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« Halladay's Competitive Chase Pitches | Main | Swisher's Postseason Struggles »
Friday
Oct072011

No Room For Posada in Pinstripes

With the New York's 3-2 loss to the Tigers in the fifth and decisive game of the ALDS, Jorge Posada's 21-year relationship with the Yankees almost assuredly came to an end. Posada, drafted out of Puerto Rico in the 24th round of the 1990 draft, began his pro career as a second baseman but transitioned to catcher, eventually apprenticing under current manager Joe Girardi. When Posada got his shot, he established himself as one of the best-hitting catchers ever: his career 121 OPS+ ranks eighth all-time among backstops, sandwiched between Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk.

That was a different time, however. Posada, a pending free agent, is now 40 years old and no longer squats behind home plate, instead DHing and occasionally scooping some balls at first base. And at the plate, the switch-hitter has turned into a platoon player who still does damage against right-handers but shows his age against lefties.

Over the past three seasons, Posada has a .269 batting average, a .365 OBP and a .483 slugging percentage against righties (981 plate appearances) and a .236/.309/.396 line versus left-handers (404 PA). He makes a good deal of contact while swinging from the left side, but Posada's bat has slowed when swinging righty. Take a look at Posada's contact rate by pitch location from each side of the dish, compared to the league average:

 Posada's contact rate by pitch location vs. RHP, 2009-2011

League average contact rate for LHB vs. RHP

Posada has no problems putting the bat on the ball versus righties, so long as the pitch is above the knees. His miss rate against right-handers since '09 is slightly under 20 percent, which is right around the league average for lefty hitters versus righty pitchers. Against lefties, however...

Posada's contact rate by pitch location vs. LHP, 2009-2011

League average contact rate for RHB vs. LHP

Posada struggles to catch up to lefty pitches thrown high in the zone. His miss rate against left-handers over the past three seasons is over 28 percent, while the league average for RHBs against LHPs is 19-20 percent.

Along with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada's name is synonymous with the Yankee resurgence in the late 90s that produced World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. He ranks eighth-all-time in franchise history in games played, and places 11th in career Wins Above Replacement among position players. But the hard truth is, there's no room on the roster for a platoon DH, not with Jesus Montero ready to mash and Alex Rodriguez and Jeter increasingly needing some nights off from the field.

Baseball players age, and Posada has reached a point where his career prospects are far from certain. Whatever happens now, though, his place as one of the most potent offensive catchers ever cannot be questioned.

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