The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


You Discussed Posada's Hall of Fame Candidacy and Didn't Invite Me?

With about 17 things on my plate this week, I didn't get a chance to weigh in on the latest round of debates regarding Jorge Posada's building candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Rob Neyer fired the opening salvo suggesting that while he's probably the top catcher of the current decade, Posada isn't worthy. Jonah Keri got all up in his grill, and others, including Craig Calcaterra and Beyond the Box Score, weighed in as well.

I won't rehash anyone's argument, but having last checked in on Posada in the context of Mike Piazza's candidacy, I'll offer the numbers from the latest build of JAWS, which showed him continuing to close in on the Hall of Fame average as the season began (* = Hall of Famer):
Rk  Catcher           Career  Peak   JAWS        
1 Johnny Bench* 105.8 69.3 87.6
2 Ivan Rodriguez 114.0 57.0 85.7
3 Gary Carter* 99.0 64.8 81.9
4 Yogi Berra* 90.0 54.0 72.1
5 Gabby Hartnett* 91.0 50.7 71.0
6 Bill Dickey* 88.6 52.7 70.7
7 Carlton Fisk* 93.5 47.0 70.4
8 Buck Ewing* 83.0 56.7 70.0
9 Joe Torre 80.0 53.0 66.7
10 Mike Piazza 77.3 55.5 66.4
AVG HOF Catcher 78.3 50.9 64.6
11 Deacon White 77.5 49.4 63.5
12 Charlie Bennett 70.1 51.5 60.8
13 Mickey Cochrane* 70.0 49.8 60.0
14 Jorge Posada 64.6 50.9 57.8 <<<
15 Lance Parrish 67.9 44.3 56.1
16 Roy Campanella* 56.1 48.6 52.4
17 Thurman Munson 57.9 46.4 52.2
18 Ted Simmons 63.5 40.4 52.0
19 Gene Tenace 58.5 44.7 51.6
20 Bill Freehan 57.8 40.0 49.0
21 Ray Schalk* 54.0 43.4 48.7
22 Jason Kendall 54.6 42.4 48.5
23 Jim Sundberg 54.0 37.9 46.0
24 Darrell Porter 53.1 38.5 45.8
25 Chief Zimmer 55.9 35.6 45.8
26 Ernie Lombardi* 55.1 36.3 45.7
27 Wally Schang 57.3 33.9 45.6
28 Johnny Kling 48.3 42.1 45.2
29 Roger Bresnahan* 52.8 37.6 45.2
30 Del Crandall 50.8 39.3 45.1
31 Duke Farrell 53.1 36.1 44.6
32 Mickey Tettleton 47.9 41.0 44.5
33 Benito Santiago 52.5 33.0 42.8
34 Tony Pena 48.6 36.5 42.6
35 Elston Howard 43.8 38.6 41.2
36 Sherm Lollar 48.0 33.7 40.9
37 Terry Steinbach 48.1 33.0 40.7
38 Javy Lopez 44.6 36.0 40.3
39 Johnny Roseboro 45.4 33.9 39.7
40 Jack Clements 44.6 34.3 39.5
41 Al Lopez 49.3 29.6 39.5
42 Bob Boone 47.4 30.9 39.2
43 Walker Cooper 43.4 34.4 38.9
44 Mike Scioscia 43.1 34.5 38.8
45 Darren Daulton 40.0 37.0 38.6
46 Rick Ferrell* 45.9 30.3 38.1
Posada began the year ranked 14th according to JAWS, and he's currently hitting a sterling .320/.402/.630, albeit through only 100 at-bats due to a hamstring injury which cost him most of May. Because of that, he won't approach his 2006-2007 numbers (7.9 and 8.5 WARP3, respectively).

Nonetheless, he's already put together a peak which is exactly equivalent, in WARP terms, to the average Cooperstown backstop, and his .300 career EqA is well above the group average of .286. He simply needs to continue his progress towards the career numbers, which look to be about two great or three good seasons away, including this one. Barring injury, that's certainly doable, particularly as he's a good enough hitter to stick around as a DH-1B as his catching days wane, but having lost most of last year and part of this year to the disabled list, it's no guarantee.

So, from here, it's too early to say Posada absolutely belongs in the Hall, but Neyer to the contrary, his peak suggests he's certainly Hallworthy, and his status as the decade's best catcher is another point in his favor, albeit a mild one, since "zero years" are arbitrary endpoints. What's more relevant is that he's basically the third-best catcher of the Wild Card era behind Ivan Rodriguez and Piazza, better than the former (.279 career EqA) with the stick and the latter with the leather. There certainly ought to be room in Cooperstown for three catchers over what will wind up being at least a two-decade span, since it will fall to the Joe Mauer generation before anyone else starts mounting a case.

And no, Jason Varitek ain't even close (33.2/27.6/30.4).

Update: Jonah shares the love.

Update II: Rob returns to the conversation: "More on Jorge Posada's Hall of Fame qualifications -- as opposed to chances, which (as I think some of my friends are forgetting) is a completely different thing -- this time from Jay Jaffe (and I'm sorry, Jay, but I don't believe that Ray Schalk and Rick Ferrell are remotely germane to the discussion)."

Rob's right in that chances and qualifications are different things, which is why Ron Santo and Bert Blyleven, respectively the single most qualified hitter and pitcher outside the Hall, aren't in. They're overqualified by any rational stretch of imagination, but the electorates (the re-re-re-constituted Veterans Committee in Santo's case, the Baseball Writers Association of America in the former) don't see it that way -- or at least the portion that refuses to heed the value of sabermetrics in advancing a Hall case. The numbers on both players are pretty damning of those voters' obstinacy, but so long as they occupy more than a quarter of the electorate, those two candidates' chances remain doomed.

But Rob's initial point addressed both Posada's chances and qualifications -- "Ivan Rodriguez is going into the Hall of Fame. Posada isn't, and shouldn't" -- and it's the latter note to which I've added my data. And as to the question of Schalk and Ferrell, well, only the former is actually included in the JAWS score, because as the lowest-ranking VC honoree, the latter has his score dropped before the average is computed. I merely ran the entire chart because I could, not because it's terribly applicable here beyond the stretch of good-not-great catchers towards the bottom of the list.

On the JAWS scale, Posada already outscores four of the five VC-elected catchers (all but Ewing) and by the end of the year he'll top the two lowest BBWAA elects, Campy and Cochrane, both of whose careers ended short due to injury. The question is whether he can make any headway into the upper group of six BBWAA elects plus his two contemporaries, and that's a taller order. The chances aren't great, but so long as he continues to hit like he is, they're still there. And if he does reach that group, he'll certainly deserve enshrinement. Whether he'll get it even if that happens remains to be seen, but it sounds as though at least one eventual BBWAA voter (Neyer, of course) will have to be much more convinced before he casts a ballot Jorge's way.

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Really nice analysis. Will be interesting to see what happens with Posada the next few years. Wrote about this on my blog:

It's odd to see a Yankee who was on world champion teams being underrated but Posada is one such player.

Do you think that Warp 3 skews the 19th century players defense too much? The skeptic in me says there's no way Charlie Bennett and Deacon White were better players then Campenella and Cochrane.

I have a theory that the writers really wanted to vote Rick Ferrell's brother into the HOF but someone got the names mixed up and they were embarrassed so nobody said a word.
I'm certainly less comfortable with the rankings of the 19th century players than I am the 20th, and I think it's very tough to understand how different catching defense was in those days - pre-shinguards, specialized mitts, and even squatting - than in the modern era. So I think you can take their rankings with a grain of salt. All we really know is that they were among the best in their day by wide margins, and whether you want to go beyond that to judge them relative to the Campys and Cochranes is more subjective.

Re: Ferrell, that's been the working theory for years. Same with Lloyd Waner, who wasn't nearly the hitter his brother Paul was.
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