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January 9, 2012

The BP First Take

Curtains for Posada

by Daniel Rathman

Whenever an elite player announces his retirement, one of my first thoughts is whether said player is a Hall of Famer. That was certainly the case on Saturday, as news broke that Jorge Posada has decided to hang up his cleats.

A few minutes of musing typically yields a firm answer, but I remained on the fence about Posada. A quick poll of my Twitter followers also elicited mixed results. The seven replies included one “yes,” one “no,” and five answers suggesting that he deserves to stay on the ballot for several years, but may not ultimately be worthy of enshrinement.

Posada is not one of the best catchers in baseball history. He is not in the class of Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, and Mickey Cochrane. But with a career triple slash of .273/.374/.474 at a position where offense is often secondary, Posada should rank among the top 15 or 20 backstops to ever play the game.

Drafted as a second baseman before moving behind the plate, Posada was never a plus defensive catcher, though he was a solid thrower; he gunned down 28 percent of opposing basestealers during his career. Posada does not measure up offensively to Mike Piazza—his counterpart with the Mets from 1999-2005—but he also does not have the steroid baggage that may ultimately plague Piazza’s candidacy.

A five-time All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, Posada may benefit from context as well. He was a key contributor to four World Series championship teams, a member of the Yankees’ Core Four, and a strong successor to the legacy of Berra, Bill Dickey, and Thurman Munson.

 Is that enough to send Posada to Cooperstown? His credentials are solid overall, but he lacks that one factor to push him beyond the Hall of Very Good. My view on Cooperstown values exclusivity, a “when in doubt, don’t vote” approach. With that in mind, Posada does not quite make my cut.  

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

3 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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jfranco77

If you had to put one guy in... Bernie or Posada?

Even though Posada ranks higher at C than Bernie does in CF, my heart still says Bernie.

Jan 09, 2012 09:14 AM
rating: 0
 
steve.k

jorge - terrific player, he shares his birthday (august 17) with my daughter, good guy, good Yankee. hall of famer?? not so much.

Jan 09, 2012 09:27 AM
rating: 0
 
qwik3457bb

He's right on the edge. I did a quick and dirty search on BRef, the criteria was that the player played at least 75% of his career games at catcher and then ranked those players by BWAR.

There are 20 such players with a BWAR greater than 30. Posada is 10th; right above him in 9th, 8th, and 7th, are Gabby Hartnett, Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey, all of whom are in the Hall. Piazza is 6th. Right below Posada are Wally Schang, Thurman Munson and Bill Freehan. None of them are in the Hall, and only Freehan has a shot, in my opinion.

Joe Mauer is 14th. There are two catchers below Posada who are in the Hall; Roy Campanella, whose career was shortened by discrimination at the front end and the car accident at the back end, and Ernie Lombardi, a better hitter and a much more immobile catcher.

It's not quite that simple, Posada is at 44.9 WAR, and the 3 below him are all between 43 and 44 WAR, while the 3 above him are at 50, 51 and 54 WAR.

He did play for 4 title teams, but his postseason record is mediocre at best. So did he carry the Yanks to titles, or was he carried by others? The Hall of Fame Monitor and Standards also mark him as close but not in. 4 of his top 10 comps are in the Hall, but one of them is Joe Gordon.


So as I say, in my opinion, he's on the edge, maybe a hair shy of the Hall.

Jan 09, 2012 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
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