Friday, November 2, 2007

Why Is This Man Smiling? UPDATED

Because he may very well soon be an exceedingly overpaid catcher. The Daily News reports that the Yankees are dithering and the Mets' are poised to pounce on Jorge:

Mets sources say GM Omar Minaya has identified Posada at the top of the team's list of free agent targets. Like he did with Pedro Martinez before the 2005 season, Minaya might be willing to go above and beyond to secure the rights of a possible Hall of Famer.

If the Mets offer Posada four years - or possibly five - it would leave the Yankees in a difficult spot, as they would be committing more years than they wish to a catcher who will turn 37 next summer.

I love Jorge as much as the next guy, but if the Mets offer Posada five years, they're crazy. True, he has fewer miles on the odometer than a lot of 37 year-old catchers, but the list of effective 42 year-old catchers is a short one. Really short, as in Carlton Fisk and, like, no one else that I can think of at the moment. First base? Well, the list of forty year-old catchers who were effective after being converted to first base is pretty damn short too, consisting of, um, give me an hour or two to think of one because I can't.

Of course if the Mets do swoop in and give Posada a ridiculously long contract, the story won't be about how the last two or three years of it are wasted. Rather, the story will be about how the Yankees seem to be suffering from institutional gridlock that is preventing them from getting anything done this offseason.

The effects of the Yankees' seeming disarray, however, will be temporary. The effects of the Mets signing a lot of dumb contracts will last a long long time.

Update: reader Pete Ridges (see comments below) did the legwork that I was inexcusably too lazy to do myself, and figured out exactly what we might expect from a catcher entering his 40s. As I suspected, it's basically Carlton Fisk and rotting corpses.

Here's the list Pete created at

There have been 61 catchers who played 50% or more of their games at catcher after turning 40. These 61 catchers hit a combined -- combined! -- 97 home runs. Carlton Fisk hit 72 of those. There are other mind-boggling factoids like that in Pete's list, and I invite you -- and Omar Minaya -- to discover them for yourself.


Osmodious said...

You know, I could see an AL team giving Jorgie a 5 year deal...he has shown that he is a workhorse (despite his position), he is a very good hitter and his power might improve with a move to DH and a decent hitting coach working on his power stroke. But I just don't see him in the NL for that long.

If the Mets drive his price up, that might impact some of the Yankees other dealings. It will be interesting to see. Kind of makes you think that, perhaps, they should have sealed up Mo and Jorgie earlier in the season/spring, doesn't it?

Pete Ridges said...

Yes, "Carlton Fisk and no-one else I can think of" just about covers it.

Shyster said...

Great list Pete! Totally the sort of thing I should have, you know, actually bothered to include in the post in the first place. I'm going to edit the post to include it, with credit where credit is due of course.

Phill said...

This list of catchers who played past 40 is a little misleading. Sure, most of the players did not perform well after 40, but how many of them were under performing (and by how much) compared to their pre-40s career versus how many were always just bad?

Why not give us the average decline in VORP for catchers after 40 years old. Will it really be that much greater then any other position player after 40?

Shyster said...


The easy answer to why I don't do a VORP analysis is because I'm an idiot and don't know how to do it. I simply am not much of a stats guy, so I try not to insult those who are by trying.

That said, I'm not sure if the average decline is as illuminating in this case as is the simple fact that there are simply no catchers outside of Fisk who have ever had a season worth a tinker's damn at the age Posada would be in the final couple of years of a 5 year contract.

What's more, there have only been 10 catchers who, in their age 35 season (which Posada just finished) who have ever had an OPS+ of 100 or more, and Posada's is way, way, way higher than anyone at that age. Even more, there are only 23 catchers who, in their age 35 season, had enough PA's to qualify for the batting title.

I suppose you can look at this to support the notion that Posada is an exceptional outlier, and thus may very well be worth gambling 5 years on. Another way to look at it is to say that Posada is an exceptional outlier and is thus really likely to regress back to where every other catcher in the history of baseball has been between the ages of 36 and 41, and that's -- with the exception of Fisk -- absolutely nowhere.