Jorge Posada’s HOF Case

Since Jorge Posada‘s retirement after a distinguished 17-year career, a consensus has emerged on his Hall of Fame case.  Most people will probably place Posada in the “Hall of Very Good” with other Yankee legends such as Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams (presumably), and as a small hall supporter in general, I understand this viewpoint.

The anti-Hall case for Posada was articulated in a recent article on Fangraphs by Marc Klaasen.  Klaasen argued that Posada’s career fWAR of 47.6 is well below the standard set by Andrew Dawson, a “baseline” hall-of-famer, who had a career WAR of 62.3.  Klaasen also looks at 2 all-time great catchers, Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, and determines that they are able to reach the “Dawson standard”, and as such, Posada is not hall-worthy.  From this, he determines that WAR does not necessarily treat catchers unfairly in the same way that it does relievers (by not adequately accounting for leverage). In my opinion, however, the article takes an overly simplistic look at Hall-worthiness, by setting an arbitrary cutoff for accumulated career WAR as the main criterion.

What immediately came to mind when I read the article (and a number of commenters saw as well) is that comparing Posada to Dawson is an apples-to-oranges comparison that does a disservice to the great career that Posada had.  I am not even going to get into winning multiple World Series titles, playoff performance, or intangibles such as “grit” and “leadership”, all of which could be used to argue in Posada’s favor. The main fallacy in comparing an outfielder to a catcher is playing time.  Because catching is such a physically demanding position, catchers often wind up playing fewer games in a season, accumulating fewer plate appearances, and having shorter careers than other position players.  Because WAR is a counting stat, two players with similar per-game production can have drastically different WAR values if one player had many more plate appearances throughout his career.  This is the case with Posada and Dawson, since Dawson had about 3500 more plate appearances than Posada throughout his career, but their WAR per plate appearance would not be that different.

That’s not to say that longevity shouldn’t be rewarded, because the duration of productivity is clearly important.  However, given that catchers usually don’t accumulate the same number of plate appearances in a career as position players, it would make sense to compare catchers to other catchers rather than other position players who inherently get more plate appearances.  When compared to his peers, Posada comes in at #15 in WAR all-time.  This makes a more compelling case for inclusion into the Hall of Fame, though there is still plenty of room for argument.  In particular, one could look at Posada’s rather mediocre defensive career and argue that WAR doesn’t adequately measure catcher defense (as several studies have suggested).  I don’t see him not measuring up to Rodriguez or Piazza (or other HOF’ers like Berra and Bench) as necessarily a strike against Posada’s case, because those 4 are pretty obvious candidates (maybe not Rodriguez because of his alleged PED use).

Even after accounting for playing time, I would probably still be inclined to leave Posada out due to his mediocre defense and horrifically awful baserunning.  This article from Baseball Prospectus sums up Posada’s flaws, and how WAR may not fully measure how bad his defense has been.   However, I just wanted to emphasize with the Posada case that a slavish devotion to arbitrary WAR cutoffs would lead catchers to be systematically underrated, since their playing time is typically decreased.  Since I don’t think catcher is an inherently less valuable position (as opposed to a relief pitcher or DH), accounting for playing time and judging catchers against the standards set by other catchers seems to be the fairest way to evaluate their Hall-worthiness.

7 thoughts on “Jorge Posada’s HOF Case

  1. JP

    The most logical baseline for any catcher’s case for Cooperstown is precedent, or the catchers that have already been elected. Other than the standards set by players already in the hall, there is no possible objective criteria for which players deserve induction. Otherwise, we are really just arguing about our subjective preferences for how inclusive the hall should be (or put differently, whether there are more guys in the hall who SHOULD NOT have been voted in, or more guys out who SHUOLD have been voted in).

    Based on just total career WAR, Posada ranks higher than Hall of Fame catchers Buck Ewing, Roger Bresnahan, Ernie Lombardi, Rick Ferrel, and Ray Schalk.

    I’m not saying that any player who is as good as the worst Hall of Famer at his position should necessarily get in. But going by WAR, Posada is as good or better than almost 40% of Hall of Fame catchers.

    WAR isn’t perfect, especially for a position like catcher. Still, he’s got a stronger case than most are giving him credit for.

  2. bpdelia

    ALLEGED ped use. Alleged. Also crazy he would write that about Rodriguez but not piazza. Anyway posada is a borderline case. Imo he was truly and utterly dreadful, like historically awful for all but maybe 3 years of his prime where he was merely amongst the worst defenders in baseball at his position. He was a fantastic offensives player though. I lean no but wouldn’t be outraged if he made it. War surely does not properly value catcher defense though. You will hear lots of people talk about piazzas defense but he just couldn’t throw. His recieving, pitch calling plate blocking skills were all superior to pissdas.

    • Fair enough on the “alleged” use, though I think there is not much doubt in the eyes of the HOF voters. Also, the article did write about Piazza too. I agree that Piazza’s defense was probably somewhat underrated, but there’s no doubt that he had a terrible arm.

      • bpdelia

        Oh i meant mentioning rodriguezs assumed (almost certainly true) PED use but not mentioning the fact that piazza had as many suspicions about him. The problem with posses is piazza was probably a better defender who is basically the greatest hotter to play the position in history and Rodriguez was a competent to great offensives player who was one of if not the best defenders at the position in history. And they were cobtempraries. So posadavwas the third or fourth Hedy catcher in baseball over his career (i think navy Lopez ass as good a hotter and as Bsd a fielder though he crashed arte a better peak). Only way posada gets in is if the writers elect him as a huge middle finger to two of the games greatest ever catchers over PEDS. I cant wait to take my kids to the hall one day and explain how the best catcher, and hotter of all time, as well as a 700 homerun ss/3b and 350 game winning 7 time cy young winner aren’t in because some writers think its possible that steroids are bad

  3. Scotty W

    But there are HOF voters who think he does merit induction, albeit not in his first year. Peter Gammons, for one (a BoSox person is a tough one to use) feels he’s a no question inductee. Perhaps the 5 year waiting period will give us all a better perspective on the situation.

  4. Jim P

    Fame, Hall of.

    Of all his contemporaries, Jorge was certainly one of the 3 most productive catchers (over 15 years!); a real contributor to several championships; as well as being a member of the Core Four which lay at the heart of a team that Ruled or came close to Ruling all of baseball for a decade-and-a-half. Of the four we have two certain HoFers, and one other borderline.

    If you look up Tinkers, Evans, & Chance and see how many of them get in the Hall on just stats alone, … it’s another point in Jorge’s favor.

  5. Duh Innings

    Posada was a good DH masquerading as a bad catcher.

    He never won a Gold Glove or major award, was a top ten defensive catcher in his league or MLB, or had a HOF-memorable moment behind or at the plate.

    He was a full-time catcher for only 11 seasons out of 17 (2000-2010), it took him a half-decade to be the full-time catcher (1995-2000), and he was barely a catcher last season (I believe only six innings played at C.)

    He finished a season with a .287 or higher BA only twice, over .300 only once.

    He removed himself from the Yanks starting lineup against the arch enemy Red Sox because he didn’t like where he was in the batting order, the ultimate act of “me” and “I” on a TEAM which he showed he was no longer part of mentally or spiritually from that point on. He barked about how he wouldn’t be a Yankee/would be elsewhere in 2012 to the press during 2011.

    Jeter and Rivera were, are, and always will be better players and Yankees than him, Pettitte and Williams were and always will be. They are/were also more famous than him.

    Don Mattingly is more famous and was a better player and Yankee than him.

    If Posada didn’t have the fortune to be on five World Champion Yankee teams (the first one, 1996, he was barely part of, the next two he was a third tier player for), he would not be in the discussion for the HOF, ditto for Williams as much as I like Williams. Jeter would still be in the HOF discussion for his 3000+ career hits, Rivera for having the most regular season and postseason saves of any reliever, Pettitte for being a lefty who has over 200 career wins, Mattingly for being the best all-around player in MLB 1984-89.

    Posada’s contemporaries Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza destroyed him, I-Rod defensively, Piazza offensively. Charles Johnson was a better all-around player than him at one time. Joe Mauer the best all-around player in MLB since he began his career (by virtue of putting up the offensive numbers he has put up as a catcher i.e. at the most grueling position in baseball) has destroyed him defensively AND offensively.

    Posada should be compared to his contemporaries because they played when he played. How could you possibly compare him to HOF catchers who played before he did? If you want to do that, well, Johnny Bench did what Posada did only with TEN Gold Gloves. Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk started over 500 games behind the plate more than Posada. Yogi Berra has TEN World Series rings, double Posada’s, and Berra wasn’t along for the ride for any of them. Yogi even took a team to a World Series as a manager (1972 Mets.)

    I love how people say Posada is a Hall Of Fame catcher when he was all bat no glove.

    How ’bout this? Posada hit so well as a catcher because he devoted way more time to his offense than his defense. Proof is (again) he was never a top ten defensive catcher in his league or MLB, bad when you consider MLB has only thirty teams thus you have a 1/3 probability of making the top ten.

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