From Daily News beat writer Mark Feinsand:
Could Joe Girardi’s desire to get the backup catcher some at-bats be a sign that he has bigger things in store for Molina in the playoffs?
Molina, who went 1-for-4, has caught six of A.J. Burnett’s last seven starts, helping the righthander get back on track with three solid outings in a row following a rocky month. Burnett makes his final start of the regular season tomorrow, and Girardi said Molina would be behind the plate, further fueling speculation that Molina and not Jorge Posada will catch Burnett in the postseason.
This was a frequent topic of discussion between Michael Kay and David Cone during Friday night’s YES telecast.
The refrain went something like this:
“Why would you take the bat of either Jorge Posada or Hideki Matsui out of the lineup? … Joe Girardi doesn’t believe in personal catchers…”
The argument reminded me of 2005, when a similar debate regarding who would catch Randy Johnson took place. Joe Torre, then the manager — who also said he didn’t believe in personal catchers — opted to have John Flaherty catch the Big Unit. Johnson failed miserably in his Game 3 start, allowing five earned runs in three innings of what would be an 11-7 loss. Flaherty was pinch-hit for in the bottom half of that third inning. Ultimately, since the Yankees’ offense got Johnson off the hook, Torre’s choice of who to list at the No. 2 position didn’t cost the Yankees the game.
This year’s predicament is different for a couple of reasons: 1) The feud between Burnett and Posada didn’t go public until mid-August. By that time in ’05, Flaherty had already been catching Johnson for two months. 2) Posada’s bout with Burnett isn’t nearly as nasty and didn’t cause ripples in the clubhouse like his ordeal with Johnson. It’s not like Burnett hasn’t pitched well with Posada as his battery mate, either. His start against the Red Sox and Josh Beckett on August 7 at the Stadium was arguably his best of the season.
However, Burnett’s stats since the August 22 debacle at Fenway don’t lie. Subtracting the September 1 start at Camden Yards — in which he gave up six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings with Posada behind the plate — Burnett has averaged 6 1/3 innings pitched, had four outings where he allowed two runs or fewer, and averaged 1.26 strikeouts per innings pitched.
Based on the recent success, Molina probably should catch Burnett. Who starts at DH — either Posada or Matsui — will likely be determined by the Yankees’ ALDS opponent. The Yankees could be looking at either Rick Porcello or Nate Robertson of Detroit, or Nick Blackburn or Carl Pavano of Minnesota, depending on whether Burnett pitches Game 2 or 3. The only scenario that might push Girardi to lean toward Posada at DH is if the left-handed Robertson opposes Burnett. This enables Girardi to take advantage of Posada’s right-handed bat. Doing so would leave some to wonder how Matsui and his .984 OPS against lefties this season could be benched. Isn’t this a good problem for Girardi to have? Why isn’t that being mentioned?
Cone’s take on the debate was that in the postseason, good pitching beats good hitting. First and foremost, a team has to feel comfortable with the starting pitcher. Further, that pitcher has to have confidence in his catcher. By that logic, Molina should catch Burnett next week, whenever his turn is.
As a fan — and let’s face it, we’re all fans here — as long as it’s been since the Yankees won a playoff series, do you care who catches or DHes as long as they win?
Neither do I.