A little insight into Posada's game-calling

Pardon me while I retch, as I can’t say I ever thought I’d be using the word “insight” to refer to anything carrying Jon Heyman’s byline, but I couldn’t help but notice an interesting tidbit in his column on the state of the Yankees yesterday:

“There was a lot of chatter last year about some of the pitchers preferring to throw to a more defensive-oriented backup than Posada. But they’ve now won our World Series titles with Posada. The defensively adept Francisco Cervelli takes over the main backup spot for Jose Molina. My suggestion to A.J. Burnett in particular is to try to be like Sabathia: get over it and accept Posada’s minor quirks (which allegedly are that he doesn’t frame pitches as well as some and isn’t quite as fast in adjusting to game-calling changes when there are runners at second).”

We’ve certainly heard plenty about Burnett’s disinterest in throwing to Posada, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read what the specific reasons were behind this seemingly petty feud. As it turns out, it appears that Burnett does have somewhat valid concerns as far as Posada’s defensive abilities. While no one’s ever mistaken Jorge for a defensive whiz behind the plate — and the framing pitch complaint does seem fairly silly — an inability to adjust game-calling when there are runners in scoring position is pretty indefensible.

I love Jorge Posada and what he’s meant to the Yankees during his entire career, but hopefully he can take responsibility for his perceived shortcomings this spring. Given how successful the Yankees have been in spite of Posada’s apparent defensive ineptitude, it’s scary to think how much better the team could be if he and Burnett can finally get on the same page.

4 thoughts on “A little insight into Posada's game-calling

  1. Can you explain why you write off the pitch-framing complaint as "fairly silly?" Pitchers live or die on the corners of the strike zone. The difference between getting the preponderance of borderline pitches called balls or strikes is absolutely enormous. If you were AJ or any other pitcher, would you rather throw to someone who you feel enhances your borderline strike-percentage, or someone like Posada, who, for all his offensive prowess, tends to stab at pitches and push them off the plate?

  2. What I meant by "fairly silly" is that pitch framing is so subjective, that I don't think Posada can truly be faulted because some umpires are easier to influence than others.

  3. Thanks for your response, but I'm saddened to report that it doesn't really make any sense.

    For one thing, framing isn't necessarily subjective. While no one's taken the time to measure it as far as I know, it'd be actually pretty simple to control for umpires and statistically analyze which pitcher/catcher combinations get higher and lower percentages of strike and balls on borderline pitches (you'd just have to define "borderline" — let's say, for example, as within two inches of any corner).

    Second, just because some umpires are "easier to influence than others" has no bearing on the argument about Posada. So maybe Posada's lame catching doesn't lose many strikes against some umpires, but what about the umpires who are "easier to influence?" Is your argument that Burnett's critique about Posada should be on an ump-by-ump basis, rather than a blanket policy?

    And third, so much of pitching is comfort and feel. Even those of us who never pitched past little league know that when you're pitching to a catcher who sets up a good target and receives the ball smoothly, you're going to attack the corners more confidently. True, that may not be measurable in the classic sense, but if Posada's stabbing at borderline pitches makes Burnett more likely to aim an inch or two closer to the heart of the plate, that's going to result in a whole lot more balls hit squarely.

  4. I think it's fair to say that Posada doesn't frame pitches. As an MLB catcher, I think he probably should. Do umpires fall for this? I doubt it; maybe a small percentage of the time. Is that really Burnett's chief complaint about Posada? No idea. Do I blame Posada for pitchers who have come to the Bronx and struggled with him as the battery mate? Hells no.