Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Best Catcher Of the 00's

A fortunate oversight on the part of Matt Waters and Rob Neyer provides an opportunity for us to give some love to Jorge Posada. Waters' left the catcher off his All-2000 team, Neyer re-posted the list offered his opinions but didn't notice that catchers were omitted. In turn, this allowed Neyer to dedicate a whole post to that one position.

Neyer reluctantly assumed that Pudge Rodriguez would have been top dog, like I think most people would have, myself included:
Let's talk catchers now, though. One commenter commented, "Pudge, no one even close."

Is that right, though? My gut reaction was that Pudge has had some pretty ineffective seasons in this decade, and someone else must be at least close to him.

Someone is. More than close.
My first reaction when I saw the OPS+ comparison between the two was, "really?". Jorge's 129 is significantly higher than Pudge's 113. Much of this is because Pudge's MVP Season was 1999 and he has steadily declined as a hitter ever since. His great years in Texas in the late 90's positively influence your image of Pudge in the Aughts, but they doesn't help his actual numbers. 

This exposes the arbitrary nature of all-decade teams or what have you. The eras in baseball, like the generations in society, all flow together as new people are always coming and going. This list does make you think about how underrated Jorge Posada is, though. 

I hate talking about "over/underrated" because it's so subjective, but I think this one is pretty clear. When you first read the title of this post, how long did it take you to get to Posada? My first reaction was Pudge, then Piazza. Jorge is right under my nose, but he was sort of invisible in all of this. I don't know why that is. He was a well above average hitter, not just for a catcher, in every single season and he averaged over 140 games through 2007. Posada has made 5 All-Star teams in the decade, which is that many considering Albert Puljos came up in 2001, has made 7 and the one year he wasn't voted in, he finished second in the MVP voting

Still I think that if it takes you longer than it should to rank a player at the top of a list, even the list in contained to an arbitrary timeframe, that would mean that they are by definition, underrated. 

I'll leave you with Neyer's conclusion, because he sums it perfectly. 
So it's Posada vs. Rodriguez in a fight to the finish. And while the finish won't be until October of 2009, I have a hard time believing that Pudge can do enough in the next four months -- or has done enough with his glove and arm over the last nine seasons -- to make up for that 16-point gap in OPS+.

Ivan Rodriguez is going into the Hall of Fame. Posada isn't, and shouldn't; he just happens to have played the lion's share of his fine career in a single decade.

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