The huge divide between Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek

It’s hard to believe that Jorge Posada and Jason were once considered to be in a similar class. But through most of the early-to-mid 2000s, the two players were often lumped together as star catchers for teams that were in contention every year.

However, looking at each guy’s final line, they ended up worlds apart.

Through 2005, Jason Varitek had the following line:

105 OPS+ over 3624 PAs, with 20 HR and 82 HR per 162 games played.

Through 2005, Jorge Posada had the following lineL:

121 OPS+ over 4545 PAs, with 25 HR and 96 RBI per 162 games played.

Those numbers are similar enough that you could convince yourself that the guys were fairly similar players, with Posada having a marginal edge.

By the time both guys retired this off-season, though, the gap grew quite a bit.

From 2006 to 2011, Varitek looked like this:

87 OPS+ over 2215 PAs, with 21 HR and 76 RBI per 162 games played.

From 2006 to 2011, Posada looked like this:

122 OPS+ over 2605 PAs, with 24 HR and 92 RBI per 162 games played.

Basically, Posada’s production was the same for both segments of his career, while Varitek fell off quite considerably.

In the end, Varitek finished with a career 98 OPS+ and Posada with a 121. The players with similar PAs and OPS+ to Posada are Vic Wertz, Lou Boudreau, and Augie Galan. For Varitek, it’s Ed Kranepool, Billy Werber, and Carlos Baerga.


104 thoughts on “The huge divide between Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek

  1. 1
    John Autin says:

    I was surprised to see that ESPN had a “Varitek HOF?” online poll recently. Good player, and I don’t want to shortchange his leadership. But his measurable performance was a far cry from even thinking about the HOF.

    BTW, 66% voted “No.” He did carry the state of Maine, though.

    • 6
      Ed says:

      They also ask the question “Who would you have rather had over the course of their entire careers?” 29% preferred Varitek over Posada. No geographical breakdown for that one.

  2. 2
    Doug says:

    Catchers most similar to Posada, by PA and OPS+, through age 33, and age 34-39.

    Posada, 4545, 121, 2605, 122
    Ernie Lombardi, 4483, 125, 1868, 127
    Wally Schang, 4311, 123, 1914, 113

    Catchers most similar to Varitek, by PAs and OPS+, through age 33, and for age 34-39.

    Varitek – 3178, 105, 2215, 87
    Terry Steinbach – 3648, 105, 1905, 94
    Elston Howard – 3265, 111, 2581, 103

  3. 3
    Tim says:

    What about catching metrics ?!? No question varitek saved his team much more behind the plate than posada. Not even close —

    • 5
      Voomo Zanzibar says:

      Varitek’s greatest defense metric was fighting with his mask on:

      • 26
        John Autin says:

        Good times!

      • 59
        Tmckelv says:

        Even though I am a Yankee fan, I would still be the last guy to defend A-Rod. But I always thought Varitek keeping the mask on was really weak. No way Fisk does that in a hypothetical fight with Reggie Jackson.

    • 7
      bstar says:

      There’s a new metric out on catcher dWAR, Tim, that Fangraphs just implemented into their WAR calculations. It involves runs saved by wild pitch-blocking ability. As I posted in the ‘Unusual Recipe for 200 Wins’ board, here’s the link to the study. It’s a long read, but even Tom Tango described it as “brilliant”:

      I believe the study goes back to 2008, and Varitek tied for 10th on the list of positive WAR, although that number would have been higher had he played more recently. Interestingly, you have to go to the last page of all catchers who qualified to find Posada’s negative WAR total. He finished 171st out of 177 in this department.

      It really sounds like I’m trying to prove a case for Varitek, but I’m really just relaying information. I think Posada, with his postseason contributions, deserves a good look for the HOF. I hope to post later how historically good/great he was after age 30.

      • 60
        Tmckelv says:

        I like the metric in theory, but there just is not enough pitch data. As you said it only goes back to 2008. I am looking for stats that would be useful for Josh Gibson or Boileryard Clarke, not stats that would be irrelevant to Butch Wynegar or even Jason Varitek (not sure just how far back the necessary pitch data goes back). Pitch blocking will be useful in 15-20 years to rate catchers for the early part of this century.

        • 62
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          I don’t see what defensive stats could possibly exist for Josh Gibson beyond:
          – Wild Pitches, Passed Balls
          – Stolen Bases, Caught Stealing

          Even those are probably hard to find in any NeL box scores, if you can can even find the box scores. The best we can do for players such as Gibson is unfortunately no more than anecdotal information.

          I find the study linked to in #7, runs saved by wild pitch-blocking ability, quite fascinating and useful in “measuring the formerly unmeasurable”. Just as we’ll never know how many intentional walks Babe Ruth got, we’ll never definitely know pitch-blocking ability for most catchers.

          • 63
            Tmckelv says:

            Re: Josh Gibson. I was using hyperbole/being facetious to assist my point (I would have thought the inclusion of “Boileryard” Clarke and Butch Wynegar would have shown that, but I guess not). I understand that there would not be defensive stats for Gibson.

            Hopefully we will all be around when pitch-blocking is as commonplace and cross-generational of a stat as IBB is now. But until then, we can enjoy comparing/contrasting the exploits of the second half of the Molina Brothers’ defensive careers.

      • 66
        MikeD says:

        The study is intersting, although it only includes one aspect of catcher defense, and perhaps one that’s not quite as important as people think. Studies have shown passed balls ultimately do not impact games that dramatically.

        Mike Fast’s catcher framing study will probably have more impact long term. Yet it is also in its early days.

        • 72
          bstar says:

          Fortunately, both of these authors did go to lengths to convert their data to WAR. Direct from Koprivica’s pitch-blocking study, here’s the changes in catcher WAR for 2011 combining both pitch-blocking AND Mike Fast’s catcher framing data:

          2011 Catcher WAR/2011 WAR(with new metrics added)

          1. Alex Avila 5.5/6.7
          2. Yadier Molina 4.1/5.4
          3. Matt Wieters 4.3/5.2
          4. Mike Napoli 5.6/5.1
          5. Miguel Montero 4.3/5.0
          6. Russell Martin 3.1/4.6
          7. Wilson Ramos 3.1/4.6
          8. Brian McCann 3.7/4.4
          9. Geovany Soto 2.1/3.9
          10. Jonathan Lucroy 1.9/3.4

          Perhaps the greatest thing to come out of these studies may be that it is totally changing the reputations of some catchers who were once thought well below average defensively.

          • 81
            John Autin says:

            bstar, I appreciate Koprivica’s work and your enthusiasm for it, and from what I read of it, I have no reason to think he’s wrong.

            Still, it’s only been out there since October, so I’m not ready to treat it as gospel yet.

          • 92
            bstar says:

            Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say I was any more enthusiastic about these new metrics than anyone else on this site that found them useful, I was merely the one presenting the information.

            That being said, I do think it’s a great step forward that Fangraphs has already implemented at least the pitch-blocking aspect into their dWAR calculations. It shows a willingness to be receptive to new data that does seem really sound and thoroughly researched.

            After all, it looks like from the numbers that we are only talking about (-1.5 to +1.5)WAR spreads per year at the outermost limits. These are certainly less than the range of UZR numbers, which take at least 3 years to stabilize anyway into a true reflection of the player’s ability.

          • 95
            Ed says:

            See I would take the opposite position. With new stats, you should be incredibly cautious in incorporating them into existing work. New stats should always be subjected to critical examination and go through several rounds of improvement. That doesn’t seem to have happened with this. Instead, it seems like people are just bowing down in front of it. Maybe there are no improvements to be made but I would think someone out there has some ideas on how it can be improved.

          • 101
            MikeD says:

            I’m with Ed. My reaction to this being added by FanGraphs was “too soon.” It’s interesting, but I don’t have a good level of trust for it yet and certainly don’t want it be incorporated into WAR ratings until it’s been examined every which way. Same for Fast’s catcher-framing study. Early days.

  4. 4
    Mike L says:

    With all due respect to Varitek, he’s not remotely Hall-worthy. Certainly putting him in before someone like Freehan, Munson, or Ted Simmons, just to name three, would be a great injustice. Not only did all of them have much higher WAR, Simmons (50.4 WAR) was a nine time All Star and got MVP votes in six different seasons. Munson (in a short career) 43.4 WAR seven time All Star, won an MVP and got votes in six other years, and Freehan 43.3 WAR, an 11 time All Star, six time gold glove, MVP votes in six years, including a second and a third place finish. Varitek has 23.1 WAR, 3 distant MVP votes, and three All Star selections. A fine player-not as good as three we have already excluded.

  5. 8
    bstar says:


    I’m of the opinion that the standard for HOF catcher WAR needs to be lowered. 65/70 is generally considered to be the yes/no barrier for position players, but if you apply that to catchers, you’re going to have a very, very small Hall for catchers, smaller than it already is:

    Bench 71.3 WAR
    Fisk 67.3 WAR
    IRod 67.3 WAR
    Carter 66.3 WAR

    As everyone knows, catchers have shorter careers, and they have to sit ~every fifth game. This hurts your WAR, but hey those are the rules. Starting pitchers pitch every 5th game, relievers pitch an inning or two every outing, and catchers sit once every 5 games. We really shouldn’t pro-rate catcher WAR to, say, 150 games; they simply didn’t produce for 150 games. So, to me, the only solution is to lower the standard to 45-50 WAR for catchers, maybe even as low as 40. I certainly agree, Mike, that Freehan, Munson, and Simmons need to have a plaque in Cooperstown.

    • 11
      MikeD says:

      It’s a valid argument. The HOF is self-defining, and if the bar for catchers has been set unfairly high, then people will continue to argue against new and potentially worthy candidates based on the standard set by the past few let in.

      Considering MLB has been around since the 1870s and some 140 years, is it unreasonable to think that the top 15-18 catchers of all time should be inducted? Are we anywhere near that?

      • 14
        bstar says:

        Get Torre, Simmons, Freehan, and Munson in and wait for Pudge Rodriguez and Piazza to get inducted. Problem solved.

        • 15
          MikeD says:

          Not including Pudge, all four of those other catchers are right on the borderline, generally being considered the threshold a player has to cross to be considered a HOF catcher. (Torre gets dinged because he didn’t spend all of his career at catcher, and his MVP season happened after he moved.)

          Interesting to me is I used to argue against Simmons, Freehn and Munson in the Hall. Now that I’m older, I now find myself on the other side of the argument, or at the very least, I’m much more open to their induction.

          • 19
            bstar says:

            The fact that Torre’s stunning MVP season happened the year after he’d caught his last game in MLB really gives the argument that catching suppresses your offense a really strong boost. I listed Torre as a catcher because that is the position where he played the most games(though it was less than 50% overall).

          • 21
            John Autin says:

            bstar @19 – Don’t want to be argumentative, but Torre’s first year away from the tools was 1969 (full-time at 1B), and his OPS+ was 126 – 3 points below his average for his first 8 years as a catcher.

            Then in ’70, he went back behind the plate for 90 games and his OPS+ went up to 136. And after his MVP year at 3B, his hitting went right back to his norm or lower.

            Or we could just note that his known batting stats while catching were better than his overall stats.

          • 24
            bstar says:

            Yeah, I saw the year he played 1B almost exclusively but did not realize overall he was better offensively as a catcher. You’re right.

        • 18
          John Autin says:

          Torre will go in as a manager, saving the voters a debate about whether he should be considered a catcher. (He caught just 903 games, 41% of his career games and fewer than any other HOF catcher. Roger Bresnahan holds that distinction with 974.)

          • 43
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            Al Lopez also went into the HOF as a manager, but like Torre, he also had a significant MLB career as a catcher. He wasn’t much of a hitter (83 OPS+), but he was regarded as an excellent defensive catcher, and for many years he had the record of 1918 games caught. I remember it was a big deal when Bob Boone broke this record, now Lopez is 9th all-time.

            Looking at his HOF voting support, from 1949 to 1967 he was on the BBWAA ballot ten times as a player, peaking at 39%. However, in 1977 he was selected by the Veteran’s Committee as a manager. Most curious.

            The HOF qualifications are supposed to be strictly as a player _or_ a manager, without combining the two, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the voters in 1977 gave Lopez a boost for his playing career. The same could be said about Wilbert Robinson, who was also a good catcher and was also selected as a manager by the Veteran’s Committee.

        • 32
          Andy says:

          Ted Simmons is the biggest HOF snub among catchers.

          • 33
            bstar says:

            One year on the ballot, 3.7% of the vote, then off the ballot. Pretty crappy day for the BBWAA.

          • 41
            Luis Gomez says:

            Ted Simmons is the Lou Whitaker of catchers (here we go again).

      • 16
        John Autin says:

        MikeD, there are a dozen catchers in the HOF for their MLB playing careers — and two of them are Schalk and Ferrell (both under 23 bWAR).

        Seven of the 10 deserving HOF catchers have 50+ bWAR, and that will grow to 9 of 11 with the presumed induction of Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Piazza. The only other catcher with 50+ WAR is Ted Simmons; electing him would bring the total to 14. Then it gets interesting:
        – Gene Tenace, 48.7 (but just 5,527 PAs and 892 games caught)
        – Jorge Posada, 44.7
        – Wally Schang, 43.8 (first really good hitter to catch 1,000 games, and a member of 4 WS winners with 3 different AL franchises)
        – Thurman Munson, 43.4
        – Bill Freehan, 43.3 (one of four 1-franchise catchers with 1,500 GC)
        – Darrell Porter 40.6
        – Joe Mauer, 40.3

        BTW, Mauer is the 51st player ever to reach 40 WAR through age 28.

        • 23
          MikeD says:

          Ten deserving catchers in the HOF. I think that’s what makes me pause more than it did when I was younger. It doesn’t feel right. It seems like there should be more, which leads me to believe the standard to elect a catcher to the HOF needs to be lowered just a bit.

          Good to see Darrell Porter’s name again. Haven’t thought of him in years.

          • 39
            John Autin says:

            Porter’s 8.4 bWAR in 1979 is the 4th best ever by a catcher. And his Strat-O card helped teach me the value of walks. (Man, we wore out those 1977-79 sets!)

        • 34
          Ed says:

          Mauer of course will get in easily assuming he bounces back from his injuries. And even if he doesn’t completely bounce back, he should be able to make it. The fact that he’s won 3 batting titles as a catcher will help him enormously.

          As for Simmons, the issue was obviously his defense. He was considered a poor defensive catcher (and dWAR backs that up). Of course, the voters back in the day didn’t have the metrics we have now and probably overestimated how bad his defense really was (his -5.2 dWAR is bad but not horrible). On top of that he had the misfortune of coming along at the same time as Johnny Bench, who was his superior offensively and defensively.

          • 35
            Ed says:

            I’m a bit biased since Munson is from my hometown but I’d love for him to get in. He was also amazing in the playoffs. His career playoff OPS is 118 points higher than his regular season OPS. He played in 6 playoff series and never had a poor series. His worst performance was the 1977 ALCS against the Royals in which his OPS was .749, only 7 points below his regular season average. In the 1976 World Series, when the Reds swept the Yankees, Munson batted .529 (9-17) while the rest of the team only batted .178.

        • 37
          Tmckelv says:

          Munson is my favorite player, so I too am WAY biased, but I am always surprised to see his WAR value @ 43.4 in 11 seasons (and if you remove his 97-PA 1969, he has 43 WAR in just 10 seasons). Posada had an outstanding career and still had “just” 44.9 in 15 full seasons (including 36 in his first 10).
          I will be the first to admit that Thurman’s catching days were coming to a close in 1979 (he was pretty beat up) and probably would have become a 1B-DH (perhaps the bridge to Mattingly) had he not died. But even so, I think his hitting would still have gotten him 1.5 to 2.5 WAR per year (maybe reaching 50 in a few seasons). The 1970’s were packed with Catchers – Bench, Fisk, Simmons, Tenace, and Munson all deserve enshrinement/serious consideration.

          • 40
            Ed says:

            I don’t know. His knees were shot, his bat really wasn’t good enough to play 1st or DH, he was talking about retiring at the end of the season (he was willing to play a few more seasons if he was traded to the Indians). Hard to see getting much more WAR.

          • 42
            John Autin says:

            It’s ironic that Munson – whom I long thought was overrated due to his RBI count – is “restored” by WAR to the esteem that he enjoyed while playing.

            The speculation about his lost future is interesting. The conventional wisdom says his catching days were numbered, and I’ve even read some accounts of those 1977-79 Yanks teams that say he was already being transitioned to RF. I have to say, I don’t see it in the record.

            Munson’s games by position:
            1976 – C 121, DH 21, OF 11 (his MVP year)
            1977 – C 136, DH 10
            1978 – C 125, DH 14, OF 13
            1979 – C 88, DH 5, OF 3
            In his final year, Munson had played in all but 9 games before his death, catching 83%. Had he maintained that rate through year’s end, he would have caught 134 games, 7th in MLB.

            Defensive slippage is also absent from the dWAR record. Munson never rated great by dWAR, with a career high of 0.9 in his sophomore year. In his MVP year, he rated 0.1 dWAR, -0.2 in ’77, 0.2 in ’78, and 0.4 in ’79. His excellent 46% CS rate in ’79 was a little above his career average.

            His offense had declined in ’78-79, to a 99 OPS+ from a prior career mark of 120. But that was still OK for a catcher — right in the middle of the pack for catchers in both years.

            It may be true that Munson soon would have been shifted away from catcher. But I don’t think that would have made any sense. Unless his hitting rebounded — and there are very few examples of former catchers whose hitting improved in their 30s after changing position — he would not have hit enough to be a winning player at RF, 1B or DH.

          • 44
            John Autin says:

            As a catcher, Munson hit .292/.349/.412. Overall, he hit .292/.346/.410. Not a dime’s worth of difference.

            I recently started looking into the notion that a regular catcher will hit better when he’s at another position. My hunch is that it ain’t so, but I don’t have enough data yet. It’s not easy to study fairly: Looking at career splits can be misleading, because most of the time, when a catcher is moved to another position, it happens well after his peak offensive years.

            But since Munson never did shift to another position on a regular basis, I think his career splits are reasonably meaningful.

          • 46
            Ed says:

            John – I agree with everything you said re: Munson. Except physically he couldn’t keep catching. He was in tremendous pain and was only doing it cause the Yankees didn’t have anyone else. His knee pain was likely a factor in his offensive decline. So he was going to have to retire or move to another position – though as you’ve noted his bat wasn’t good enough for that.

          • 50
            Ed says:

            Re: catcher’s hitting better at another position. Victor Martinez has hit a bit better at 1st and DH (about +30 OPS) than at catcher but he hasn’t always been consistent about it. For example, in 2007, his OPS as a catcher was over 100 points higher than when he played 1st or DHed.

            Carlos Santana has an OPS 50 points higher at catcher than at 1st base.

            Craig Biggio definitely hit better as an outfielder than as a catcher in 1990. Though there was no significant change from 91 to 92 when he switched from catcher to 2nd base.

            BJ Surhoff hit a lot better as a catcher than as a 3rd baseman in 1988. Overall though his offensive numbers were better once he stopped catching.

            Overall I’d say that’s a bit of a mixed bag.

        • 47
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          I am extremely reluctant to use WAR as the be-all and end-all measuring stick for catchers. For the various position players, WAR does the worst job measuring their defensive value. There’s just too many parts of the catching game WAR does not capture; the study mentionedabove in #7(bstar) concerning blocking pitches is just one example.

          By WAR, Posada is more than 20 wins better than Varitek, but only 16 RUNS worse than Varitek over his career. I’m just not believing that Posada was only about one run a season worse than Varitek, I’d say it’s more like 5-10 runs a season. Posada did have a considerably better career than Varitek, but the diffference isn’t this enormous chasm that some people believe.

          Then again, I’m not saying Varitek belongs in the HOF; he’s similar to a bunch of other catchers who also aren’t in the HOF discussion.

      • 36
        Dr. Remulak says:

        Posada top 15 all-time WAR and WAR/g among catchers = HOF. The HOF bar is definitely set too low for catchers.

        • 38
          John Autin says:

          Did you mean the HOF bar is set too high for catchers?

          • 58
            Dr. Remulak says:

            Right,sorry. HOF bar for catchers way too high if Posada, top #15 WAR all-time and with 5 rings is considered “borderline.”

  6. 9
    birtelcom says:

    American League catchers who started for the winning team in multiple World Series championship-clinching games, while playing for teams other than the Yankees:
    –Mickey Cochrane, for the 1929 and 1930 Athletics and the 1935 Tigers
    –Hick Cady, for the 1912 and 1916 Red Sox
    –Wally Schang, for the 1913 Athletics and the 1918 Red Sox
    –Jason Varitek, for the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox
    –Andy Etchebarren, for the 1966 and 1970 Orioles
    –Pat Borders, for the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays

    • 12
      John Autin says:

      Nice work, birtelcom. So … what have I been doing wrong, that led me to have never heard of Hick Cady until just now? As penance, I must find 3 interesting facts about his career.

      Not only did he start those WS-clinchers in 1912 and ’16, but in the 1915 clincher, he pinch-hit (for Pinch Thomas!) and was behind the plate for the last 4 innings.

      I guess he could be called the $25,000 Catcher, since he was once traded for Stuffy McInnis.

      Spent his last year in the bigs with the 1919 Phillies, one of the few teams to finish more games behind than they had wins (47.5, 47). (Honestly, I have no idea how many others have done that, but it doesn’t sound easy.) On June 25, Cady finally hit his first home run, in his 347th game and 975th PA. Two weeks later, he was released.

      • 17
        Richard Chester says:

        Finishing more GB than wins may not be as rare as you think. I made a quick check for the years 1901-1910, it happened 12 times.

        • 20
          John Autin says:

          I.O.U. one interesting Hick Cady anecdote. 🙂

          • 22
            birtelcom says:

            Despite his career OPS, Cady was, as his biography at SABR says, “one of the few men ever to pinch-hit for the legendary Babe Ruth.”

          • 27
            topper009 says:

            Was he a WWI soldier? He missed 1918 and most of 1917. He was also traded to the A’s but never played for them, and somehow landed with the Phillies in 1919 although there is no transaction record for how they acquired him. Maybe after being in France for a while he forget which Philadelphia team he played for.

          • 29
            birtelcom says:

            There is an interesting biography of Cady at According to that source, he was in a terrible car accident just after the 1917 season ended, in which he badly injured his shoulder (a passenger in his car was killed). Connie Mack traded for him anyway, perhaps as part of a salary dump of Stuffy McInnis, but Cady was unable to play in 1918. He caught on with the Phillies in 1919, but was never the same.

        • 25
          John Autin says:

          Plus, the Phils themselves did it in 1928, ’39, ’41-42 and ’45. They were “tied” in ’40, and 1 game off in ’61.

    • 28
      Voomo Zanzibar says:

      Here’s what happened to Cady in 1917:

      In October 1917, Cady and his wife returned home to Bishop Hill to spend the off-season. While out with friends one evening, Cady and his party were involved in a terrible automobile accident. Returning home from Kewanee, Illinois, after a night out with friends, Cady was apparently traveling at a good rate and did not see a horse and buggy in the darkness. In an attempt to avoid the collision, Cady jerked his Hupmobile car to one side but still managed to clip the rear wheel of the buggy. Cady’s Hupmobile skidded into a ditch and rolled over several times. One of the members of Cady’s party suffered a crushed skull and died; the other members involved, including those in the buggy, were not seriously injured. The same could not be said for Cady, however, as he suffered multiple breaks in his right shoulder.

  7. 10
    MikeD says:

    A 98 OPS+ for a catcher isn’t a bad thing at all. Yet it’s also not getting a catcher into the HOF, even if his defense is off-the-charts good, which was not Varitek.

    Basically, Tek had a three-year run producing Posada-like seasons, right as the Red Sox ended their World Series drought. I think that led some to believe he was a stronger hitter than he actually was for most of his career.

  8. 13
    Dr. Doom says:

    You read my mind today, Andy. I was thinking this EXACT thing this morning. Even using the differences bstar points out @7, they’re still drastically different players. Varitek is the proud owner of 148 offensive runs (oRAR-Rpos). Jorge? 408 offensive runs. Varitek was the better defensive catcher. Was he 260 runs better? Not a chance. Even 100 runs (to me) strains credibility, though it’s certainly possible. Probably 60-80 runs different makes more sense to me. And that’s not nearly enough.

  9. 30
    birtelcom says:

    Most Career Home Runs Hit From the Sixth Spot in the Batting Order:
    1. Graig Nettles 143
    2. Jorge Posada 115
    3. Vinny Castilla 112
    T4. Gil Hodges and Jay Buhner 110

  10. 31
    bstar says:

    Cool stat, I’d love to see the leaders from 1 thru 9. Rickey H the leader at 1 I presume?

    Posada was historically great in his 30s, with his 31.7 WAR for age 30 and beyond second only to Carlton Fisk’s 39.5.

    Catcher WAR age 30 and above:

    1. Fisk 39.5
    2. Posada 31.7
    3. Hartnett 29.2
    4. Y Berra 27.6
    5. Dickey 25.5
    6. Ivan R 22.0
    7. Carter 20.7
    8. Piazza 20.2

    • 45
      Tmckelv says:

      I think a big reason for Posada’s great post age-30 WAR total was the fact that he never caught 120 games in any year until his age 28 season. He had a lot left in the tank. But I think this also explains why his pre age-30 WAR is lower than it should be, so it probably averages out.

      • 79
        bstar says:

        I tried really hard to prove that catchers who start their careers later do better and last longer in their 30s, but with just the 20 or so guys I looked at, the data just wasn’t there. Pudge Rodriguez kinda “blew the curve” on my theory, as he started at 19 and was productive late in his 30s.

        • 82
          John Autin says:

          bstar, I took a quick look at the “last longer” angle, expecting to confirm your efforts. But now, I’m not so sure.

          I found 64 catchers since 1901 with at least 600 games caught from their age-30 season onward. Only 31 of them had 600+ GC through age 29. Here’s a full breakdown of those guys through age 29:

          1300+ – 1 (Rodriguez)
          1200+ – 1
          1100+ – 2
          1000+ – 6
          900+ – 9
          800+ – 10
          700+ – 20
          600+ – 31
          500+ – 39
          400+ – 48
          300+ – 53
          200+ – 55
          100+ – 60
          50+ – 63
          1+ – 63

          Who caught 600+ games from age 30 but never caught before that? Al Todd (1932-43) made his debut at age 30. He doesn’t even show up in the minors until age 26. I can’t find what he was doing before that.

          • 83
            bstar says:


            I think if Roy Campanella hadn’t had his career end prematurely(it certainly started late), I posssibly could have made a case for ELITE catchers doing more in their 30s if they start later. That would have put Fisk(1st year catching full-time,age 24), Posada(26), and possibly Campanella(26) at the top of the 30s WAR list, and the theory might hold a lot more credibility. I think the larger point we’re getting at is: Is accumulated toll on the body due to catching a more important factor than actual age in determining when and how a catcher declines? I was not able to prove this, either.

          • 88
            birtelcom says:

            Campanella didn’t start catching late, he just started catching in the major leagues late. Campanella was a professional catcher at age 16. On the other end of his career, three of his last four seasons in the majors (ages 32, 34 and 35) were, from a WAR point of view, barely above replacement.

          • 93
            bstar says:

            Your post made me take another look at Campy’s career and the first thing I noticed was that he won the MVP at age 33 with a 5.5 WAR season. That prompted me to look at which catchers won the MVP at the oldest age:

            Elston Howard and Gabby Hartnett, age 34.

            Looking at Howard’s career, he actually didn’t start catching full-time until age 31. He was able to put up 24.9 WAR after age 30 including the MVP season so he would have made the top 10 list of 30+ catcher WAR also.

          • 96
            birtelcom says:

            That’s an interesting find about oldest MVP catchers, bstar. Nice work.

            When I run a search for career WAR by catchers age 30 and above (catchers defined as those who played at least 50% of their age 30+ games at C), I get:
            1. Fisk 39.5
            2. Posada 31.7
            3. Hartnett 29.2
            4. Berra 27.6
            5. Dickey 25.5
            6. E. Howard 24.9
            7. Lombardi 24.5
            8. Tenace 23.9
            9. Schang 22.6
            10. I. Rodriguez 22.0

          • 98
            bstar says:

            Wow, I left out Lombardi, Tenace, E Howard, and Schang. I was doing it catcher by catcher. My bad.

        • 85
          John Autin says:

          The flip side: 113 guys caught 600+ games through age 29. Only 31 of them also caught 600+ from age 30 onward. The breakdown:

          1500+ – 2 (Fisk, Boone)
          1400+ – 2
          1300+ – 3 (add Ausmus)
          1200+ – 3
          1100+ – 5 (add Rodriguez & Pena)
          1000+ – 7
          900+ – 14
          800+ – 18
          700+ – 22
          600+ – 31
          500+ – 40
          400+ – 53
          300+ – 66
          200+ – 81
          100+ – 91
          50+ – 98
          1+ – 105

          I know this is just a broad look, but I’m tired.

    • 48
      Doug says:

      Career HR leaders by BOP, since 1919.

      1st – Rickey Henderson (293), Alfonson Soriano (197), Craig Biggio (181)
      2nd – Ryne Sandberg (186), Jay Bell (135), Derek Jeter (134)
      3rd – Babe Ruth (549), Ken Griffey (530), Hank Aaron (451)
      4th – Lou Gehrig (383), Manny Ramirez (373), Fred McGriff (364)
      5th – Jimmie Foxx (203), Norm Cash (163), Ernie Banks (161)
      6th – see comment #30 above
      7th – Javy Lopez (84), Andy Seminick (78), Joe Gordon (76)
      8th – Del Crandall (109), Jim Hegan (81), Ron Karkovice (64)
      9th (through 1972) – Wes Ferrell (38), Red Ruffing (36), Bob Lemon (36)
      9th (AL since 1973) – Mike Bordick (42), Rick Dempsey (42), Sandy Alomar (41)
      9th (NL since 1973) – Carlos Zambrano (32), Mike Hampton (16), Mark Sweeney (15)

      • 49
        Doug says:

        Oops. Carlos Zambrano’s HR total should be 23, NOT 32.

      • 51
        Richard Chester says:

        Doug: How did you extract that data?

        • 54
          Doug says:

          Use P-I Batting Game Finder
          – select “Find Players with Most Matching Games in Multiple Years”
          – select desired batting order position and HR >= 1 in criteria
          – results are displayed showing number of matching games plus summary stats (incl. HRs) for those games

      • 52
        Voomo Zanzibar says:

        That fun that Crime Dog is the 3rd most homer-prolific cleanup hitter in history.

        Most of the other big boppers split a lot between batting 3rd and 4th.
        The 3-hole for McGriff, however, was his 6th most frequent slot.

        Games Started
        4th 1825
        5th 376
        6th 58
        7th 50
        8th 37
        3rd 35

        And a .375 slg out of that 3-hole…

        • 56
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          This was similar to when I found out that Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez were in the Top-dozen for “Games As OFer”. I mean, they are both very good, but neither would be close to the first dozen that come to mind when you say “greatest outfielders”.

      • 53
        Voomo Zanzibar says:

        All of those 15 homers by Sweeney out of the 9-hole are pinch hits.

      • 64
        bstar says:

        Albert Pujols already has 378 career HR from the 3 hole; look for him to bust into the top 3 after a couple more seasons. Interestingly, recent evidence, or not so recent(THE BOOK), claims that your best hitters should be at the 1,2, and 4 positions, not 3. This is mainly due to the fact the the 3-hole guy often comes up in the first inning with two outs and nobody on. Not that the guy needs any sort of boost to his career, but I wonder how many more RBI’s Pujols would have had he hit cleanup his entire career.

        • 65
          MikeD says:

          I think the Book also claimed that a team should not put hitters with power in the lead-off spot since they come up with runners on less frequently. I understand that in theory, but I don’t agree with it in reality. I like hitters who can put themselves in scoring position with the bat.

          • 67
            Richard Chester says:

            Hitters in the lead-off spot lead off an inning more frequently than anyone else in the line-up. For example Ichiro Suzuki has been a lead-off hitter in 1722 games. In those games he has 7982 PA and has led off an inning 3189 times. That’s a guaranteed 40% of PA with no one on base.

          • 69
            bstar says:

            I agree with The Book on that one, but only to an extent. You can’t bat Rickey Henderson further down in the lineup just because he can hit 20 HR a year. His jawdropping speed and baserunning are best utilized at the leadoff position, and you’re just going to have to live with some of those homers being solo shots. By the way, 70.4% of Henderson’s HR were indeed solo ones.

            A better example is someone who has shown power at the leadoff spot, has only decent speed, doesn’t have great OBP skills, and is still batting leadoff. Chris Young of the D-Backs is a good example; he’s hit leadoff more than anywhere else in the lineup and has averaged ~20 HR/yr for his career. Fortunately, the D-Backs have slowly transitioned Young away from the 1 spot the last two years and are now only batting him there sporadically.

          • 75
            Richard Chester says:

            I forgot to mention something in my post #67. Ichiro’s 3189 lead-off innings also includes games in which he did not bat first. He had only 78 PA in those games, about 1% of his career PA so they will not materially affect that 40% number.

          • 76
            bstar says:

            I looked at Pete Rose’s career to see how often he batted with no one on, and I’ve got 64% for him(10,239PA w/bases empty divided by total PA, 15,890). I re-checked Ichiro’s numbers and I get 65% for him batting with no one on(5266/8060).

          • 77
            bstar says:

            Oh wait, sorry, you were figuring actually leading off an inning, my bad.

        • 70
          Richard Chester says:

          Here is a list showing the difference RBIs in the NL for the #3 and #4 hitters since 2001.

          The sequence is year/RBIs by #3 hitter/RBIs by #4 hitter/Difference in RBIs between the two hitters/Difference divided among the 16 teams.

          Year…#3 hitter…#4 hitter..Diff…Per Team

          Make what you want out of it but the sum of the Per Team column is 71 RBIs.

          BTW these columns are perfectly aligned as I look at them right now. Let’s see how it looks after I post it.

          • 73
            bstar says:

            ++++ for the perfect alignment. So using “……” is the key to that. I will try and keep that it mind. I thought the differences would be greater than that, Richard. So the sum is 71 RBIs per team, divided by 11 seasons, gives us ~6.5 more RBI at the 4 hole than at the 3. Pujols has played 11 seasons, and a little over 80% of the time he’s batted in the three hole. So 71 x (0.8)= ~57 more RBI for Pujols. That’s way too much noise for that small of a number. Damn. Thanks for the help, Richard.

        • 90
          topper009 says:

          Pujols has 86 total HRs in the first inning batting 3rd, 45 of which were solo shots for 52%. For all other HRs, 359, he has hit 197 solo shots for 55%. So he has actually hit fewer solo HRs in the first inning than all other innings by %.

  11. 57
    Lawrence Azrin says:


    Congratulations on HHH post #100; it looks like John Autin has opened up a Secretariat-at-the-1973 Belmont Stakes-type-lead on the rest of us.

    For some perspective on the local (New England) view of Varitek’s HOF-worthiness, on the day of his retirement several enthusiastic Red Sox fanboys called up the local sports-talk radio station (WEEI-AM), and suggested that he had a chance, and they were immediately slapped down by the co-hosts. So even locally he’s a Hall Of Very Good guy, short of the HOF.

    • 74
      Chris says:

      “For some perspective on the local (New England) view of Varitek’s HOF-worthiness, on the day of his retirement several enthusiastic Red Sox fanboys called up the local sports-talk radio station (WEEI-AM), and suggested that he had a chance, and they were immediately slapped down by the co-hosts. So even locally he’s a Hall Of Very Good guy, short of the HOF.”

      Neither of those surprise me. Even as a Red Sox fan, I would have a hard time making an argument for Varitek in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      • 100
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        A few callers also made the case for the Red Sox retiring Varitek’s number. Here are the Sox stated rules for retiring numbers:

        1) in the MLB HOF
        2) ten years with the Red Sox
        3) finished his career with the RS

        They bent the rules with Fisk, giving him some part-time job to cover #3, then ignored the rules for Johnny Pesky (#1). I personally think it was the right thing to do and long overdue. Pesky, more than any other person, represents the spirit of the Red Sox, and on the basis of his 50+ years with the RS as PLAYER/ broadcaster/ COACH/ manager/ all-around “good guy”, deserved to have his number retired.

        Varitek, I’m not so sure – there are other players who don’t quite meet all three standards whom I’d honor first. What about Boggs (who is a HOFer), Dwight Evans, or a fan favorite like Tony C? What about pre-WWII legends such as Speaker, Foxx, or Grove?

        It’s ultimately up to the club owners, of course. I think Varitek should get in line behind the players I mentioned.

  12. 68
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    Tmckelv/#63 –
    B-R says that Boileryard Clarke was +16 runs in Blocking Pitches for his career. And Babe Ruth was intentionally walked 57 times in 1920. And the Babe really called his HR in the 1932 WS. And I could be making all of this up.

  13. 71
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    Varitek is 30th all-time in career Games Caught – is this a reasonable estimate of his all-time ranking amongst MLB catchers? I am not making a statement, just tossing out a question.

    • 94
      Hartvig says:

      Off the top of my head I would think that’s pretty reasonable and maybe even a tiny bit conservative although for players at that level of performance how much weight you give certain factors (offense vs. defense, era played in, big year vs. consistency, etc.) can move you up or down 10 spots in the rankings pretty quickly.

      I just did some quick checking. Varitek has always sort of reminded me of Terry Steinbach, the Oakland catcher from the ’80’s & ’90’s and their career numbers are pretty similar (Varitek is #7 on Steinbach’s Similarity Scores and Steinbach is #3 on Varitek’s- I’m pretty impressed with myself for “knowing” that before I looked). Anyways, in his 2000 edition of his Historical Baseball Abstract Bill James ranks Steinbach at #38, which seems a little low to me. I’m guessing I would have them both closer to #30 with Steinbach ranking maybe a couple of spots higher than Varitek.

      • 97
        Doug says:

        Steinbach is indeed quite similar to Varitek, particularly in regard to career progression from younger to older ages.

        See post #2.

      • 99
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        Hartvig – here is the complete list of Varitek’s Similarity Scores:

        1) Ramon Hernandez (912)
        2) Del Crandall (909)
        3) Terry Steinbach (904)
        4) Sherm Lollar (903)
        5) Bill Freehan (889) {definitely better}
        6) Darrell Porter (882) {definitely better}
        7) Walker Cooper (882)
        8) A.J. Pierzynski (875)
        9) Frankie Hayes (861)
        10)Mike Lieberthal (861)

        Before I actually looked this up, “Del Crandell” was the first name I thought of as most similar to Varitek. He had a slightly lower OPS+ (95) than Varitek, but at his best Crandell hit for a decent average, good power, and an OPS+ of around 120. He was an important part of one of the best teams of the era, that went to the WS twice.

        Like Varitek, he was a good but not dominant offensive force at his best, being on the offensive leaderboards only a handful of times. Crandell’s peak looks a little better than Varitek. He’s got more AS games, years with MVP votes, and appearances on the Leaderboards.

    • 102
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      A few days late, but in #99 below, I wrote that Varitek reminded me the most of Del Crandell. Looking up Crandell in the NBJHA, I see he is listed #30 all time – the same rank Varitek has in Games Caught (see #71 above).

      Considering that there’s several recent catchers not on the NBJHA list (Mauer, Posada, McCann for starters), I’d put Varitek around #35.

  14. 78
    Voomo Zanzibar says:

    Here’s the first choice when you google-image the word “varitek.”

    • 80
      John Autin says:

      Voomo’s enthusiastic reprises of A-Rod’s July ’04 incident with Varitek & Arroyo has led me finally to grasp the context of A-Rod’s bush-league glove-swatting attempt in the 9th inning of ALCS game 6.

      I’m sure everyone else got it at the time, but in my defense, I don’t really follow baseball.

  15. 84
    Timmy Pea says:

    I think this is going to be a huge year for Carlos Zambrano and here’s why:
    Ozzie Giullen: Ozzie will not mess with is mind! Quade was too weak, Lou
    too strong.
    Miami: Large amount of Venezualans in Miami, that will pump him up.
    Weather: Z usually did not get going until the warm weather started up north
    Pitching Indoors: Z loves to pitch indoors.
    I predict – .259/261/412 4 HR, 12 RBI, 5 2b, 1 3b, 16 W, 9 L, 3.54 ERA

    • 87
      John Autin says:

      Timmy, I sure hope your fave fulfills your hopes.

      But I’m not sure the statement “Ozzie will not mess with his mind” has ever applied to any of his players.

      And while it’s true that April has been his worst month (4.36 ERA), August is almost the same (4.34, and his only losing record). Overall, his 1st-half/2nd-half ERA is the same, 3.60. So I’m not sure we have any real evidence that he loves the heat.

      BTW, Big Z has yet to homer in Miami.

      • 89
        Timmy Pea says:

        HAHAHAHA! about Ozzie, that is true. The Zambrano no hitter came inside and Miller Park in August or Sept, can’t remember. There has not been a game yet played in the NEW Marlins ball park, so let’s wait and see.

      • 91
        Timmy Pea says:

        I don’t like the science that says because Z has pitched bad in August, he pitches well in the cold April air of the midwest. Don’t bet me wrong my science that says he does is probably worse, but I’m also not buying yours JA! 🙂
        //:=o this is Hitler yelling something stupid!!

  16. 86
    Timmy Pea says:

    Agent Scott Boras had JD as the 3rd best DH last year!!!!!
    Great story about Johhny Damon and his quest for the HoF.

  17. 103

    When the Wii was to begin with launched you had to dismantle your console to install a modchip.
    But installing a Nintendo Wii Mod Chip nevertheless can be quite risky!
    Much more persons break their Wii’s trying to set up a modchip then for any other reason.

  18. 104

    Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.

    When I look at your website in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, very good blog!

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