Saturday, January 24, 2009

Number of Days Until Spring Training: #20 (Jorge Posada)

Jorge Posada's glenoid labrum might have been the biggest reason the Yankees didn't make the playoffs last year. He was placed on the DL July 21st and in his place, Jose Molina, Chad Moeller and Pudge Rodriguez cobbled together offensive statistics barely above replacement level.

Two years ago, as a 35 year old catcher, Posada's slash stats (1st PP) were .338/.426/.543, good for a 154OPS+. Yes, AS A CATCHER (the toughest position in the league to find offensive production at). His studly woodwork earned him a Silver Slugger Award, a start in the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium and 6th place in the MVP voting.

Coming off what was easily his best offensive season of his career in 2007, Posada signed a four year, $52M contract, far and away the most money ever committed to a catcher at such a late point in his career. The Yankees had no choice if they wanted to retain him. The Mets, among others, were hot on his trail and even offered him a four year deal at similar money. Brian Cashman probably knew that it was a bad investment overall, but as is the case in almost every other offseason, the options on the free agent market at catcher were threadbare.

Posada was going to come down to earth last year, even if he didn't get injured. He has always been a solid offensive force for a catcher, but 2007 was a complete and total anomaly. His highest previous batting average was .287 and his slugging percentage was .16 higher than his previous best. Guess what stat I'm going to link to next! That's right, Batting Average On Balls In Play!!!

BABIP explains almost every single seemingly inexplicable fluctuation in batting average from year to year. It keeps track of how many balls a player puts into the field of play that become hits (or outs). A typical BABIP is between .290 and .300, meaning that only 3/10 times, a ball redirected into play becomes a base hit.

Last year, Posada's BABIP was a stratospheric .386, when his highest previous was .303. Where the ball goes after it makes contact with the bat, it in almost entirely luck. Hence, if someone has an incredible spike in BA (or drop, ehem, CANO) from year to year, it's mostly dictated by the Baseball Gods. Yes, a hitter can direct the ball to one side of the field or another to some extent, but as far as finding a hole, it's a crapshoot.

I'll bet either of you two people who read this blog $50 that Posada doesn't bat over .300 again for the rest of his career (The first person to take the bet in the comments is in. We can iron out details later). If I lose, it will be the best $50 I've ever spent.

Hip Hip Jorge has been said to be the take-charge type of guy that Derek Jeter isn't, getting in guy's faces and not taking any shit. Maybe Robinson Cano wouldn't have needed to get benched by Joe Girardi to realize he wasn't that much more valuable than Jason Varitek last season.

Posada's attempts to right the universe aren't confined to the clubhouse. His son, Jorge Jr. who is 10 years old, suffers from a rare disease called craniosynostosis which inhibits brain growth in infants. His foundation "provides support to families whose child is affected by Craniosynostosis, a congenital or birth defect that causes an abnormally shaped skull." You can donate here.

Get well Jorge, we need you. The Yankees team that's going to win the World Series this year has you behind the plate.

Yeah, that one deserves some color.