Posada Looking Old in the DH Role

Jorge Posada doesn’t always get hits, but when he does they’re home runs.* In his 67 PA so far this season, all from the DH spot, Posada has managed a mere nine hits, good for a .153 batting average. As Bradley wrote last week, that gives him a “laughably terrible BABIP,” which is now down to .086. That might seem a bit odd at first glance. A .154 BA against a .086 BABIP? That’s what happens when six of your nine hits clear the fence. It’s clear that Posada will still run into one from time to time. Unfortunately, similar to Vladimir Guerrero, about whom I wrote last week, Posada has looked a bit washed up at the plate.

*Gotta credit River Ave. Blues commenter whozat for this one.

Posada’s first and foremost problem is his inability to hit certain pitches. His swinging strike rate this year is 9.3%, which is a full point higher than his rate the previous two years (and also his career rate). This has led to a 30.5% strikeout rate, which is also significantly higher than his career average. This is in large part because he has trouble with anything off-speed or breaking. His pitch-type values show deeply negative scores for changeups and curveballs, which he routinely swings over. He also has trouble with sliders. Essentially, his only success has come on fastball varieties. This could be a sign that he’s cheating due to a slower bat.

Despite his swings over off-speed and breaking pitches that are clearly outside the zone, he hasn’t swung at an inordinate number of pitches out of the zone. He is, as usual, well below the league average in that regard, and is actually performing a bit better than last year. The problem is that he’s making far more contact with those pitches out of the zone, meaning poor contact. This is actually a two-year trend, as his 60.5% O-Contact rate in 2010 was well above his career rate. His 65.2% rate this year makes things look even worse. It certainly helps explain why his BABIP last year, .287, was well below his .316 career rate, and why it’s so abysmally low this season. That he’s not making as much contact with pitches inside the zone hurts matters even more.

As Jorge struggles he’s still taking his walks. He’s looked at ball four seven times this season, and has been hit once. While that hasn’t gotten his OBP over .300, it has added something of a positive light. That is, at least he’s not flailing at everything. Yet it’s not all that encouraging. Posada has still seen just 3.49 pitches per plate appearance this year, which is easily the lowest rate of his career. That in itself could be part of the issue. Too many swings early in the count means not enough deep counts. If he’s not working deep counts, that walk rate could diminish, especially if he continues whiffing at off-speed and breaking pitches.

During the off-season the Yankees tried to help keep Jorge healthy and productive by removing him from the catcher position. He had been something of an anomaly among catchers earlier in his career, avoiding the disabled list until 2008, at age 36. After missing most of that season recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, Posada also spent time on the DL in both 2009 and 2010, though with less serious ailments. After more then a decade of squatting — not to mention the foul balls off the noggin — the Yankees were right to move him to DH for the final year of his contract. But instead of helping Posada find a fountain of youth, it has apparently accelerated the aging process. Although 2010 was Posada’s least productive healthy season since 2005, he didn’t look nearly as old as he does in 2011.

The conclusion works the same way as with Guerrero. Anything can happen in 67 PA, and there’s a chance that Posada is just taking time to get acclimated to his new role. But during the course of those 67 PA he has looked old and slow, not a good sign for a 39-year-old who has caught almost 13,000 major league innings. He can still run into one here and there, but when pitchers adjust and stop throwing him any fastballs, he could run into further problems. There’s plenty of time for Posada to turn things around, but the way things look right now he might not have even hit rock bottom — and that’s saying a lot for a guy with a .086 BABIP.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


28 Responses to “Posada Looking Old in the DH Role”

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  1. Kroot says:

    Good analysis.

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  2. TheRuckus says:

    FREE MONTERO

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    • William says:

      Have you seen our catcher lately?

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      • beasleyrockah says:

        Not sure how Martin’s success prevents Montero from taking the DH job right now.

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      • descender says:

        Montero is not a DH, and the yankees have zero offensive problems right now.

        Montero needs to learn how to catch, or be traded away.

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      • MikeD says:

        Montero IS a DH. He is not a catcher and he is not speedy enough for an OF position. His best hope for a playing position is first base.

        No need to trade him. Have him serve as a relief/back-up catcher, catching about 30 games. Have him backup at first another 15 games, and then have him DH the other hundred. That leaves plenty of DH time to rest A-Rod and others, while getting Montero in the game. No reason a team can’t use a .300/30 HR guy at DH at league minimum.

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      • TheRuckus says:

        Like I care about the Yankees. Fantasy concerns only.

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  3. Yirmiyahu says:

    He’s like 343 years old in catcher years.

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    • descender says:

      Posada is extremely young in catcher years, he only started catching in the minors. He didn’t do it for 10-15 years prior like most other catchers.

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      • Sully says:

        Thats an interesting way to look at it…

        162 games (140 or so for a catcher) at the MLB level is unmatched at any other level throughout your life. At 39, having played 16 years in the MLB, his little league, high school, and college baseball would represent an incredibly small fraction of his time behind the plate.

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      • MikeD says:

        He has caught nearly 1600 games on the MLB level, and studies have shown that catchers start breaking down well before reaching that many games.

        Regardless of what he is in catching years, he is still 39 in human years. Eventually, the hand speed just isn’t there to consistenly hit a baseball.

        Not sure, however, we can say we’re there with Posada. He seems more lost at the plate than anything else, getting caught in between on pitches. We could sum that up to age, or we can sum it up to being in a slump. Why are older players never allowed to have a slump?

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  4. JRoth says:

    Depends how committed pitchers are to throwing him no FBs; if he’s getting few enough of them, he’ll stop cheating so much, and he might start getting better (read: any) contact on breaking stuff. At which point pitchers start throwing FBs again.

    I guess what I’m suggesting is that he may get to a better equilibrium with younger/simpler pitchers while smarter pitchers and ones with broader repertoires completely own him.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      I also think that once pitchers realize they should only throw him breaking stuff, he will realize that he shouldn’t swing as much at them. meaning that he might stop cheating as you say, but he will probably just swing less overall. and pitchers usually have less control over their breaking stuff than their FBs, so he will stop swinging as much, and see fewer strikes = more walks. unlike what the article says, i think that his walk rate will increase when pitchers adjust to him, although I’m sure his power numbers will drop. right now he will be a low OBP, high power guy, but i think he will transition to a high OBP guy, with probably less power (from fewer hits).

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  5. LionoftheSenate says:

    Posada’s contract was insanely bad.

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    • Kroot says:

      hardly insanely bad, he’s had some fine years.

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    • DT says:

      He’s produced good value over the years despite limited PA’s and injuries. This is last year so it was a decent contract so far.

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    • fredsbank says:

      if by insanely bad you mean pretty good…

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    • MikeD says:

      He has one injured year. Other than that he’s been highly productive. That’s not the definition of “insanely bad,” especially when a team has the Yankees resources. For the KC Royals, it would be insanely bad!

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  6. Barkey Walker says:

    Has he had a vision test? (This is not a joke).

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  7. "The Model" Rick Martel says:

    Yeah the Yankees overpaid on Posada’s last contract, but the Yankees can get away with that more than most teams. The alternative would have been to let Posada go after 2007 and fill the gap with over-the-hill veterans on the cheap that likely would have produced less WAR than the expensive over-the-hill Posada did over the course of the contract. Was it really worth 52 million? Eh, probably not, but I don’t think there is really a clear-cut answer.

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  8. Jason says:

    This is really just a convoluted way of saying “in my opinion Jorge looks old and slow”. Without the context of “looks old and slow” the data amounts to a meaninglessly small sample size. Surely, if Posada produced the same number over 18 games when he was 29, no one would take this analysis seriously. …and I’m pretty sure you could find a worse stretch of 18 games in Posada’s long career.

    This is not to say that Posada is not, in fact, old and slow. It is just worth pointing out that this is more of a gut instinct scouting report than it is an objective analysis. We shouldn’t pretend anything else.

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    • jaywrong says:

      pish tosh. the whole point of analysis is to analyze something. we can say, for certainty, that jorge is old. is he slow? to what extent? what do the numbers say? i’m glad there is a thoughtful article that brings insight to what we have as current evidence.

      what you have here is a pretty useless comment jason, unless your intent was to just nitpick and act like an eccentric asshat. if that’s the intent, mission accomplished.

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    • John R. says:

      If anything, the numbers say the opposite of Pawlikowski’s conclusion, right? A BABIP of .086 is obviously an aberration no matter how weak his contact has been, and Posada is still drawing his walks and hitting homers. When his luck on balls in play regresses to the mean, he’ll look pretty good.

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  9. Matt says:

    Is there any support for expecting a lower BABIP on out-of-the-zone contact? I’m not being facetious, I have just never heard of this.

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  10. Matt says:

    There is just no way his BABIP can stay that low. He’s striking out a lot, but he is putting the bat on the ball and clearly making good contact some of the time — he has those 6 home runs.

    Give him a .250 BABIP on the season (which still would probably be unsustainably low), adjust his current numbers, and suddenly you’re looking at a .250/.340/.555 line. He’s fine.

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  11. pft says:

    Posada has a 12% LD rate and 30% k rate.

    There is reason for concern, but only if he continues to struggle well into May.

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  12. Mr Punch says:

    “A BABIP of .086 is obviously an aberration …. There is just no way his BABIP can stay that low.” Well, guys, that depends on just how old and slow he is, doesn’t it? At some point, presumably, he won’t be able to hit at all, or run anything out. But in any case, the particular numbers aren’t really the issue; the question is whether he hits well enough to DH for a good team with unlimited resources. Posada in his prime was the rare catcher who hit well enough to DH. At this point, though, who’s looking for upside? This is his last year, and the Yanks can eat what’s left of his contract without thinking twice, if it comes to that.

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  13. Evan3457 says:

    Posada’s current modeled BAVG, based on LD%, GB%, FB% and K% is something like .215. Which would make his current triple slash line .215/.313/.505 if he were actually hitting .215. OTOH, his HR/FB % is a rather preposterous 28.6%, so that has to come down. A lot.

    No doubt about, Jorge’s in trouble so far this year. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

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