Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Posada for Hall of Fame?

A recent discussion came up on another great Yankees blog, This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes, and the idea of Jorge Posada being a Hall of Fame player intrigued me. I went over to Baseball Reference (.com) to check out some stats of other HOF catchers to see where Posada stacks up. I looked at two Yankee catchers and a few well known modern guys. The list included: Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter.

This is just an informal look at this point and for a more accurate analysis I would use a wider range of statistics and compare to every HOF catcher to date. For now, I think the data presented paints a fairly reasonable picture.

Let's take a look at how Jorge measures up to his competition in the Hall.

I emailed my thoughts to friend Tim who is much baseball-smarter than I am, a die-hard sabermetrician, and a decent baseball player (catcher). He had some different takes on the analysis and I'll throw some of his comments in here in italics. Note, I hit him up at work and so he didn't have as much time as I did to research the numbers, but the guy is a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge.

































































*Equivalent Average, adjusted for all time (Baseball Prospectus)

I threw in RC (runs created) and RC/G (runs created per game) on a lark, although I'm not sure how much weight I would give either of those stats.

Baseball Prospectus also provides another stat, WARP (wins above replacement player) that provide some useful insights, but need to be looked at on a season by season basis. Johnny Bench had some monster seasons with WARPs between 10.6 and 12.0 during his 4 best years. He sets the bar for modern offense among this group. Posada's best season comes in at 9.1.

OPS+ (adjusted on base percentage plus slugging) is the best number here as far as league corrections go and probably the most comparable. Posada stacks up reasonably well to these other hall of famers, hitting better than guys like Fisk and Carter and on par with old-timers like Dickey and Berra.

Tim points out that Carter hit in a deficit era and if corrected for would probably be more in line with Posada. Carlton Fisk had a lot of career ups and downs, and career stats for him are misleading. Bench and Berra outclass Jorge in the offensive department in Tim's opinion.

He astutely points out that Jorge's numbers right now don't include his decline years. Yogi's numbers are affected by decline years and if you only tallied the stats up to the same point in his career that Jorge is at, Yogi would have even better numbers. I think we can safely expect to see decent numbers from Posada in the next year or two, but they won't match his 2007 output. Hence the career averages and rates will start to creep down.

Post Season Offense:

  Appearances OBP SLG


23 PS Series .352 .379


10 PSS .335 .527


3 PSS .355 .407


5 PSS .320 .466


8 World Series .329 .379


14 WS .359 .452

Sub-par post season performance won't keep him out of the hall, but making a splash in the series can put an extra shine on your resume. Nothing here for Posada that really impresses, however.

Defense: (catching stats only)

  Seasons PB WP SB CS SB%


14 123 414 806 337 71%


17 94 446 610 469 57


24 129 428 1302 664 66


19 84 464 1498 810 65


17 76        


19 (9*) 76 85* 154* 141* 52

*Only 9 years of data is available for Yogi's SB and CS.

Defense is a weak point for Posada, who's arm is a well known target for base stealers. In 2007 he led the league in stolen base attempts. His stolen base percentage is usually right around or below average for league starters.

Comparison statistics with players of different eras aren't all that useful when it comes to stolen bases, and so it can be more helpful to look at other current players. Ivan Rodriguez has a 53% SB%, Jason Varitek 74%, Bengie Molina 67%, Ramon Herndandez 69%. Ivan is one of the best defensive catchers when it comes to throwing out runners. The others shown are veterans who have been around a while and are in a similar range as Posada. Younger arms like Yadier Molina, Gerald Laird, and Kenji Johima had 2007 SB% of 46%, 47%, and 60% respectively. Jorge is certainly quite a bit off the mark when it comes to the top defensive arms.

Tims take: Posada is adequate but not good. He was a better blocker early on and his arm has been failing lately. Bench was a defensive powerhouse and Pudge is also a good current standard. Tim used several expletives to further drive home the point of Johnny Bench being the bar against which all others are measured defensively.

Other Numbers:
Posada has been fairly healthy most of his career, making a decent number of starts. His overall durability adds credence to the notion of his hall-worthiness. He has never one a gold glove, unlike others (Bench 10, Fisk 1, Carter 3) and has only won the MVP twice. With guys like Ivan Rodriguez around, Posada has had tough competition along the way. His post season performance hasn't netted him any series MVPs, but he's been playing with quite a few other future HOFers.

Baseball Prospectus' take from 2007 puts Posada solidly in the hunt based on their JAWS scores. When it comes to evaluating HOF candidates, however, I don't like breaking down too many factors into a single number.

Final Thoughts:
One important number right now for Jorge is 14. The number of seasons he's been around. He still needs to have a few more productive years to solidify his place as a legitimate hall of fame candidate. If he can get at least 3 more years and still maintain offensive production, I think he is in. If something were to happen and his career ended now, I'm not so sure. His 2007 season was spectacular, but at age 36 he's unlikely to repeat and very likely to see significant drops in performance over the next few years.

Tims analysis: Posada doesn't have Fisk or Carter's longevity, Bench's total package, or the bat of guys like Berra. I disagree with his offense assessment slightly, but agree that Jorge needs a few more good years to pad his career numbers and gain a sense of longevity and durability. After a second round of discussion we reached a consesus opinion:

Right now: borderline; After a few more good years: lock.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Interesting analysis. It will certainly be interesting, and timing will matter, too: If he's attempting to get in the same class as Jeter or Rivera, he might be out of luck.