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Yankee Panky: Catch-34


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.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Yankee Panky

Tags:  A.J. Burnett  Jorge Posada  Jose Molina

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1 Rich   ~  Oct 4, 2009 9:22 am

Pitchers have the final say about the pitch they will throw to any given batter. With that in mind, what is it about Posada, specifically, that some pitchers don't like?

Personally, if Posada isn't going to catch, I would start Cervelli. I don't even think Molina should be on the team.

2 ms october   ~  Oct 4, 2009 10:07 am

i have been pretty vocal about thinking the "po is to blame" is over-blown and these sissy pitchers should man up and pitch to him.
however, with that said if burnett really needs or think he needs to pitch to molina in order to have a good game, the difference between po's bat and molina's automatic out probably doesn't overcome a disastrous burnett start versus a quality one.
probably need to create some ranges of wRC for po and molina and then predict aj's era or fip with each catcher for several ranges like 25-100% with intervals of 25.

[1] i remeber burnett saying how much he liked to pitch to frankie c after one of his starts - but it ain't happening this year

i wish we could stream coney's analysis during the post season

3 ms october   ~  Oct 4, 2009 10:13 am

[1] oh and my speculation as to why some pitchers don't care to throw to po is twofold - 1) he doesn't give a good target and doesn't block balls well and 2) he doesn't coddle and play psychiatrist to the pitchers during the game

my theory is it is the guys with control problems who struggle the most with him - they get frustrated because his target is often non-existent and he doesn't block their wild pitches ,then these guys with control problems also have other control problems with their emotions (rj and burnett are good examples of this) and because po doesn't "settle them down" the situation gets worse

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 4, 2009 10:17 am

Been outta the loop a few days - is Posada's neck injury still a concern?

[1] Molina's a very solid defensive catcher. Cervelli has more upside especially as a hitter, but I'd be more comfortable with Molina at this point.

5 vockins   ~  Oct 4, 2009 10:22 am

If Burnett had Zach Greinke's year, or even CC's year, then he could pitch to a bucket on top of a folding chair for all I care. He didn't. If he wants special treatment, he should be special.

6 ms october   ~  Oct 4, 2009 10:23 am

[4] sounds like it is okay - he caught two games in a row and i haven't seen any of the beat writers say it bothered him
he's not catching burnett today - and will probably manage so hopefully he doesn't get in a fight with anyone in the dugout :}

7 RIYank   ~  Oct 4, 2009 10:36 am

[5] That makes no sense to me.
If he's better pitching to Molina, then Molina should catch him. If not, then forget it. Whether he's a great pitcher or just a very good one is completely irrelevant.

8 rbj   ~  Oct 4, 2009 11:37 am

The problem with having Posada DH, is what happens in case Molina gets injured. Jorge goes behind the plate and the Yankees lose the DH. Sure you can PH for the pitcher, but most likely that'll entail a double switch somewhere. It's a needless headache.

AJ isn't good enough to be such a diva.

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 4, 2009 12:18 pm

[6] Has a manager-for-a day ever been ejected? Wouldn't be shocked or disappointed to see Jorge become the first (as long as nobody gets hurt!)

10 The Hawk   ~  Oct 4, 2009 12:46 pm

I didn't know Joba was in the bullpen today. Why in the hell did they not do this two weeks ago? There was enough evidence that he couldn't start effectively, and they could have had a much bigger sample size to judge how he'll work in relief. Ah well, at least they're giving it a (half-assed) shot at all.

11 monkeypants   ~  Oct 4, 2009 12:58 pm

[8] I'm not sure that risk is enough to worry about or construct your line-up around. Molina would bat ninth. The worst case scenario would be an injury in the first inning--that means that the pitcher's spot (that is, the replacement for Molina) would only bat three, maybe four times. Burnett will only go seven innings, so he's likely to bat a couple of times. Otherwise, you can PH Hinske and Matsui when that spot comes up, then swap in a new reliever. Plus, there is a good chance the Yankees are winning, so who bats in the pitcher's spot may not matter much at all. And all of this is based on the assumption that Molina has to leave the game early, the likelihood of which is already slim.

In other words, it is (I think) an overreaction not to include Posada in the lineup for fear of losing the DH. If he is the better option, then put him in at DH. If Matsui is the better option, then bat Matsui. But the overriding consideration should be who makes the lineup better.

As an addendum, Posada should start at C and AJ should simply cope.

12 Will Weiss   ~  Oct 4, 2009 1:54 pm

[1] Rich, one would think that, but it's a misconception. What certain pitchers don't like about Posada is that he doesn't like to be second-guessed on the pitches he calls in a certain situation, under any circumstance. If you remember the home run Burnett gave up to Youkilis in the second inning, the replay showed him saying, "Why would you throw that?" as he watched the ball clear the Green Monster. Burnett clearly wanted to throw fastball, Posada called slider and Burnett went with him and failed to execute. He didn't commit to the pitch, and it cost him. ... The reason guys like Pettitte and Clemens loved throwing to Posada was because they didn't want to think while on the mound. They just wanted Posada to put a number down and then they throw it. A guy like Mussina or Randy Johnson, different story. They're more attuned to the hitter and have a better feel for their own ability and just wanted the catcher to be a receiver.

[8] I don't think Burnett is a diva at all. And as far as Molina blocking pitches, his footwork has been poor lately. A lot of balls that he backhanded and let get past him that he should have blocked. Having Posada DH for one game isn't the worst thing in the world, considering Matsui's strong lefty bat off the bench.

13 Rich   ~  Oct 4, 2009 2:39 pm

[12] I hear you, but shouldn't a pitcher have the self-confidence to assert their will with him? Assuming, however, that your point is correct, shouldn't Torre, a catcher himself, have set Posada straight (or to put in more mild terms, coached him up) so that he could adopt an attitude that is more conducive to making more pitchers feel comfortable? I think that is even more true now when the only reason that Posada can continue to catch is because he can hit well.

I don't think Molina is good enough defensively to start a playoff game. It's not like he's not Pudge in his prime.

btw, There was a time when Leyritz was Pettitte's personal catcher.

14 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 4, 2009 3:12 pm

Po makes $13m and AJ $16m. Don't these guys both want to win? I mean, they can't work out their differences for the sake of the team? How about a meeting(s) where Girardi lays doen the law... and if that doesn't work, you have The Boss sit in?

Do we really have to compromise our offensive lineup because $29m worth of employees can't get on the same page for the sake of the TEAM???

If I were Girardi, I would rip them both a new asshole and make sure they would rather blow each, rather than not get along as a productive battery.

15 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 4, 2009 3:17 pm

The Twinkies lead KC 7-0 after 3.
The Sox scored 3 but still trail Detroit 5-3 after their 8th.

And JD warming up!

16 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 4, 2009 3:17 pm

And I'm in the wrong fuckin thread....!

17 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 4, 2009 3:27 pm

"Between playing Friday and Saturday nights against Chicago, Cabrera's face took the brunt of something.

"I have had a conversation with Miguel," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski wrote in an e-mail. "It is a personal situation and I am not at liberty to discuss it further."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't want to talk about it and refused to acknowledge the situation was unfortunate."
Did the old lady try to scratch his eyes out?
He's missing, literally, the most important game of the year???

Meanwhile, Detroit rallying in the 8th.
KC scores only 1. Now 7-1 Minn.

18 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 4, 2009 3:28 pm

close this fucking window...
close this fucking window...
close this fucking window...

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