On Jorge and ERA

I’m not sure how much of this is directly attributable to Jorge’s pitch selection, or any possible defensive limitations returning from the off-season shoulder surgery.  But according to Tyler Kepner of The New York Times,

One unsettling fact for the Yankees is the difference when Jorge Posada catches. With Posada behind the plate, the Yankees’ pitchers have a 6.31 E.R.A. The combined E.R.A. with Francisco Cervelli, Jose Molina and Kevin Cash is 3.81.

Jorge has been rather trusted in the past by pitchers such as Clemens and Pettite, while Mariano has had no complaints about him, either.  Yet some pitchers such as Mussina, Randy Johnson, and El Duque had their issues with Jorge.  At first glance, those numbers posted above are somewhat alarming.  Jorge needs to be in the lineup.  His bat is simply too good for them to sit him semi-regularly.  One option is to DH Jorge for Matsui, who is hitting .257 and struggling with bad knees, and letting Molina and Cervelli (whom the Yanks should keep in favor of Berroa the human cholesterol) catch a bit more.

Yet a couple things are worth mentioning.  One is that Jorge has a very good percentage of runners thrown out (15 of 47, 31.9%), while Cervelli has been excellent (6 of 16, 37.5%) and Molina decent (4 of 17, 23.5%), and subpar for him.  Jorge has not been a defensive liability regarding base runners.  The other is that Jorge’s catching ERA is saddled with Wang’s four starts, and I’ve yet to hear or read anything blaming Jorge for Wang’s travails which have included poor leg strength, possible lack of focus and confidence, et cetera.  In those four starts for Wang, all losses, his ERA is 21.60, clearly raising Jorge’s catching ERA considerably.

Burnett, who has had his own ups and downs this year, mentioned something perhaps telling about Cervelli’s work in Sunday’s game:

“I think it’s just a matter of — I don’t know if it’s the catcher — but we threw curveballs in fastball counts, we had them looking for something and they had no idea what was coming, I don’t think,” Burnett said. “That’s huge.”

Maybe there has been a predictability to some bad pitching and pitch selections that has resulted from Jorge’s calls.  If so, he should shoulder some of the blame–some. Is Jorge calling more fastballs to assist in his throwing out runners, as Pudge, Javy Lopez, and Yogi in his early days did?  I don’t know.  I do know that, ultimately, pitchers make the decisions on what to throw, and need to execute.  The catchers suggest and receive the pitches.  Joba, for one, could have used some more of Jorge’s counsel Friday night, when he repeatedly shook off Jorge while laboring through 100 pitches in a mere four innings.  I hardly consider that Jorge’s fault.

I’m not saying Jorge’s work behind the plate has been ideal.  It hasn’t.  Cervelli and Molina might work better with some starters. Yet there is more than enough blame to go around for the starters’ collective ERA of 4.89, which is 11th in the AL and 24th in the majors.  The pitchers bear the brunt of the staff’s struggles this year since, in the end, they’re deciding or agreeing to a certain pitch and actually executing the pitch–not as much the receiver in Jorge who rests firmly ensconced with Yogi, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard, and Thurman Munson among the rich pantheon of Yankee catchers.  He didn’t get there simply because of his switch-hitting prowess, but because of his dutiful and improved work behind the dish.

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Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 9:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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