Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Runnin' On Jorge

Entering this season, before everyone was questioning whether or not Jorge Posada could call a game, the biggest concern was whether or not his shoulder would be healthy enough to throw out potential base stealers. Given that Posada is 38 years old, there was no guarantee that his shoulder would make a full recovery from the surgery he underwent to repair a tear in his rotator cuff and damage to his glenoid labrum. It seems that opposing teams still aren't convinced that he is healthy.

Last year, in 241 innings behind the plate, teams attempted 41 steals against Posada. He was run on in 10.3% of the plate appearances where there was s stolen base opportunity, which was second in the the American League only to Toby Hall (11.2%). Kevin Cash (9.3%) was the only other catcher with significant playing time to be tested more that 8.4% of the time. The attempts against Posada were successful 34/41 times, and of the seven times they were caught, five times the runner was picked off before the pitcher delivered the ball. That left Jorge's percentage of actually throwing out runners at a horrific 5.5%.

This year, one of those trends has reversed dramatically. Teams still are running on Posada, in fact, at an even higher percentage than before. They have attempted to steal in 11.2% of stolen base opportunities, far and away the most in the AL. Jason Varitek has been challenged next most often, but at only 8.5% of the time.

Here is the good news. Despite teams running on Jorge at an even higher rate than last year, they are successful far less often. Would-be thieves have been nabbed in 15 out of 47 attempts, 10 by Posada. That's 32% caught stealing and 21% by Jorge himself. It's still early in the season, but judging by this metric, the results of his surgery appear to be pretty incredible.

Frankie Cervelli gets run on 7.4% of the time (7th among the 21 AL catchers with 200+ SBOs) but has thrown out 31%, and sports a total CS% of 38. Here are the top 10 by Run %.

Theoretically, caught stealing percentage and run percentage would have an inverse relationship because in aggregate, managers should be less likely to test the catchers most likely to throw out the runner (obviously). But a lot of managers still rely on their gut or other instincts as opposed to hard numbers, so the list doesn't really bear that out.

It would seem that opposing managers and speedsters are underestimating Posada pretty drastically. Since a pitcher picking a runner off in the process of trying to steal a base has little to do with who is behind the plate, the best way to determine who gets the least respect for throwing out runners would be to juxtapose Run % with the Catcher's Caught Stealing % (CS% by C above).

Using this method, here are the three most disrespected catchers in the AL, sorted by the differential between the two rankings:

Kenji Johjima has the highest caught stealing and caught stealing by catcher, yet he ranks in the top half in Run % (8th). Talk about No Respect... Kenji is a very low key player, stashed away up in Seattle which must work to his advantage because this is one of the cases where flying under the radar does you a lot of good.

Figure this one out: A.J. Pierzynski only gets run on 5.5% of the time (18th out the 21), but has only thrown out one runner this season. Attention AL Skippers... you might want to start running on A.J. Pierzynski. Navarro and Suzuki are far less egregious cases, but it should be noted that they haven't quite earned the respect they have been given.

1 comment:

  1. It's curious that the both of the Yankees catcher's find themselves among the most "disrespected". Perhaps teams just look at the Yankees as an older, slower team and therefore aren't as afraid to run on them, however misguided that might be.

    As far as Pierzynski goes... it's pretty incredible that managers haven't figured that one out yet.