Jorge Posada’s Yankees career has come to an end, at least that’s what he seems to think. Considering Brian Cashman has not even reached out to discuss a reduced role with his long-time catcher, chances are Posada’s hunch is probably right. There’s always a possibility, albeit slim, that the Yankees could decide Posada still fits into their plans for 2012, but if this really is the end of his time in pinstripes, we can finally take a look back over his long career and truly appreciate just how much he has meant to the organization.
Since 1996, when the current Yankees’ dynasty was born, only Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera contributed more to the team than Posada, at least in terms of average WAR. Of course, you really don’t need a sophisticated sabermetric to illustrate how important Posada was to the franchise’s incredible success over the span of his career. He really was a core member of the Yankees. That wasn’t just a clever marketing slogan.
The magnitude of Posada’s contribution to the Yankees is impressive even beyond the context of the era in which he played. Again using average WAR as a barometer, only 10 position players have contributed more to the pinstripes, and, needless to say, the company is rather select. By just about any measure, it isn’t a stretch to say that Jorge Posada is one of the greatest Yankees to ever play the game, and many of the players worthy of that distinction also happen to be in the Hall of Fame.
Although some might dispute the notion of Posada as Cooperstown worthy, his credentials are compelling. Unfortunately for the Yankees’ backstop, his career happened to coincide with arguably the greatest offensive (Mike Piazza) and defensive (Ivan Rodriguez) catchers to ever play the game, so it’s easy to see why he is sometimes overlooked when making Hall-worthy assessments. Despite these formidable contemporaries, however, Posada’s statistical record still stands out.
Comparing Catchers, 1990-2010
During the 20-year period from 1990 to 2010, Posada’s OPS+ of 123 ranks second only to Piazza’s 142 (among players with at least 1,000 games, two-thirds of which were as a catcher). The same is true for his wRC+ and wOBA. Based on more traditional stats, Posada also distinguished himself during the period, ranking tied for first in on base percentage and third in home runs and RBIs. As a result, Posada won five silver sluggers behind the plate, the fourth highest total amassed at the position. Although some catchers, such as Joe Mauer, have had better rates over a shorter horizon, Posada’s longevity is also a feather in his cap. In the 20-year span under consideration, only four others have started more games behind the plate, which is remarkable considering how slowly the Yankees eased him into the starting role.
Jorge Posada vs. Hall of Fame Catchers and Likely Inductees
There are currently 12 primary catchers elected to the Hall of Fame, making it the most underrepresented position on the diamond. However, even despite this very select company, Posada’s career totals still figure prominently among catchers already enshrined or almost certain to be. In the chart below, Posada’s relative rankings in several offensive categories are provided. Although a rudimentary analysis, it shows that Posada can stand toe-to-toe as a hitter with every other Hall of Fame backstop but Piazza.
As a hitter, Jorge Posada’s Hall of Fame credentials seem undeniable, so the deciding factor could be his work behind the plate. Defensive metrics are relatively unreliable in general, but for catchers, they are severely limited. For that reason, it’s likely that Hall of Fame voters will rely on reputation. Because of how rapidly his catching skills declined at the end of his career, that might seem like a liability for Posada, but during his prime, the backstop was often regarded as being an above average defender. If that’s the prevailing sentiment when Posada’s name comes finally appears on the ballot, his chances of being enshrined would be greatly bolstered.
“I see vintage Jorge Posada, everything we expect. He’s one of the best catchers in baseball and he has been. He’s an offensive and defensive catcher. This is what I expect, this is what he is and this is what he’s been. This guy is going to go down as one of the famous Yankee catchers, along with Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson.” – Brian Cashman, quoted in the New York Daily News, August 8, 2006
How will Jorge Posada be remembered? Despite often being overlooked on a team chock full of talent, Posada’s contribution to the Yankees’ dynasty is undeniable. He is more than deserving of all the accolades usually bestowed upon a Yankees’ legend. His number 20 should never be worn again, and his plaque for Monument Park should soon be minted, but perhaps the most meaningful honor is the special place he occupies in the memories of an entire generation of Yankees’ fan. They won’t soon forget how great Posada really was. Hopefully, the Hall of Fame voters will remember too.