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Jorge Posada Belongs in the Hall of Fame (Probably)

2 June 2009

At the tail end of a post arguing Ivan Rodriguez vs. Jorge Posada for best catcher of this decade, friend of JonahKeri.com (and all-around swell guy) Rob Neyer writes:

Ivan Rodriguez is going into the Hall of Fame. Posada isn’t, and shouldn’t; he just happens to have played the lion’s share of his fine career in a single decade.

To paraphrase Rob, who’s been known to paraphrase Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler…you don’t think Posada should be a Hall of Famer? Really Rob? Really?!

5 All-Star Games
5 Silver Sluggers
2 Top-10 MVP finishes (he had a legit MVP argument in 2007)
Career 277/380/479 hitter at the toughest position on the diamond
Multiple World Series, if that matters to you (I can see an argument either way)
Still hitting and likely to tack on a couple more decent to good years

And finally…Career OPS+ of 124

For comparison’s sake:

OPS+
Piazza 142
Cochrane 128
Dickey 127
Hartnett 126
Bench 126
Berra 125
Campanella 124
POSADA 124
Simmons 117
Fisk 117
Carter 115
I-Rod 110

Now a couple of caveats certainly apply here.

1) His ’08 injury aside, Posada has aged about as gracefully as a catcher could ever hope to age. As such, he’s yet to experience the ugly numbers that players like Fisk and now I-Rod put up at the end. Of course that argument cuts both ways: Assuming Posada doesn’t totally collapse AND hang around 3-4 years longer than he should, he’ll get the benefit of added counting stats (which again, one can construct an argument either way on that point).

2) Posada’s defense. He wasn’t Gary Carter or Johnny Bench, sure. But was his defense that awful?

Since sites with more advanced play-by-play metrics like Hardball Times and FanGraphs don’t have the same level of historical data (if I’m not mistaken), we can turn to Baseball Prospectus for some career defensive totals. FRAA measures Fielding Runs Above Average. Let’s note right here that FRAA doesn’t work off play-by-play data the way UZR, Plus-Minus and other defensive data do. Still, it does allow us to compare players from Model T times to the Prius Era.

So:

FRAA
I-Rod 297
Bench 201
Carter 191
Hartnett 116
Dickey 115
Berra 111
Fisk 64
Campanella 61
Cochrane 56
POSADA 27
Simmons -98(!)
Piazza -172 (!!!)

(Obviously I did this by quick and dirty measures, so if someone’s got lists of Career WAR or Win Shares etc. they want to share in the comments, have at it!)

Jorge Posada, to me, looks like a clear choice as one of the dozen best catchers of all-time, and that’s the relevant context here. It’s incredibly difficult (ostensibly impossible) for a catcher to put up huge counting stats in his career, because catchers can’t play every day, and because they tend to wear down over time, and are usually only able to prolong their careers if they move to another position (Craig Biggio, an automatic Hall of Famer) or they’re an all-time great (Fisk, etc.). Posada is a rich man’s Ted Simmons, a terrific offensive player behind the dish for many years who had his defensive limitations but wasn’t nearly as bad as Simmons was defensively. Simmons is a borderline Hall candidate, though I think a case can be made for him. By that standard, as well as looking at the body of evidence, I absolutely think a case can be made for Posada, even if he retired tomorrow.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the Coop treats Hip Hip Jorge. You would think that one of the most skilled offensive catchers of all-time, playing for one of the great dynasties of all-time, would be a mortal lock. But Posada has been overshadowed by first-ballot locks like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, even though in many ways he’s been nearly as integral to the team’s success. (The same could be said for Bernie Williams, a fantastic player who’ll never even sniff the Hall). It’s a shame that Posada can’t elicit more enthusiasm for his accomplishments. Here’s hoping, nine years from now, that the other voting members of the BBWAA are kinder to Posada than Rob will be.

UPDATE: I’ve just now read the comments at the end of Neyer’s post mentioning Posada. Some good stuff there, much of it along the same lines as what I’ve just written. Check ‘em out.

UPDATE 2: Baseball Think Factory has a good thread going on this. I didn’t comment specifically about Posada’s peak in the initial post, and his peak furthers strengthens his case. Also think certain positions are underrepresented in the Hall–too many outfielders and pitchers, not enough second basemen, catchers etc.

The always sharp Craig Calcaterra also weighs in at NBC Sports.

Beyond the Boxscore also has a thread on this and correctly notes some of the issues with my using OPS+ and FRAA. As I said, this was as quick and dirty as can be–I’m happy to see the Interwebs reply with solid WAR figures to make the case, whether it’s for or against. This is much better than being in high school and having a contest to see who could yell loudest in favor of the better player, because The Google hadn’t been invented yet.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. neslinl permalink
    2 June 2009 11:51 pm

    I agree, Posada should get into the hall. I don’t understand Neyer’s argument. Only once catcher, I-Rod, can make the hall from this era? First off, Mike Piazza is a first balloter. Posada probably will get in on his third or fourth time chance.

  2. sorekara323 permalink
    2 June 2009 11:52 pm

    THANK you for that J, great job. While obviously not a “no-brainer” pick like Pudge, Jorgie-Juiced-one is deserving of the Hall. He’s long been the most under-rated Yankee (until last season when everyone saw what losing him meant ot the team.)

    Rob Neyer’s anti-Yankee bias is really annoying…I LOVE his analysis and even his humor, but there’s just too many examples of irrelevant Yankee hatred in his blog (and equally as annoying BoSox ass-kissing)..oh well, ESPN is part of Red Sox “Nation” after all.. :) Examples easy to provide if requested!

    Lakers in 7?

    J

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