Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is Jorge Posada a Hall of Famer?

Joe emailed me late Saturday and posed an intriguing question: "Is Jorge Posada a Hall of Famer?"

This is a pretty good question. My initial thought without looking at anything is "No, Posada was a good player on some great teams, but was never Hall of Fame caliber". But since that was just my gut reaction, I took some time and looked into it.

Because the physical demands of the position are orders of magnitude higher than any other position on a baseball field, catchers can really only be compared against themselves. There have been three catchers admitted to the HOF since 1989: Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter (not counting the 2006 induction of former Negro Leaguers Biz Mackey and Louis Santop...sorry guys but I've got no point of reference for the Hillsdale Giants in the 1920s). Additionally, there is almost no doubt that Mike Piazza is headed to the Hall of Fame, since his offensive numbers would be good enough to warrant admission regardless of his position (400+ homers and a lifetime .308 batting average) and are better than Bench, Fisk and Carter. So with that in mind, to make Posada's case for the HOF his numbers should be in line with those four guys.

Here are the lifetime stats:

Bench: 389 HR, 1376 RBI, .267/.342/.476 in 8669 PA

Fisk: 376 HR, 1330 RBI, .269/.341/.457 in 9853 PA

Carter: 324 HR, 1225 RBI, .262/.335/.439 in 9019 PA

Piazza: 427 HR, 1335 RBI, .308/.377/.545 in 7745 PA

Posada: 275 HR, 1065 RBI, .273/.374/.474 in 7150 PA

From this comparison, it's easy to see that Posada clearly has the weakest offensive numbers of the bunch. This being a straight up comparison, it doesn't take into account the fact that Posada played in a much more favorable offensive environment (scoring was up approximately half a run per game than when Bench, Fisk and Carter played). By not being able to match the offensive numbers of recent HOF caliber catchers in a much more favorable offensive era, it's really hard to make the case that Posada is in the upper echelon of all time hitting catchers.

Of course as I mentioned at the start, there is more to catching than just hitting. Of the five guys I'm comparing, only Piazza and Posada lack a Gold Glove (Bench has nine, Carter four and Fisk one). While that may be an arbitrary award, it at least gives some idea of whether or not a guy is making a difference in the game defensively, something that can be very difficult to quantify. Something that is less difficult to quantify is career caught stealing percentage where, again, Posada is near the bottom of the list (Bench an unreal 43%, Fisk 34%, Carter 35%, Posada 28% and Piazza 23%). If you want a more "SABRmetric" view of their defensive abilities, only Posada (-2.9) and Piazza (-8.3) have negative lifetime defensive WARs, while Bench (6.5), Fisk (2.6) and Carter (10.0) were all improvements over the "average" defensive catcher. It may not be as clean as the offensive comparison, but by looking at several defensive minded stats and awards we can see that Posada was not a very good defensive catcher and was certainly not in the same class as Bench, Fisk and Carter (and who really cares if Mike Piazza was playing any defense with the way that guy raked).

Jorge Posada had a very good career and was part of four World Series champion teams, but ultimately both offensively and defensively he falls short of the elite receivers of the game. He also doesn't have a pop song named after him (but not at all about him) like Mike Piazza, something I hear the HOF committee puts a premium on.

1 comment:

GoodPointJoe said...

Well analyzed, and I agree, the numbers just aren't there for Posada. It seems like his most impressive attribute is that he was the catcher on four World Series teams, but that was mostly being in the right place at the right times, and being "good enough" at a crap position to stick around.

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