Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Hot Seat
2008-02-19 05:41
by Alex Belth

Andy Pettitte spoke to the media yesterday in Tampa. He was flanked by Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi. Teammates, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera sat nearby in the audience. Here is Pettitte's prepared statement:

I just wanted to say, well, I'm happy to be back here and again looking forward to giving the Yankees every ounce of energy I have this season. I want to thank the New York Yankees for giving me a few extra days with my family. I think they realize this has taken a toll on my family, and other than my relationship with God, my family is the No. 1 priority in my life.

I want to apologize to the New York Yankees and to the Houston Astros organizations and to their fans and to all my teammates and to all of baseball fans for the embarrassment I have caused them. I also want to tell anyone that is an Andy Pettitte fan I am sorry, especially any kids that might look up to me. Since graduating from high school, I have spent my life working with young kids at my church and in my community. I never want a young person to do what I did.

Anyone that has followed my career knows that I have battled elbow problems the entire time. Again, like I said before, I never took this to get an edge on anyone. I did this to try to get off the DL and to do my job. And again, for that, I am sorry for the mistakes I've made.

I have been put in a situation that I think no one should ever be put. Being put in the middle of a situation between two men I have known for a long time has been a very difficult time for me over the last couple of months. I have never tried to take sides in Roger [Clemens] and [Brian McNamee's] situation, but I've only been honest.

Roger has been one my closest friends in baseball over the last nine years. He has taught me more about pitching than I ever could have imagined. Mac has pushed me in my workouts harder than anyone I've ever worked with. I have been friends with Roger and Mac for a long time and, hopefully, will continue to be friends after this.

As far as the situation with my dad, I am sorry for not telling the whole truth in my original statement after the Mitchell Report was released. I am human, just like anyone else, and people make mistakes. I never wanted to bring my dad into a situation like this. This was between me and him, and no one else. I testified about my dad in part because I felt in my heart I had to, but mainly because he urged me to tell the truth, even if it hurt him. Most of you know that my dad has had numerous health problems, especially with his heart, and he was just trying to do anything to help himself feel better. He is a private individual, not a professional athlete like myself, and his privacy should be respected.

I hope with the help from y'all that I can put all this behind me and continue to do what I've always tried to do -- that is to help bring the New York Yankees another world championship.

Most of the columnists I read this morning suggest that the drama is far from over for Pettitte.

Meanwhile, Rob Neyer had a post about Posada yesterday at ESPN. He writes, in part:

Is Posada the best "old" catcher ever? No. That title clearly belongs to Fisk. Best mid-30s catcher? I don't think I'm prepared to say that; it's a great battle between him and Howard. Which is appropriate because those two have a great deal in common. Both were Yankees. Both weren't worked particularly hard in their 20s; Posada because of Joe Girardi, Howard because of Yogi Berra.

How good was Elston Howard? In his Age 34 season (above) he was the American League's MVP; in his Age 35 season (ditto) he finished third in the voting. If he hadn't gotten that late start he might be in the Hall of Fame.

But you know what happened to Howard after he turned 36? He stopped hitting. Howard's OPS+'s from ages 32-35: 153, 113, 140, 128. Over those four seasons, his 133 OPS+ is No. 1 all time for catchers in that age range (minimum 500 games). And No. 2? Posada (130 OPS+), followed by Hall of Famers Hartnett (127), Berra (118) and Fisk (117).

Howard's OPS+'s from 36-39: 77, 98, 42, 92. That last number, while constituting an impressive rebound, 1) came in only 71 games, and 2) came in Howard's last season.

Will the same fate befall Posada? Almost certainly not. Howard's a sample size of exactly one, and certainly doesn't predict Posada's future. On the other hand, Fisk is essentially the only catcher who's remained a truly productive hitter into his late 30s. Who is Posada more likely to resemble, Fisk, or the many other good-hitting catchers in the game's long history?

The answer seems obvious.

More obviousness: Posada was incredibly lucky in 2007. Perhaps it goes without saying that when any player puts up numbers that are both historic and out of character with the rest of his career, he had a bit of luck on his side. It was more than a bit, though; when Posada put the ball into play he batted around .390, far higher than his career norms. This year he'll be back to normal, and should post numbers something like his outstanding performance from 2004 through 2006. But can he keep it going for more than another year or two? Historically speaking, it's terribly unlikely. And as great as he's been, one wonders if he'll really be worth $13 million per season from today through October of 2011.

I expected Posada and Alex Rodriguez to come back down to earth some this year. But they will still likely be All-Stars (though it'll be interesting to see how the third base voting goes now with Cabrera in the league), even if their numbers understandably fall off.

Comments (85)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2008-02-19 06:09:55
1.   The Mick 536
Cabrera could hit a ton, boosting the Tigers to an early and non-surmountable lead and still not budge Alex. First, I look forward to another monster year from A-Rod. Second,Cabrera cannot field big league style. Third, NY fans wouldn't tolerate it.

I loved Ellie. Sad what the Janks did to him. Played with dignity in Boston. Died young. Good point about how the light early years saved his career. Remember him playing the OF.

2008-02-19 06:33:52
2.   Sliced Bread
Who knows how much luck had to do with Posada's season?
The remarkable thing about watching Jorge rake last year: it didn't look to me like he was getting lucky, as Neyer, and statistical reasoning would suggest. I recall most of his hits were unplayable no doubters. Lots of line drives and hard hit groundballs up the middle. He really did have a freakishly MVP-worthy season.
I guess you could say staying healthy had a little something to do with luck, but I wouldn't classify how solidly locked-in he was as lucky. Know what I'm saying?
2008-02-19 06:44:00
3.   williamnyy23
1 What specifically did the Yankees do to Elston Howard?
2008-02-19 07:17:41
4.   Bruce Markusen
Sliced Bread, well said. I don't remember many bloops and bleeders for Posada either. He certainly didn't have a lot of leg hits, that's for damn sure.

William, I think The Mick is referring to the Yankees' decision not to give Howard the managerial job in the mid-1970s, despite the fact that many players wanted him to be promoted. Howard was very well liked and respected by Yankees players and deserved a chance at managing.

2008-02-19 07:31:20
5.   williamnyy23
4 Fair enough, but I don't think that qualifies as something "they did" to him, especially when you consider they made him the first African American coach in the American League.

I thought he might have been referring to the trade, but I've read at least one account of the Yankees sending Howard to Boston as being a reward (a chance to compete in one more pennant race), not a punishment.

2008-02-19 07:32:50
6.   williamnyy23
2 Actually, I can recall a couple of instances of Kenny Singleton saying "when you're going good, you're going good" after a dink and dunk. I wouldn't say those hits were common, but enough standout that an element of luck might have been in play (which isn't a bad thing).
2008-02-19 08:15:06
7.   Shaun P
2 I share your thoughts, but from the statistical perspective, it doesn't matter if it was bloops and bleeders, or solid line drives and grounders - a .390ish BABIP is a huge outlier for Jorge. It isn't likely to be sustainable.

1 4 5 I was thinking it was more that Howard didn't get the chance to play fulltime when he was clearly ready for it - just like Jorge. He signed in 1950, but didn't debut until 1955, and didn't top 350 MLB PAs until 1957. Maybe he doesn't have the same career if he got started in 1952 or '53. But isn't it something of accepted fact that the Yankees could have, and should have, integrated sooner?

2008-02-19 08:30:16
8.   williamnyy23
7 The Yankees clearly should have and could have integrated sooner, but I am not sure a reluctance to have a black man on the team was entirely behind Howard's late start. For one thing, the Yankees already had a stacked team (they did win the WS from 1950-1953). Also, the Yankees were in the process of converting Howard, who had been an outfielder in the Negro Leagues, to a catcher. As with Posada, that project alone probably required an extra year or so of seasoning. Finally, Howard had stints in the military during the 1951 and 1952 seasons, which also presumably set him back.
2008-02-19 08:32:03
9.   Sliced Bread
On Howard's wikipedia page there's a vague reference to some controversy about how the Yanks handled his death.

Howard died of a heart ailment at age 51 in New York City and was interred at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey. Broadcaster Red Barber reacted by saying, "The Yankees lost more class on the weekend than George Steinbrenner could buy in 10 years."

It's unclear to me exactly what Barber was referring to but according to wikipedia, George Washington Memorial Park was established in 1939 as a "whites only" cemetery.

Did Barber object to Howard being laid to rest here? What did the Yankees do to "lose class?" Anybody know what this was about?

2008-02-19 08:34:25
10.   wsporter
Jorge's career .319 BAbip indicates he should regress to career norms and age indicates he should be in or beginning a decline. Who knows though, Jorge is really in uncharted territory where older catchers are concerned. I don't think it's fair to expect a repeat of '07 but barring injury I don't expect him to regress to Rick Cerone country in one year either.
2008-02-19 08:38:26
11.   williamnyy23
9 I have a feeling Barber was just using the occasion of Howard's death to take a swipe at George, who by 1980 had gained his share of detractors.
2008-02-19 08:44:53
12.   williamnyy23
9 I guess this is another example on why Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source, but the quote above should be attributed to Red Smith instead of Red Barber. "THE Yankees' organization lost more class on the weekend than George Steinbrenner could buy in 10 years" was the lead to Smith's 12/15/80 article for the New York Times.
2008-02-19 08:46:52
13.   Shaun P
10 MFD, I would gladly take another 3-4 years of Posada churning out seasons like he did in '04, '05, or '06.

8 Yeah, I guess. I don't know. Its hard to make any judgments without knowing more about those mid-50s teams than can tell me. I think we should stop speculating and just wait for The Mick to tell us what he meant. =)

2008-02-19 08:47:46
14.   wsporter
9 I remember that Slice. I believe that was purely a shot at George. I think what Red was doing was equating Ellie's death with "loss' in a metaphoracal and idiomatice sense in that his death caused the Yankees a loss; I don't think it had anything to do with the place in internment. The allusion to Steinbrenner was part of the usual shot at his reputation for buying every free agent that wasn't nailed down and generally being a blustering blowhard and a bully.

Red Barber was a segregationist and a racist in his early days but became a staunch supporter of civil rights and I believe lived with a good deal of guilt about the beliefs he held in his younger and uninformed days. There is a good deal written about his support of Jackie Robinson for example and how he managed to see the light once he got to know him. He talked about it some in his days at NPR with Bob Edwards. Edwards wrote a pretty good book on Barber that is worth the read.

2008-02-19 08:48:31
15.   JL25and3
9 First off, it wasn't Red Barber, it was Red Smith (, for Times subscribers).

The reference wasn't to anything the Yankees did. He was simply saying that the Yankees had lost the class that Howard brought to the organization.

Here's his lede: "The Yankees' organization lost more class on the weekend than George Steinbrenner could buy in 10 years. Elston Howard, former catcher, outfielder, first baseman, coach and lately administrative assistant to Steinbrenner, died in Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center."

And his closing paragraphs: "Whether he ever could have been manager for George Steinbrenner is something else again. It has yet to be shown that anyone can manage a team for Steinbrenner for more than a short time. Yet it is conceivable that some of Elston Howard's class might have rubbed off on the owner of the Yankees.

"That possibility makes his death a greater loss than ever. He was a loyal friend, a polished professional in his job, a cool judge of whisky and a man of simple honesty. The world will be poorer without him, the Yankees immeasurably poorer."

Smith could write.

2008-02-19 08:50:27
16.   wsporter
12 I remember the quote, I thought it was Red Barber. In fact I can almost hear him saying it. Maybe he was repeating it?

13 Amen brother, lets hope.

2008-02-19 08:55:54
17.   weeping for brunnhilde
How is that fucking luck?

Posada was incredibly lucky in 2007. Perhaps it goes without saying that when any player puts up numbers that are both historic and out of character with the rest of his career, he had a bit of luck on his side. It was more than a bit, though; when Posada put the ball into play he batted around .390, far higher than his career norms.

Ok, I'm sorry, this is where statistician-types exasperate me.

Did you all watch the same Jorgie all year that I did? The one who actually changed his swing, went with the pitch and used the middle of the field?

The man changed his approach to batting (apparent to anyone with eyes to see) and that's somehow about luck?

Luck was maybe staying healthy, but in a high average on balls put into play? Why doesn't that mean that a higher percentage of those balls were well-struck than in previous years?

2008-02-19 08:57:12
18.   weeping for brunnhilde
2 Thank you, sliced.
2008-02-19 09:09:27
19.   Chyll Will
8 My uncle would endorse William's point-of-view about the Yanks of the early fifties without Howard (heck, they were all right without him) and the other points make complete sense. Uncle Woodrow was a Dodgers fan when they were in Brooklyn (despite living in the Bronx within earshot of Yankee Stadium), mainly because they integrated before anyone else did, and became an original Mets fan when they came into being.

Of the Yanks, he said that at the time there was only one guy among his group who was a Yankee fan, and the others would tease this guy because of the fact that the Yanks didn't have any black players.

However, his clever retort: "Well, the Yanks don't NEED 'em like you do."

2008-02-19 09:09:47
20.   williamnyy23
17 Luck, both good and bad, is definitely a factor in performance. I don't think anyone is saying that Posada's great season was entirely due to luck, but to deny that it played some element is equally drastic. From personal memory, I do recall Jorge getting what seemed like more than his fair share of lucky hits. That doesn't mean he wouldn't have had an excellent season without those lucky hits, but it does partly explain why he had such a late career spike (along with all those other reasons you noted). What's more, luck isn't a bad thing. In fact, it could be argued that luck is the residue of talent.
2008-02-19 09:15:05
21.   Rob Middletown CT

It was almost certainly luck because his BABIP was 71 points over his career rate. I did watch Jorge all year, and I didn't see any change in his approach at the plate. Jorge himself, when asked, said he was doing the same things he'd always done (I'll see if I can find the quote). Even he knew that there was luck involved.

That doesn't mean there was no skill. There is tremendous skill at work (career .319 BABIP for a slow-footed catcher? Phenomenal. Great OBP. Power...).

I think there has been work done on correlations between line drive rate and BABIP, showing that not all high BABIP is lucky. But .390? Come on now.

2008-02-19 09:16:11
22.   weeping for brunnhilde
20 Fair enough, I'll accept the role of luck in success, of course, but Neyer's implication, by omission, is that luck was a major explanation for Jorgie's season. For Neyer to not even talk about baseball (i.e., the mechanics and techniques employed to hit a baseball) is egregious.

I understand he didn't watch day in and day out, but that's kind of my point--a pile of numbers is no substitute for watching baseball, day in, day out.

2008-02-19 09:17:08
23.   weeping for brunnhilde
21 I just don't get how a conversation about hitting can take place with no reference to hitting, is my point.

Jorgie shortened his fucking swing, why is that not even worthy of comment?

2008-02-19 09:18:15
24.   Rob Middletown CT

Of course, the writer tries to claim it's not luck. But look at what Jorge himself said.

"I'll tell you the truth—I don't know why it's been such a good year," he said, smiling, as he dressed in front of his locker for Monday's game against Toronto. "At the plate, I haven't been even a little bit different."

"I think I've been a little lucky this year, no question,"

2008-02-19 09:19:14
25.   horace-clarke-era
With Shaun on this (and others) ... Jorge going beyond the pale at that age is NOT something you ever count on again ... unless you are his agent and negotiating from a C position of ridiculous strength with a Yankee team that had A Rod leaving at the time!

But if he gives anything like his 2004-06 numbers for 3 years anyone who knows the game surely has to be happy.

I'm intrigued by the luck analysis, the .390 on balls in play etc. ... I suppose I'd have expected that over a season it levels more smoothly, that luck is a month or two (along with streaks, which CAN be luck).

Opera-lover, it would be awfully nice if you're right, that it was simply confidence, new swing (walk year?). If it happens again everyone here will cheer like mad, but it isn't just sabr-geeks who attach value to career norms and the rarity of mid-30s redefinitions.

2008-02-19 09:20:14
26.   weeping for brunnhilde
21 I'm not saying luck has no role, Rob. I am saying that, according to my eyes, Jorgie most certainly did have a shorter swing with fewer holes in it than in previous years.

But let's say I'm absolutely wrong about that, that it's my word against yours--why isn't that the conversation?

Why can't someone like Neyer talk about a guy's swing, his mechanics, his approach?

2008-02-19 09:23:57
27.   weeping for brunnhilde
I mean, what does Jorgie usually hit, about .270-.280, right? He tends to trail off as the season progresses.

Of course the difference was phenomenal, but my point is, luck only explains so much, and by no means the most interesting part of why his season was so strong.

It's especially ironic that stathead types try to quantify and measure everything, but then, when push comes to shove, they throw up their hands and invoke luck rather than talking about baseball?

Kind of amusing, no?

2008-02-19 09:27:18
28.   Rob Middletown CT
Ok, we disagree on his swing. I watched pretty much every Yankee game in 2007, and I saw the exact same Jorge Posada I've always seen. No change at all was evident to me. His own words back that up. I'm glad Jorge didn't change his swing: it's a great swing. I'll miss it dearly when it's gone.

As for Neyer... probably because Neyer isn't particularly qualified to discuss a hitter's mechanics (neither are we, of course, but we don't get paid to post on the Banter). He could, however, solicit quotes from scouts and include their comments in his articles.

2008-02-19 09:29:14
29.   Sliced Bread
Red Barber, Red Smith, red herring.

anyway, thanks for the Barber insights, wsporter.

[26 - 27] For what it's worth, weeping, I take more from your analysis of Posada than Neyer's.

2008-02-19 09:29:26
30.   Chyll Will
17 Ok, I'm sorry, this is where statistician-types exasperate me.

Hah! You know I'm fanatical about cartoons, whether age-appropriate or not, but this recent exchange reminded me of Banter in it's purest form:

Spongebob: (jumps at Patrick 3 times) C'mon Patrick, let's do something fun.

Patrick: Oh, you want to run some statistics or observe phenomenon and render hypothesis of sand phenomenon?

Spongebob: I was thinking more like jumping rope, 1-legged races, or duck-duck-hermit crab. (jumps into a hermit-crab shell)

Patrick: Doesn't feel like fun.

Spongebob: How about some jokes? (Patrick sighs) What's the difference between a guitar and a jellyfish?

Patrick: You can't strum a jellyfish.

Spongebob: Yes! (laughs. Patrick grabs a jellyfish and strums its tentacles)

Patrick: Oh my, look at the time. I really must be going. (walks off)

That's about right I imagine >;)

2008-02-19 09:30:39
31.   The Mick 536
While I do not have citations at the ready, here are my reasons for saying that they didn't treat him well.

He has had his number retired for sure and his family are honored guests at the stadium, but he should be thought about on a level just below 42.

The Yankees under Weiss passed on Vic Power, among others, because they had swagger. I believe that Ellie's gentlemanly qualities were taken advantage of and that he toiled as a utility man under Casey because of his color, not his talent.

At some point, either in 1956 or 1955, Ellie went into the hospital for some sort of nervous disorder. Never got the story about who put pressure on him in the dugout. Hank Bauer and Yogi were supposedly big supporters, but someone, maybe just Casey and Weiss, made his skin erupt.
Houk finally let him play and that is when he became an all-star. Yanks promised him he could finish his career in pinstripes. I remember that he was devastated when they traded him to the Sox. They may have claimed they were giving him one last chance to win another ring, but then why did he almost retire rather than gleefully going?

The manager thing really still miffs me the most. He was named on the short lists. The Yankees, as well as many other teams, could have broken the color line by making him the skipper. The team loved him. The fans loved him. White ownership didn't.

Finally, the embarassment at the time of his untimely death, one hastened by the racism he faced, comes from some financial finagling by ownership that may have effected the family's ability to cover his medical bills. I am, as Casey would say, looking it up.

2008-02-19 09:32:41
32.   RIYank
Does every player who shortens his swing add 60 points to his batting average?
Do players in general add a bunch of OPS when they shorten their swings?

I don't know. I doubt it. Unless swing-shortening really does tend to improve hitting, I am reluctant (to say the least) to attribute Posada's improvement to a new swing.

Only speaking for myself, of course.

2008-02-19 09:38:38
33.   weeping for brunnhilde
28 Why aren't we qualified to discuss a hitter's mechanics?

Speaking for myself, I'm not a professional hitting coach, but I have been coached in how to swing a baseball bat, both in little league and through listening to professionals on training videos, starting when I was young and that show--"The Baseball Bunch," was it?--came on weekly and major leaguers taught kids fundamentals.

I do have some idea of how to hit a baseball, as should anyone who watches baseball with any kind of attention.

Just because we disagree about Jorgie's swing, both of us having watched him day in, day out, doesn't mean we're therefore not fit to discuss it.

2008-02-19 09:40:11
34.   weeping for brunnhilde
32 Dave Winfield did in 1984.
2008-02-19 09:43:19
35.   weeping for brunnhilde
30 :)
2008-02-19 09:47:32
36.   Chyll Will
31 Interesting. I'll be waiting for that. Casey certainly wasn't necessarily the lovable old coot many make him out to be in my opinion. As for ownership, I'm on record as a hater and I stand by it. Wonder what Bob Watson said when he got far enough away from his old job...
2008-02-19 09:50:27
37.   Chyll Will
34 And that was only to prove that he could. He went right back to that swing I always loved (especially when he let go of the bat) after he made his point.
2008-02-19 09:54:48
38.   RIYank
34 Uh.

Did you get my point? Were you just teasing me?

2008-02-19 09:55:52
39.   rilkefan
At Replacement Level I asked about Posada's mechanics and SG cited Jorge as saying his swing was more level in 07.
2008-02-19 09:56:27
40.   Rob Middletown CT
Again, I didn't see any change in Jorge's approach at the plate last season. He's on the record as saying that he was the exact same hitter he's always been, and he figures there was luck involved.

Therefore, I'm sorry, but I don't believe that he did anything different. He was more fortunate (until the playoffs, anyway). I'll be shocked if Jorge ever hits .340 again. I'll be surprised if he clears .300 (barring a small sample size due to injury or somesuch). But it'll be oh-so pleasant shock or surprise :)

And with that, I'm going to bow out of this debate.

2008-02-19 09:57:36
41.   JL25and3
Well, there's Casey's famous line about Howard: "They finally get me a n*, and they get me the only one who can't run."
2008-02-19 09:59:38
42.   Rob Middletown CT
Oh, I just saw that SG post over at RLYW. So one more post. Here's the important bit, IMO:

"Still, a line drive percentage of .221 should support an expected BABIP of around .341. Posada's was .389. Career is .323. So he may have made a tangible change that helped, but he was likely a bit fortunate as well."

2008-02-19 09:59:38
43.   Rob Middletown CT
Oh, I just saw that SG post over at RLYW. So one more post. Here's the important bit, IMO:

"Still, a line drive percentage of .221 should support an expected BABIP of around .341. Posada's was .389. Career is .323. So he may have made a tangible change that helped, but he was likely a bit fortunate as well."

2008-02-19 10:00:04
44.   weeping for brunnhilde
38 Sorry, RI, maybe I missed your point. I wasn't teasing you (I'm far too worked up for teasing--my buttons, you know!).

I guess my response was to say that I don't know about whether most players who shorten their swings lift their OPS so much.

They certainly don't look silly flailing at the baseball as much of the time.

But I don't know.

2008-02-19 10:01:20
45.   Rob Middletown CT
Sorry for the DP. Which was a mistake anyways, because I wasn't through.

SG says he recalls Posada claiming a more level swing, and he did hit more liners (22% vs. 20%) than his career rates. I don't remember Jorge saying that, but it's possible, of course. I also don't recall seeing any difference in the swing... but again I'm no expert.

2008-02-19 10:05:13
46.   JL25and3
I'm skeptical that a change in Posada's swing sould account for a 60-point jump in BA. But I'm just as skeptical that luck would account for anything close to that. If it could, 60-point swings in BA would be reasonably common, and they're not.

I say split the difference.

2008-02-19 10:05:52
47.   weeping for brunnhilde
42 I'll absolutely accept that. Again, I'm not arguing that luck is not a factor, just that it's, IMO, infinitely less interesting to talk about than actually hitting the baseball. It also doesn't explain the meat of the improved performance. It might account for the frosting, sure, but Jorgie's season was about a whole lot more than luck.

Whether his approach was truly different (as I maintain) or exactly the same (as you and Jorgie maintain) is debatable, but that is the Question, imo.

If you factor out improved approach at the plate, what's left? Luck? Inferior pitching? Generally improved health?

All of which could be factors, but I find approach the most plausible factor to account for such a spike in performance, and my eyes did in fact watch a different hitter at the plate, one who scarcely reminded me of the Jorgie I've watched step into the box in previous years.

2008-02-19 10:06:29
48.   weeping for brunnhilde
46 My point exactly.
2008-02-19 10:09:40
49.   YankeeInMichigan
The biggest difference that I saw in Posada in 2007 was his ability to avoid prolonged slumps. When Jorge presses, he tries to pull everything, and outside pitches end up as weak grounders. This past season, whenever he fell into such a mode, he snapped out of it within a few days. It appears then the difference is not luck but rather Kevin Long.

UPDATE: The stats don't quite back up my observations. Posada's GIDP and GO/AO in 2007 were actually greater than in the past two seasons (2004 was his worst season in this regard). Another interesting stat is that 15 of Posada's additional 42 hits from 2006 to 2007 were doubles. Doubles generally do not come from luck (especially when you run like Posada).

2008-02-19 10:12:45
50.   weeping for brunnhilde
49 This is precisely what I saw--going with the pitch far more consistently than in the past.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2008-02-19 10:20:34
51.   Rob Middletown CT
We saw different things, while watching the same events. I saw the same 'ole Jorge, whereas you guys saw a smarter hitter. I don't recall more hits to LF (as LHB, or RF as RHB). But hey, that's something that should be available statistically (so we don't have to rely on our memories).

Anyway, I am not arguing it was 100% luck (and you're not arguing it was 0%). The line drive rate indicates there was more going on.

2008-02-19 10:27:35
52.   Shaun P
weeping, you asked:

"Why can't someone like Neyer talk about a guy's swing, his mechanics, his approach?"

I'd say its because:

-Neyer doesn't watch Posada play every day, so he doesn't know his swing
-AND Neyer hasn't watched Posada closely enough over the years to use his eyes alone to evaluate changes in his swing
-Neyer tends not to rely on things he doesn't have hard data for

My guess is, if Neyer had video of every last swing Posada took over a 3 year period of time, and exhaustively analyzed that data, then he'd talk about swing mechanics etc.

I have to say, for myself, I don't feel comfortable evaluating Posada's swing either. I don't trust my eyes enough!

46 I don't know. A 30 point swing in AVG is just an extra hit a week for the entire season; that could certainly be mostly "luck". I think I could see a 60 point swing in BABIP being mostly "luck" too. Honestly though, I don't think the cause of it matters.

2008-02-19 10:28:27
53.   williamnyy23
31 Again, I'd need to see some evidence supporting the claim that Casey held Howard back because of his color. The list of players who hated Casey's platoon strategy is long, and most of them are white.

As for the nervous disorder, I couldn't find any mention in a quick search. I never heard that story, so would be interested to learn the details.

2008-02-19 10:38:03
54.   wsporter
If you look at Jorge's splits from last year you find some pretty consistently impressive stuff. When you check out his hit chart, even with my rapidly aging eyes, it looks like he used the whole field, though most of his power was still to right. I'm not sure how much we learn from it though because he's a switch hitter.

No matter how you slice it the season was simply remarkable for a catcher of his age especially when you consider his stats increased after the all-star break. The season is an outlier so far as we know right now. I immagine that, despite his statement, he did alter his approach. I would also imagine that there was some luck involved. I would also immagine that Jorge knows more about hitting than he did a few years ago and that may well be showing through. Until the wheels start to fall off I think we can all agree that he'll remain an offensive force for the foreseeable future.

What's really pretty neat about Jorge is there really aren't any comps available for catchers who performed at this level at this age. I don't think we really know what last year means where he's concerned. I have a feeling it's going to be fun finding out.

2008-02-19 10:44:52
55.   JL25and3
52 An extra hit in a week certainly isn't much. But an extra hit every single week over the course of six months? That's one hell of a run of luck.

And again: if it were luck, I'd expect to see 60-point swings with some regularity.

The cause is at least a little important, because it bears on what his performance this year is likely to be.

2008-02-19 10:45:25
56.   OldYanksFan
A few things I see about Jorge.
He had 506 ABs in 2007, 40 more then the previous year, the most since 2002, and the second most in his career. Jorge has been around/over .300 a few times at the ASB but usually fades (as many catchers do) at the end of the season.
Last year his PRE-ASB avg. was .325 and POST was .355. And he absolutely rated in September. So regardless of luck, it would seem he was stronger last year.

.355 in the 2nd half at his age? It's obvious. He found Andy and Roger's stash, and was blending HGH in with his protein shake and pouring them over a bowl of steroids.

Other then that, I would look at if there was any change in his conditioning routine. Also, how about his son. For many years, the boys life was in jeapordy. Did little Jorge turn a corner? Playing with that kind of stress can't make life easier.

2008-02-19 10:46:35
57.   OldYanksFan
Jeez.... I am a fucking slow typer!
2008-02-19 11:04:53
58.   The Mick 536
53 Ellie's wife wrote a book called Ellie and Me. She notes that he was admitted to the hospital with welts. I say they were caused by tension. I don't have better facts and I cannot remember how I know what I know or the way I got the information. And the book is not nearby. Check it out on Amazon. There is a reference to it in the review of the book.

I'll come up with an argument for my belief that Caset may have held Ellie back for reasons unrelated to his talent when I am reunited with my library.

2008-02-19 11:06:50
59.   weeping for brunnhilde
52 Fair enough, Shaun, but to not even suggest that maybe something other than luck accounted for his success?

Perhaps he expressed himself poorly, but here's what Neyer wrote:

"More obviousness: Posada was incredibly lucky in 2007. Perhaps it goes without saying that when any player puts up numbers that are both historic and out of character with the rest of his career, he had a bit of luck on his side. It was more than a bit, though; when Posada put the ball into play he batted around .390, far higher than his career norms. "

As I read that, Neyer's suggestion is that two things can account for improved performance: "a bit of luck" and "more than a bit" of luck.

To me, that's a staggering bit of myopia for a serious analyst of baseball, unless I'm misreading him.

2008-02-19 11:14:01
60.   Sliced Bread
Another thing you may notice looking at Jorge's career splits:

It seems he does his best work batting 6th.

batting 5th - 1359 AB - .279/.379/.461
batting 6th - 1593 AB - .296/.402/.520
batting 7th - 1042 AB - .263/.360/.470

As opposed to 2006, and 2005 when he mostly batted 5th, and 7th in the order, last year Jorge mostly batted 6th and here's the line he produced at that spot:


Perhaps due to the hitters before and after him, (I'd have to look all that up) he saw better pitches last year?

I usually don't read too much into where a player hits in the order, but sometimes they're more comfortable hitting in a particular spot, and there's no question it can determine how they'll be pitched to.

Perhaps batting 6th was more of a factor in 2007 than luck?

2008-02-19 11:15:05
61.   RIYank
Hm, what's the Standard Deviation for a .300 hitter, anybody know? It seems like that kind of info should be readily available.

A 60 point swing isn't common at all, obviously, but I'm not convinced that's the right question. After all, increasing by 60 points isn't common, whether due to luck or to a sudden improvement in mechanics. So the real question to ask is, which is more common (and by how much): a 60 point improvement that is then sustained, or a 60 point improvement that was mainly luck and is never seen again?

2008-02-19 11:16:50
62.   horace-clarke-era
Over and above or under and below SpongeBob (which was very funny), this whole argument seems a bit spun out of eagerness for the damn games to START. In other words, we're going to have a better idea fairly soon.

Weeping, does it affect your thoughts at all to consider that it may be more FUN, as you say, to conjecture shorter swing, more level swing, more opposite field ... but more fun doesn't mean more accurate OR that other watchers (such as Rob) simply didn't see it?

And, for what it is worth, I've seen EXACTLY the same points made about Maggs' season: luck, expect regression towards mean. And exactly same reason offered ... 'obscenely' high percentage of balls in play landing safely. Way above career norms.

2008-02-19 11:20:17
63.   weeping for brunnhilde
60 Excellent point, sliced.
2008-02-19 11:21:32
64.   wsporter

58 I don't have a make a smaller URL on this one but it looks pretty short. There's some interesting stuff here about Ellie's history with the Yankees. As I remembered from my Grandfather and Uncles, George Weiss was the villain and a wrong guy. The Scooter comes across as a wonderful man as do many of the guys on the team.

Reading this type of thing makes my stomach churn. It's incredible how fundamentally wrong people can be in the name of being right.

2008-02-19 11:23:44
65.   weeping for brunnhilde
62 Oh, I certainly realize that the shorter-swing, opposite-field, mechanics model is my hobby horse. It's clearly the model according to which I watch and evaluate a player's on-field performance.

Of course I could be wrong about what I see, but I'm just confident enough about my judgment to require serious convincing that I'm wrong.

2008-02-19 11:30:01
66.   weeping for brunnhilde
Apologies in advance if you guys think I'm beating the horse, but I notice as well that Jorgie's strikeout rate was considerably lower than in previous years.

Surely that's significant.

2008-02-19 11:43:38
67.   weeping for brunnhilde
64 That's such a moving piece, ws.

Thanks for sharing it.

2008-02-19 11:48:44
68.   horace-clarke-era
65 Of course I could be wrong about what I see, but I'm just confident enough about my judgment to require serious convincing that I'm wrong.

Dude, you are WASTED here!

(Teasing. Really, really teasing!)

2008-02-19 11:52:46
69.   weeping for brunnhilde
68 H ah aha hah ah!


2008-02-19 12:55:42
70.   The Mick 536
64 Glad you posted it. Peter took the soft road, according to the piece. Not sure that Casey biographers did the same. Don't remember what Jim Bouton said either.

8 ball! How insulting. However, in those days, the ethnic id was the thing. JoeD was Dago. Lazieri was Spaghetti. Phil, the w--p.

I just cannot believe that the owners and management, Topping, Weiss, and crew would have a manager who wanted to cross the picket lines.

2008-02-19 13:03:48
71.   Shaun P
59 I think Neyer makes clear that luck is a contributing factor, but not the only factor. What is "more than a bit"? To me, those words mean "a factor, not the only factor, but a not-insignificant factor". He leaves the door open to other things. I think he's right, and I think you agree with that. Its luck + something else; maybe a whole bunch of something elses.

To me, swing change or no, that 60 point jump in BABIP isn't sustainable. Its one thing if Posada was entering his peak as a hitter, and had showed sequential growth. Its another thing if he is a 36-year-old catcher coming off the season of his life. No one* peaks at 36.

*Except Bonds and Aaron, but they are a whole other class of hitter viz a viz Posada.

2008-02-19 13:25:05
72.   weeping for brunnhilde
71 Agreed wholeheartedly. I don't look to Jorgie to hit .330. It will be interesting, though, to see if he can put up a solid .300, which I think is in the realm of possibility.

In any event, good Christ but I can't wait for there to be games.

2008-02-19 13:26:12
73.   wsporter
71 MFD, I think his language "It was more than a bit, though" renders his point a bit more transparent. I think he's saying "luck" (what ever ever the hell that is) is the dominant factor in explaining Jorge's surge.

I hate the word luck when employed by sabermetricians and those who play at it, I wish they would use the verbage of the honest social scientist instead "factors which are not captured by the data or explained by the analysis" but be that as it may. I suppose "luck" just sounds sexier and takes up less space. What ever the hell it was we'll have a chance to see where Jorge ends up this year and form a more informed position. My suspicion is that we'll have an opportunity to agree that it was the result of a host of factors and that luck was one of them.

2008-02-19 13:38:00
74.   Chyll Will
64 Great find, my friend. Thanks for the enlightenment >;)
2008-02-19 13:52:49
75.   weeping for brunnhilde
73 Agreed, wholeheartedly. From that excerpt, it's pretty clear to me that he's positing luck as the dominant factor.

And yes, "luck" is a very ironic "explanation" for someone otherwise so grounded in empiricism to use.

"Factors which are not captured by the data or explained by the analysis" is a far more intellectually honest formulation.

2008-02-19 14:19:01
76.   RIYank
I think it's fair to call it 'luck' under certain circumstances. If Jeter hits five hard ground balls and all of them go through (say one up the third base line, one in the whole, two up the middle, one in the 2B hole), and then the next day he hits five hard grounders to short, third, second, first, how should we explain the difference between a great day and a lousy one? It's luck. There is no real prospect of explaining the variation.
2008-02-19 14:24:52
77.   weeping for brunnhilde
76 Agreed.
2008-02-19 15:09:05
78.   OldYanksFan
I agree that 'luck' is not a good term. I would use RCNB instead.
2008-02-19 15:27:33
79.   wsporter
78 Is anything truly random in nature? ;-)
2008-02-19 16:11:32
80.   OldYanksFan
Well... I believe Chaos Theory describes systems that appear disordered, but may indeed have an underlying order that is so complex that it simply seems random. So possibly there is a pattern to the flight of a batted baseball, subject to certain specific condition, and maybe only repeated after extremely long periods of times..... or
on different planets.... or
in different dimensions... or
in different states of consciousness... or
some random combination of the above... or

(Chyll... please pass the bong)

2008-02-19 16:27:28
81.   OldYanksFan
By the by, some pretty good audios on Lohud.
2008-02-19 16:36:10
82.   wsporter
80 Sounds like my first marriage!
2008-02-19 17:01:25
83.   weeping for brunnhilde
80 :)
2008-02-19 21:36:37
84.   Chyll Will
80 Yawwwn... not my endorsed method of exploring existentialism (however, Ciprofloxacin and Nyquil will have you dashing off to take digital photos in Kinshasa in your accompanying fever dreams... interesting place, very post-modern...), but hey, do your thang! >;)
2008-02-20 08:17:09
85.   The Mick 536
3 4 5 7 64 I recommend Ed Linn's book on Steinbrenner and Creamer's book on Stengal.

Just to put this puppy in perspective, no less of a source than Jackie Robinson called Casey a "racist." He used racial epithets, calling blacks the J word. Naturally sarcastic, he was not liked by his players. He went so far to advise the Yankees to keep their lockers locked when Robinson was around.

To his credit, Casey said good things about Ellie and then didn't play him regularly. Ellie played mostly first and outfield for his early years, despited having been switched in the minors.

As for the Yankee's treating him badly, he was the first base coach when George bought the team. Relegated to the bullpen, he didn't get to the field again (at least I don't remember him doing so). He became the head of the BP and then a PR person.

On his deathbed, he said that the Boss and the Yankees put him there. According to Linn who puts the statement into quotes, the Yankees didn't pay him. Whhen and how muck, I don't know.

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