rivalry, but you rarely hear about Varitek vs. Posada. Maybe it's because the new guys don't have a personal dislike for each other the way that Fisk and Munson did.

I know Varitek is widely praised for the way he calls a game and he is a good offensive player too. But I'm biased to Posada on this one. Could make a good argument for either, no?

2007-03-20 12:32:28
3.   Yankee Fan In Boston
1 i agree. any other team and he'd be the big star and fan favorite. i wonder how much of what he has been able to accomplish is due to being able to fly below the radar. regardless, he's one of the best on a team of an amazing talent level, and that says a ton.

i recall a discussion here during a game late last season about tony pena's effect on posada's defense. cliff and others here were all over this.

a nice article.

2007-03-20 12:35:04
4.   Yankee Fan In Boston
2 having the opportunity to watch varitek as much as i do, i've thought that they were essentially the same player for a while now.

posada seems to have aged a bit better (because he started as an infielder?), but their demeanor and approach to their jobs seems pretty similar.

i'd love to have either on my team.

2007-03-20 12:52:55
5.   rbj
So what are Jorge's odds for the Hall?
2007-03-20 13:08:20
6.   williamnyy23
5 Posada's HoF case is hurt by the relatively late start he had (thanks in part to Joe Girardi, but mostly because he was a converted infielder). With only 5,000 PA, Posada would need to play at least 4 more seasons to reach the 7,000 PA mark that seems to be the average range of so many Hall of Fame catchers.

With an OPS+ of 122, Posada's offensive production is already on par with the Hall's catching fraternity. If (and it's a big if), Posada can maintain a similar level of production for 3-4 years, I think you could start making the case for him. Everything from history tells us the chances of a mid-30's catcher maintaining his production are slim. Having said that, perhaps Posada relatively light workload might help him reverse the overwhelming precedent?

4 With all due respect to Varitek, he hasn't been anywhere near as good an offensive player as Posada. Unless you want to argue that Varitek is that much better at calling games and blocking balls (Posada has the better arm), then I think Posada gets the clear nod over Varitek.

2007-03-20 13:18:13
7.   Cliff Corcoran
6 Good analysis on Jorge's Jall of Fame chances, William. I think it's fair to say that being able to avoid age-related decline and maintain his production for another four years would make him an excellent Hall of Fame candidate. It's unlikely to happen, of course, as that's very much the Carlton Fisk career path (Fisk's first full major league season came at age 24 and it was his production in his late 30s that pushed him over the line as a Hall candidate), which is an extreme outlier in major league history.
2007-03-20 13:19:44
8.   Yankee Fan In Boston
6 when comparing the two, i try to take into account my overwhelming bias for posada. have i over compensated? definitely a possibility.

varitek calls a hell of a game and is every bit as much of a leader in the clubhouse by all accounts. his offense has dipped (and last year dropped off considerably) but his defense has always been solid.

the offense goes to posada. i am illiterate when it comes to any defensive statistic of any value, but varitek is a great catcher. if you watch him a couple of times a week, you'd see the man knows what he's doing.

that said, maybe i need to watch jorge a bit more closely. i could think of a million worse ways to spend a summer.

2007-03-20 14:01:58
9.   Chyll Will
8 You could easily reach 100 if you somehow include "Carl Pavano" in those thoughts...
2007-03-20 14:04:23
10.   C2Coke
9 100? I think one easily come up with another million when Pavano is included.
2007-03-20 14:17:27
11.   Chyll Will
10 Yeah, but 100 is a good benchmark, plus Ken would be mad at us for taking up so much server space...
2007-03-20 14:18:24
12.   Alex Belth
Does anyone know when catchers started calling games? I read recently about Earl Weaver and his O's staff in the 70s...the pitchers called their own games. The catcher was there to catch, no call the games. Was their a major shift in the 80s?

Varitek's major plus as a fielder is the way he calls games. But how difficult is that skill to measure against catchers from previous eras?

2007-03-20 14:38:16
13.   Eirias
I have a question for Mike Plugh that I figure I could post here and get a response. I betray a lack of familiarity with the concept of "meiyo" in asking it, but I don't wish to come off as a cad.

Given what is traditionally seen as an emphasis on honor in Japanese culture, would sending Igawa, an veritable ace in the NPB, to the minors be considered a dishonor to the entity of the Japanese baseball? Would it affect the Yankees' ability to sign future free-agents? I mean, we are essentially saying that the man who led the league in strikeouts three of the last five years and led in ERA in one of the other two is not good enough to make a 25-man roster.

2007-03-20 14:43:36
14.   ChuckM
I saw an interview w/Johnny Bench awhile back and he told a story about how a rookie pitcher (I forget who exactly) shook him off and the first thing Bench did was call time and head out to the mound and told the rookie something to the effect of, "if you ever want to pitch in this league, you will NEVER shake me off." Bench was pretty ballsy when he came up, but I can't see him doing that as a rookie. I'm guessing it started in the 70's, with some teams being reluctant to change depending on their confidence level in their respective catchers.
2007-03-20 15:14:39
15.   C2Coke
13 I don't know how the Japanese may think but I honestly don't see the Yankees sending Igawa to the minors. He's only had a few opportunities thus far, and his performance hasn't been worse than Pavano's, don't you all agree?
2007-03-20 15:50:30
16.   RIYank
I'm with 6 williamnyy23 on Tek vs. Jorge. Posada is a much better offensive player. Maybe JV makes up for it by 'calling a great game', but that's so hard to quantify -- and I don't think anyone's complained about Posada's game-calling.
Still, Varitek is a first-rate player, I'm not illin' on him. My bet is that he's in a steeper decline than Posada is, and it will show up this year. That's going to be a substantial loss for Boston.
2007-03-20 15:53:45
17.   JL25and3
12 I don't think it started in the 70's - I think catchers have been calling games far longer than that. But there have always been occasional managers who insisted on calling the games themselves.

14 Munson also always seemed to take it personally if a pitcher shook him off. He'd take a couple of steps toward the mound, growl something, and snap the throw back to the pitcher.

2007-03-20 16:14:41
18.   markp
I have a hard time calling a great defensive catcher when they can't catch a guy in his team's rotation who's been on the team since Varitek arrived.
2007-03-20 16:46:23
19.   Vandelay Industries
Off topic, but does anyone know the status of Extra Innings for us poor Time Warner customers on the West Coast?
2007-03-20 16:57:54
20.   JL25and3
Alex, I can't find anything that says when catchers started calling games, but I think that's because they've pretty much always done it. The references I can find all seem to assume it.

Here's Bob Lemon talking about Jim Hegan: "When I first started pitching, I used to shake him off sometimes. Invariably, they'd get a hit. So, I stopped shaking him off."

From a review of a book titled The American Indian Integration of Baseball, talking about John "Chief" Meyers: "...the "slow footed catcher" tolerated the domination of his manager, who batted him eighth and seldom trusted him to call pitches..." (The manager was John McGraw.)

Finally, here's a baseball historian talking about Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884: "Some of the pitchers wouldn't let Fleet Walker call pitches for them," Overmyer said. "They would throw whatever they wanted, even purposely trying to cross up Walker. What's interesting is that those players later admitted that Walker caught all the pitches anyway."

2007-03-20 17:15:22
21.   Eirias
13 It seems Igawa is trying to make my question a moot point. Good for him and good for us.
2007-03-20 17:16:38
22.   Peter
Here's Yogi talking about Don Larsen's perfect game (http://tinyurl.com/2equws):

Q: What were you thinking then? Two outs in the ninth inning. One batter away from a perfect game in the World Series, and you're the catcher.

Yogi Berra: I was pulling for him. He had good stuff that day.

Q: Did you have to think twice about what pitches to call?

Yogi Berra: No. He got everything over. He went to three balls on one hitter in the first inning. That's all. He only threw 96 pitches. And anything I put down, he got over. Never shook me off once.

2007-03-20 17:24:33
23.   C2Coke
I love that John Flaherty almost throws everything Michael Kay said right back to his face, and not in a good way. Too funny.

I hope we will have more Lieter this season.

2007-03-20 17:26:18
24.   C2Coke
It almost seem like Kay is afraid to talk now and that he has to think twice before he does. Bravo to Flaherty!
2007-03-20 19:50:54
25.   Bama Yankee
19 Here's the latest I could find on the DirecTV/MLB deal (I'm in the same Time Warner boat so I have been trying to keep up with the latest myself):

Looks like the deal allows cable and Dish Network to carry the Extra Innings package if they are willing to meet certain requirements. The hangup seems to be MLB's baseball channel (which will not launch until 2009). MLB wants the channel to be offered on lower tier packages instead of premium packages (I can't believe MLB is holding firm on this).

The good news is that at least they are trying to work it out, although they are running out of time (they have a deadline of opening day to get the deal done).

Also, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on March 27 to investigate the deal. Maybe there is still hope that something can get done, but it seems unlikely.

http://www.tvpredictions.com/extraupdate031807.htm

2007-03-20 20:15:05
26.   OldYanksFan
I saw MLB-TV's new Mosaic. While the features are nice, the upgrade in picture quality is markedly better.

Last year, using 'double size' resulted in an unacceptable quality. Full screen was out of the question. In the new version, double size in just about TV quality, and full screen, while not quite TV quality, is watchable.

Unfortunately, instead of just 'installing' the new version, they instead offer it as an upgrade, for $5/month extra. While I resent this ($20/month to watch 'almost TV quality' on a computer screen is quite expensive), if you watch a number of games a month, it's definitely worth it.

At least technology is improving quickly. I'd say in another year, the computer full screen will be TV quality. I might have to move an old computer into the living room.

2007-03-20 20:36:56
27.   OldYanksFan
Posada -- 4308/abs 198/hrs .270 .375 .472 122+/OPS
Munson - 5344/abs 113/hrs .292 .346 .410 116+/OPS
Varitek -- 3543/abs 131/hrs .269 .348 .450 105+/OPS
Ca. Fisk - 8756/abs 376/hrs .269 .341 .457 117+/OPS
J.Bench - 7658/abs 389/hrs .267 .342 .476 126+/OPS

Obviously, Posada is playing in a more hitter friendly era, but his numbers are way better then Thurmans. Who woulda thunk. Teks numbers are within range of Posada's, so I don't quite get an OPS+ of only 105.

Posada's numbers look pretty damn good to me.

I think Teks best strength is blocking the plate. He is always RIGHT THERE. Makes it look easy. Over the next few years, I expect Posada to widen the gap.

Is 7000 ABs average for the average player, or the average Catcher?

2007-03-20 20:46:51
28.   Andre
As a Yankee fan in Boston, I too have watched and heard about Varitek ad nauseum. Jorge is one of my favorite Yanks, so I'm, probably a bit biased, but how do I know how good of a game Varitek calls? I would say that if they win, he probably called a good game, and if they lose, he either called a bad game or the pitcher stunk that day. Based on that criteria, he can't be that great - they've come in 2nd to the Yanks in the past 10 years? Meanwhile, Jorge puts up great offensive numbers and seems to get better with age defensively.

On the other hand, you don't hear many pitchers (other than Wakefield) complaining about Varitek, but you do have the weird Randy Johnson/Posada thing and the El Duque/Posada thing.

At my work, people are always debating the Tek/Posada preference. Boston fans seem to HATE Posada as much as I hate Tek (take off your mask and gloves when you attack A Rod you wimp!)

2007-03-21 04:37:37
29.   The Mick 536
How about that Minky raising his average 34 points. Mendoza still a ways away!

Jorge forever. Do love the guy.

Good article. Like to hear more about the coaches. Gator has the toughest job. Bowa must be a real trip. Too bad someone cannot teach Damon how to throw. Would have to start with reconstructive surgery. Wonder what and who Joe coaches. Oh Donny, can you help me with my swing? Quite an impressive bunch.

2007-03-21 05:16:28
30.   rsmith51
27 There is a significant difference in OBP between Posada and Varitek. In addition, Varitek plays half his games in a hitter's park and has lesser overall numbers. I believe OPS+ accounts for ballpark effects. That could explain the gap between Jorge and Jason.
2007-03-21 05:16:42
31.   williamnyy23
27 OPS+ is park adjusted and compared to league averages, so there is no need to account for Posada playing in a better offense era. Also, while some of Tek's counting stats match up to Posada's, Fenway rates as a much more friendly hitters park. That's why OPS+ has Varitek at only 5% better than the average major league hitter.

It seems as if most Hall of Fame catchers (at least the very best ones) have between 6,500 and 8,500 PAs (see below), so that's why I think Jorge needs to play another 3-4 years. Most other position players in the Hall usually have quite a bit more.

Bench – 8,669 PA (approx. 1,700 as a non-catcher) / OPS+ 126
Berra – 8,364 PA (approx. 1,000 as a non-catcher) / OPS+ 125
Dickey – 7,060 PA / OPS+ 127
Cochrane – 6,206 PA / OPS+ 128
Hartnett – 7,297 PA / OPS+ 126
Lombardi – 6,349 PA / OPS+ 125

Finally, while Varitek is very good at blocking the plate, there are so few plays at the plate during a season to factor in such a skill. To me, the two most important skills of a catcher are controlling the running game (which Posada seems to do better) and calling a game (which Varitek seems to do better). Because Varitek is not the defensive equivalent of a Johnny Bench, I don't think whatever defensive advantage he has comes close to making up for Posada's much better offense.

2007-03-21 05:19:26
32.   williamnyy23
27 Also, instead of ABs, it is more useful to look at PAs. Now that the walk has finally been given the level of importance it deserves, PAs should also be accorded the same.
2007-03-21 05:42:14
33.   Sliced Bread
The numbers don't lie: Boston's captain cheapshot (always use lower-case for him) is Posada-lite, and that drives Red Sox fans nuts.

Posada is as under-appreciated in NY as captain cheapshot is over-appreciated in Boston.

Hip hip, Jorge! Hip hip, Jorge!

22 Yeah, Larsen credited Yogi for calling every pitch of that perfecto.

2007-03-21 06:00:09
34.   ny2ca2dc
Getting in late on the Po love (one of my favorite topics), check out the picture from this story http://tinyurl.com/27nwaq

I had never noticed that Jorge uses a batting glove while catching, while we all know he bats without gloves.

2007-03-21 07:28:22
35.   jayd
33 captain cheap shot: excellent! And don't you just love those sawksers who keep the screensaver of cap'n tek in full catching regalia in mid fairy assault. It says something for a season when that piece of shit photo offers itself as some sort of an epitome. While the nitwits talk about Dave Roberts' steal, the true nature of the aberration of '04 lies with the screensavers. The glorification of sin, darkness and evil over the team of light and grace. But lets not dwell on the theology of the rivalry...

what I loved about the posada story was his working on the finer points of his game and ability to improve. alot of the age related info on catchers goes out the window in the 2000s with improved conditioning and committment to play (think $$$$$$$$$$).

I expect Jorge to be playing until he's 38, so another 3 or 4 years not out of the question and the HOF a definite while captain cheapshot will sink to a well-deserved shameful oblivion. Just another impartial fan's opinion...

Tek, while calling a good game, has declined noticibly and is no longer an offensive force but yet another resting spot for opposing pitchers in the sawks subpar lineup. Was it last year or the year before he was ohfer 19 against the Yanks at one point in the season? Tough to make excuses unless you're saying the guy plain just sucks. Oh very tek, I must stop this post/rant...

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