Is Jorge a Hall of Famer?

There are two groups we have to consider Posada against: Those already enshrined, and his peers during his playing days. Let’s consider those who already made it in as the first test.

Player OPS+ HR BA OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Johnny Bench 126 389 0.267 0.342 0.476 0.361 81.5
Carlton Fisk 117 376 0.269 0.341 0.457 0.354 74.4
Gary Carter 115 324 0.262 0.335 0.439 0.341 72.5
Yogi Berra 125 358 0.285 0.348 0.482 0.370 71.4
Bill Dickey 127 202 0.313 0.382 0.486 0.394 63.8
Gabby Hartnett 126 236 0.297 0.370 0.489 0.390 56.1
Mickey Cochrane 128 119 0.320 0.419 0.478 0.411 55.9
Jorge Posada 121 275 0.273 0.374 0.474 0.366 47.6
Roy Campanella 123 242 0.276 0.360 0.500 0.385 43.1
Average BBWAA 123 281 0.286 0.362 0.476 0.376 64.8
Posada’s Rank 7 5 6 3 7 6 8

 

Looking at the above table (which is made up only of the players who were voted into the hall of fame by the BBWAA, thus excluding Ewing, Bresnahan, Schalk, Ferrell, and Lombardi) we see that Jorge is not in the top echelon, but he fits in the group. He even has a better OBP than the average BBWAA inductee. Unfortunately, the three areas in which he fares the worst are amongst the most important (wOBA, OPS+, and most of all WAR, where he suffers due to his relatively poor defensive metrics.) That said, he’s not the worst pick in any of these categories. I’d say that this data points to him being quite worthy of consideration, and on its own would merit induction.

But of course, Posada isn’t just competing with the current HOF members, he’s also competing with his own generation. So let’s see where he stacks up relative to the catchers of the last 20 years (and there have been some great ones).

Player OPS+ HR BA OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Mike Piazza 142 427 0.308 0.377 0.545 0.389 66.7
Jorge Posada 121 275 0.273 0.374 0.474 0.366 47.6
Javy Lopez 112 260 0.287 0.337 0.491 0.352 33.6
Ivan Rodriguez 106 311 0.296 0.334 0.464 0.343 73.4
Todd Hundley 102 202 0.234 0.320 0.443 0.328 15.3
Mike Lieberthal 101 150 0.274 0.337 0.446 0.338 22.0
Terry Steinbach 100 128 0.269 0.324 0.424 0.328 31.1
Ramon Hernandez 98 161 0.266 0.330 0.419 0.327 26.6
Jason Varitek 98 193 0.256 0.341 0.435 0.336 24.8
Charles Johnson 97 167 0.245 0.330 0.433 0.331 27.6
Jason Kendall 95 75 0.288 0.366 0.378 0.333 43.0
A.J. Pierzynski 94 128 0.284 0.324 0.422 0.320 20.9
Benito Santiago 92 170 0.263 0.310 0.417 0.313 31.4
Gregg Zaun 91 88 0.252 0.344 0.388 0.323 12.2
Darrin Fletcher 91 123 0.268 0.317 0.422 0.321 13.7
Posada’s Rank: 2 3 7 2 3 2 3

 

Running a search on players that played at least 1000 games at catcher between 1990 and 2011, while maintaining an OPS+ over 90 brings up a list of 15 guys. On this list, Posada really shines, coming in 2nd in OPS+, wOBA, OBP, and 3rd in WAR, SLG, and HR. Now granted, this isn’t exactly a luminous list, with only four real candidates (Piazza, Pudge, Posada and the surprising Kendall, who gets an honorable mention if only for his 43 career WAR, which is the equivalent of plaqueholder Roy Campanella). More importantly, two guys really stand out on this list, and they aren’t Posada — Piazza’s offense just crushes all challengers. His career OPS+ is 14 points above the top HOF mark of Mickey Cochrane, and despite his defensive deficiencies (and they were significant…) he still clocks in at 66.7 WAR, behind only Bench, Fisk, Carter and Berra. Pudge Rodriguez also clocks in above Posada, netting a tremendous 73.4 WAR, largely on the strength of his defensive contributions, and outright longevity (he played more games at catcher than any other player in the history of baseball). His 45.68% career caught stealing rate is downright silly. His OPS+, at 106, is hardly hall-worthy on its own, but taken in the context of the rest of his numbers, he’s a hall of famer, and it ain’t particularly close.

I’ll be up front: There’s a big gap between the top two and Posada, largely based on WAR, which lends some credence to those who consider Posada an also ran due to his at best middling defense. However, in this comparison, Piazza and Rodriguez are no doubters, if they don’t get derailed by steroid controversy or something of the like (Both have been tied to steroids, Pudge more tangibly than Piazza). We never expected Posada to be a no doubter — indeed, Bill James’ HOF statistic lables Posada a 98, which is the definition of “on the cusp”. It makes the 2011 campaign that much more bittersweet — had Posada had even a middling year, he likely makes the hop into triple digits, at least by that statistic.

So by that look, he’s right there, and it’s up to your individual judgement to determine if he’s just over the line or just behind it, based on all the other random factors that go into these choices. For instance, take a look at Posada’s 2007 campaign, when at the tender age of 35, he went .338/.426/.543, good for a 153 OPS+. Plug .330/.420/.540 into baseball-reference.com’s play index, and you find that there have only been seven catcher seasons in the history of baseball leaping all three hurdles–Piazza did it twice (both times for LA), and then Mauer and Posada managed it once each. The others, Hartnett, Dickey, and Cochrane, all ended up in the hall of fame. Or narrow your search to the last decade, and you’ll find that Posada has by far the highest WAR of any catcher from 2000-2010, no small feat in a decade that included a number of talented young backstops. While a healthy Mauer would have surpassed him, had he begun in 2000 and carried on at the same clip through the end of 2010, his recent injured stretch make that by no means a foregone conclusion.

On the other hand, Posada never won a batting title, never won an MVP (was only named on ballots twice, coming in 3rd in 2003 and 6th in 2007…despite putting a .417 wOBA as a catcher that season), and certainly never won a Gold Glove. He does have five Silver Slugger awards, and five all-star appearances. He also has more playoff appearances than any other catcher, with 125 October games under his belt (maybe one or two of those were in November). He’s also got those four five World Series rings (five more than Piazza, and four more than Pudge).

Put it all together, and I nudge Posada across the finish line. While his defense counts against him, his offense, taken from behind the plate, was a significant boon to the Yankees during his tenure. It’s probably not a coincidence that the only season during which Posada lost a significant amount of playing time due to injuries was also the only season during his career that the Yankees did not make the playoffs (though Chien Ming Wang did his part in that debacle as well). I can understand the arguments against his inclusion — but I disagree with them. Anyone who uses the “Hall of Very Good” argument against Posada fails to understand just how productive he was. The Yankees essentially got DH level offense from their catcher from 1999 until 2010 — that is seriously valuable.

It’s very difficult to be under appreciated as a Yankee. Pinstriped players seem to regularly find their way into the various award ceremonies that are scattered through the offseason, and while they often deserve the accolades that come their way, there have certainly been some eye opening choices (Derek Jeter‘s and Bernie Williams Gold Gloves are prime example). Amidst the star studded cast fielded by the Bombers over the last two decades, if you had to label anyone as under rated, it would have to be Jorge, who always seemed to come in last amongst the “core” group of Yankee stalwarts. And if he gets the call in the coming years (years after Pettitte and Bernie will have slid off the ballot), I’ll be among the many making the drive out to Cooperstown to smile, listen, and applaud one of my favorite players for a job well done.

36 thoughts on “Is Jorge a Hall of Famer?

  1. papi

    great article but shouldn't it start out with, one of the cornerstones of the Yankees dynasty of the LATE 90s and THROUGH OUT THE 00s, is hanging ‘em up prior to this coming season.

    • Late at night, my brain translated 00s as the next century, rather than the first decade. Correction made!

  2. Just Sayin'

    "On the other hand, Posada never won a batting title, never won an MVP (was only named on ballots twice, coming in 3rd in 2003 and 6th in 2007…despite putting a .417 wOBA as a catcher that season), and certainly never won a Gold Glove" … "Piazza’s offense just crushes all challengers"

    I think this pretty much sums it up for me, honestly, and I'm all set to get crushed by everyone else commenting after me. It's no contest, in my mind, that Piazza trumps any chance Posada has of being voted into the hall by the BBWAA. Let me repeat that last part: "voted into the hall by the BBWAA".

  3. Just Sayin'

    You're absolutely right when you say "it’s very difficult to be under appreciated as a Yankee", and I'm sure he won't go under appreciated post-retirement, but when you look at the Yankees in the hall, you see more than just 'rings' (at least, that's what is talked about). You see new records, broken records, milestones. Posada, as you wrote above, only has rings (and I say that with a grain of salt because Piazza had… well.. yeah…). Sure, he kept 'pace' with Piazza and Pudge when you sort the list a certain way, but Piazza's offense crushes the competition. Don't forget what Piazza meant, not only to his team but to his city. He may not have rings, but he has records and had a cult following among Mets fans and baseball fans. (Lets not forget his towering HR against ATL that broke a bit of the post 9-11 tension).

  4. Just Sayin'

    TL|DR: Piazza's monstrous offense carried a franchise that desperately needed that 'one player'. He gave the franchise an optimistic outlook, a spot on the back page, and renewed credit and respect. For a franchise that's always been dubbed "The worst team money can buy", that's not an easy thing to do. Posada, on the other hand, was just 'part' of the core that drove the Yankees to their championships, where Jeter, in my mind, is the clear choice. He set the records, he led the team, he's the Captain, he's Mr. October, he's Captain Clutch. It's Jeter's team, and in my opinion, that's part of what the writers who vote will eat up and vote on.

    Piazza – 1
    Posada – 0

  5. Just Sayin: I think you're a little bit too focused on Posada versus Piazza. As I wrote up above, that's not really the comparison (Piazza is a no doubt hall of famer). I think there's room for both.

    That said, labelling Piazza as the best player on "the worst team money can buy" and Posada a very good player on "the best team in baseball" probably runs against your argument, rather than for it.

  6. mikeNicoletti

    I think the comparison should be between Posada, Bernie and Mussina. I enjoyed all of their careers so much I'd love to see them get in, and their counting numbers are all "on the bubble". They are so close that I think it will depend on the media driven narrative that precedes the vote, and although it may not be fair, it is what it is.

    • Unfortunately, Bernie isn't all that close, and it hinges mostly on how short his peak was. There was an article written here about this, so I won't rehash it too much. I actually expect Mussina to get in. Maybe that's my next article.

      • mikeNicoletti

        I agree about Bernie, and if you could write up Moose's candidacy that would be fantastic. He was my all time favorite pitcher to watch in a yankee uniform.

  7. BBWAA writers may completely miss Posada because he doesn't have that "Jeter' factor. You said it yourself. He has rings, but he never set, matched, or broke any records. Maybe I pushed the Piazza thing a bit much, but that's where the writers are going to miss Posada, by looking at Piazza's offense and saying, "Oh, right, he's a shoe-in". For argument's sake, I'm sticking to my "Piazza – 1, Posada – 0" solely for what the writers may look at.

    That being said, I'm not against Posada getting voted in. I think the BBWAA would be doing good by voting him in… I just don't see it happening with Piazza and Pudge in front of him.

  8. RabidWookie

    I waffle on this question from day-to-day, but right now I'd have to say Posada doesn't belong in the Hall. I enjoyed his career, and he was extremely valuable to his team, but for me the rub is that he was a bad defensive player playing at a premium defensive position. For Posada's entire career, my thoughts on him before an important game were along the lines of "I hope his bat makes up for his glove today". He was horrible at blocking the plate and throwing runners out, and while he certainly put a lot of effort into handling his pitchers I think a lot of people mistake that for success at handling pitchers. He was never great at calling a game and plenty of pitchers didn't favor working with him. I think a big reason Russell Martin's contributions behind the plate in 2011 were so impressive was the contrast to Posada. Yes, Posada gave DH level production to the Yankees at the catcher spot, but he also gave DH level defense. Sorry Jorge.

    • I think this is a case of us remembering what has come most recently. While Posada was an absolute butcher towards the end of his career, he was actually a decent catcher for the majority of it. Never would he be mistaken for a gold glover — but for much of it he was perfectly sufficient, and had a few years towards the top of the "caught stealing %" charts. Piazza, in contrast, was actually a terrible catcher–around as bad as you can possibly be back there, while still holding a glove. You're right that Russell Martin looked good in comparison — but that was at the absolute end of Jorge's career. Hardly fair to then project that difference over the total sum.

      • Case in point, Jorge's total career fielding RAR is -22.1, compared to say, Mike Piazza's -62.9.

        • Bob

          That's what happens when all you look at are stats. If you ever watched and understood the game you would know that Piazza was horrible in throwing the ball. He made errors and lousy throws when it came to base stealing. Who is to say what fielding stat means more? Your RAR or whatever the heck that is, means nothing. It is someone's opinion on what is important. The fact is that Piazza was a GREAT game caller, blocked the plate and was very good at keeping the ball in front of him – all of which I consider extremely important when judging a catcher. While Posada was a bit better in throwing runners out, he did not put fear into base stealer's hearts and when it came to the other three aspects of catching I previously stated, Posada was abysmal.

          • I love when people suggest that all we do is look at statistics, or that because we look at them, we don't 1) watch the game, or 2) understand it. I watch upward of 200 baseball games a season, which is probably more than your average bear. Also, by saying "whatever the heck that is" regarding RAR, you even admit ignorance.

            By the way, comparing the two on catching base stealers: Piazza was the most stolen on catcher in his league in 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99, 01, 02, 06. Posada led his league in that statistic one lone time, in 07.

            On passed balls: Piazza led his league in 95 and 96, Posada his in 01 and 06. Piazza 4 times led his league in errors by a catcher, Posada twice. Need I go on?

    • makjak2

      Never great at calling a game? Not to overvalue this, but does the fact that he caught Cone's perfect game not mean anything?

      • Unfortunately, makjack, by even bringing it up you've kind of overvalued it. That's one game amidst a sea of games.

        Trivia question of the day: Who was the starting pitcher for the Expos that started against David Cone?

        • BrienJackson

          Vazquez?

          • Indeed. Odd twist of fate, that.

  9. williamjtasker

    As a really long time Yankee fan, I'd have a hard time pushing for a HOF vote for Jorge Posada. Yes, he was a cog in a wonderful machine we've enjoyed for sixteen years. And he was a good offensive catcher. But his defense was so brutal, his receiving skills so awful (see Mike Fast's work), that I simply can't overlook it. I view Posada as sort of a Brett Favre player. He kept both teams in the game with the good and the ugly.

  10. Tincup

    The fact that you are writing an article suggesting that Posada should be considered for the Hall of Fame, tells me that you had nothing to write about, so you wrote this. Posada does not belong in the Hall of Fame period!!! I shouldn't need to explain why, any knowledgable baseball fan would know why. Please find something more entertaining to write about.

    • I'll ask the team to run a series of "Should Joba start or relieve" next. Followed by a multi-part series titled: "Chad Curtis: Clubhouse Cancer or Chemistry Guru?"

    • Ironically, this was the first thing that got me to write in almost a year, Tin Cup. Your insight and knowledge has added a lot to the conversation, thanks!

    • danrizzle

      I guess no one around here is a knowledgeable baseball fan.

  11. Andy

    Will, nice article. I think you pointed out some good reasons to include Jorge in the Hall of Fame. To take it a step further, take his stats over a 13-year span, excluding the poles of his career (1997-2010), and compare it to similar 13 year spans by other catchers already enshrined. Posada comes out of that analysis looking pretty good (.858 OPS, 123 OPS+) by comparison. I think the writers will put too much stock in the seemingly underwhelming totals that Jorge put up as a whole. But for longevity, consistency, and excellence I think that Jorge deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.

  12. Bob

    First of all, the guy benefitted from being in the Yankee lineup for so long with all that money on either side of him and he still was not an elite catcher all time. Miracuously, his BA jumped to .338 in 2007 and at no other time came close. Why is nobody asking about his possible foray into PED's?

    Finally, the biggest excuse I hear for him getting in was that he did all this "as a catcher." Really? So let's look at him as a catcher. Very average throwing guys out, had issues with his pitchers' looking to throw to someone else his entire career and leading the league in passed balls year after year. He was a pretty lousy catcher, especially when you figure in the guy NEVER blocked the plate in his entire career.

    He is not even close to HOF material.

  13. Hmm, Bob. You're really complaining about his offense? The numbers up there speak pretty well for themselves (skip my cmomentary and just look at the tables, if you disagree), and the other bigtime offensive names that are already in the HOF at the position didn't exactly have crummy offenses surrounding them either (you may have heard of some of Berra's teammates, if you cared to actually look into it). Offensively, he's absolutely an elite catcher, one of the best hitters to play the position in the history of baseball, looking at his career in sum. Nevermind that he actually started playing in his late 20s, either, trimming off a number of what ought to have been his most productive years.

    And if you're really going to play the PED card, then I question whether you have much of an argument at all. Players fluctuate from year to year all the time. If you want to make such an accusation, at least do your work. Unless steroids lead to increased BABIPs (Posada's was an improbable .385 that year) it doesn't look like you've got any reason to suspect foul play.

  14. On blocking the plate, I'm not going to argue with you. On being a lousy catcher, even, I won't argue. But he's not the butcher people are making him out to be, at least not relative to guys like Piazza. I already wrote the statistic above, but to repeat: Jorge's total career defensive runs above replacement: -22.1; Piazza's career defensive runs above replacement: 62.9.

    • (in case anyone's confused…Piazza's number should be negative, too.

  15. Hippeaux

    Great article, Will. It's a tough call. As defensive metrics for catchers don't tell a particularly nuanced story, I think it's hard to judge Posada (and others) defensively based on WAR alone. Of course, nobody who watched him would claim Posada was a Gold Glover, in his prime he was probably an adequate backstop and a good game-caller.

    Unfortunately, the toughest hurdle he may face is the logjam resulting from PED moralizing. By the time Jorge is eligible, voters could be looking at a ballot that features Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Sheffield, Pettitte, Manny (depending on his free agency), as well as (perhaps unfairly) suspected guys like Bagwell, Piazza, and Pudge, traditional borderline cases like Mussina, Edgar Martinez, etc., and imminent HOFs who weren't deemed "first ballot" worthy (say, Frank Thomas or Trevor Hoffman). Whether you are a steroid moralist or an apologist, you're going to have little trouble filling your ballot, which may result in Posada actually getting dropped before his case even gains any momentum.

    (Yes, I do believe the voting process needs to and will change before this point, because the HOF needs to protect the revenue from induction weekend.)

  16. RobMer

    I don't think it's hard at all to be under appreciated and play for the Yankees. I've seen many, including Roy White, Willie Randolph, Bernie Williams, and, yes, Jorge Posada.

    The Yankees have two, clear-cut HOFers in Rivera and Jeter, and over the past generation they've had a host of borderline, near HOFers that seem to fall below the line for various reasons, including Munson, Mattingly, Bernie, Pettitte and Posada. Jorge might have the strongest case based on prior elections to trip over the line and make the HOF (although if Jack Morris is elected, Andy Pettitte might have a better case than suspected since he was better than Morris), but my guess is Posada will come up a bit short. While many non-NY Yankee fans like to pout and complain that New York players have an easier time winning awards and getting elected to the HOF, most of the recent studies on the issue indicate just the opposite. We won't see any campaigns to get the borderline Yankees elected like we did for Jim Rice.

  17. Mister D

    At the moment I say the rings put him over, and anyone who has watched this team knows he was as much its Captain as the shortstop.

    As for Piazza, if Jorge can't get in the hall because of Piazza, then Glavine can't get in because of Maddox.

    • Ugh. Glavine. Look here: http://itsaboutthemoney.net/archives/2011/02/04/s

      Glavine does not belong in the hall of fame. The guy was a good but never even very good pitcher, who happened to pitch his entire career in NL, mostly on winning teams. All he has (and I really mean all) is his win total. His K/BB, as an example, was a crappy 1.74, and his career FIP was 3.95 (in the NL that just ain't that great).

      I hope Moyer hangs around long enough to win 300. His career 4.46 FIP (compiled almost entirely in the AL) is much more comparable to Glavine's than you'd think.

  18. Geoff

    Is it an acceptable idea to suggest that Jorge (who was drafted as a 2nd baseman) actually deserves SOME CREDIT for making himself a catcher, who creditably caught over 1000 games in the Major Leagues? His ability to make this adjustment put his bat in the lineup and got great production from a traditionally unlikely source and gave the Yankees tremendous flexibility in the infield for years. His defence, when considered in isolation, is not significantly worse than replacement level, and gave the team great opportunities to add talent in the infield.

  19. I think most of you are missing the point. The fact that you can seriously argue pros and cons means, by definition, that Jorge does deserve consideration for the Hall. Not that he IS a HOFer, just that he deserves consideration. Contrast his record with, say, Francisco Cervelli who does NOT deserve consideration.

    I loved Jorge's grit, stubbornness, and tenacity. I loved how he tried every time out there, and cheered through his triumphs while agonizing over his failures. I enjoyed watching him play. I'm not convinced that he's a slam dunk HOFer, but neither am I convinced he's a one and done candidate either. Time will tell.

  20. Mom

    Great analysis , nice concluding line.

Comments are closed.