Yankees – Catching as catch can…..

Jorge Posada’s injury dramatically effected the Yankees season …. and only time will tell whether he can return to his pre-injury form and what the Yankees will do if he doesn’t. Anyway his injury unsettled things at the catching position in 2008 and the Yankees end up utilising five other players in the postion. Here’s how it went:

Jose Molina (100 games). 97 games at catcher. Molina had a very impressive year in 2007 and had been established as someone who could more than easily adapt to being the Yankees no. 2 catcher and Posada’s back-up. The problem was that in most of the year in 2008, he was left exposed, no longer backup but the first-string catcher and this left him vulnerable and his offensive figures fell away rapidly. His 2008 figures were .216 (BA), .313 (SLG) and .263 (OBP). This compared unfavourably to his .318 (BA), .439 (SLG) and .333 (OBP) during the time he spent on the Yankees roster in 2007. A substantial fall indeed. After this, he is still a very capable defensive player and there is no reason why his offensive figures shouldn’t rebound if the Yankees can take the weight of starting from him.

Chad Moeller (41 games). 33 games at catcher. At one point in the season, Moeller was on waivers with Molina and Posada set to hold the roles for the rest of the year. Injury intervened once more and the Yankees were able to breathe a sigh of relief when he wasn’t claimed and they could restore him to the roster. He became a surprising and vital cog at moments during the season, simply because he gave them a capable player at a position where they were running out of options. He batted .231 in 91 at bats which sounds unspectacular until you notice that it was higher than both Pudge and Molina. He also saw a little time at 1b, 3b and DH and proved a valuable man to have upon the bench. His 9th season in the majors and this was his best. His time at the Yankees is probably over but we were glad he was there at the time.

Jorge Posada (51 games). Injuries and lingering problems meant that only 30 of these games came behind the plate. He still managed to produce .268 BA but this is now largely irrelevant. The questions are all about 2009 and not about 2008. The hope is that the injury accounts for all the decline of the year and that the surgery will restore him and that age does not come into this at all. Only time will tell.

Ivan Rodriguez (33 games). 30 of these games included time as catcher. Now if the Yankees had signed Pudge in the second half of the year to cover for an injured catcher a few seasons ago, it would have been regarded as a major coup. But that was then and this is now…. Age and time meant that the best that Rodriguez could muster whilst in pinstripes was a batting average of .219 with 2 home runs. This from a guy who was capable of .332 and 25 home runs a decade ago, and .330 with 13 home runs just two years ago, meant that he never became more than second choice for the Yankees and his presence didn’t really benefit Molina’s plight. Consequently, the Yankees have no interest in re-signing him and he might be looking at retirement.

Francisco Cervelli (3 games) All his games came at catcher and were in September as the Yankees widened their roster to give those who had had good seasons at Triple-A Scranton a taste of the majors. In 5 at-bats, he didn’t manage a hit and he managed to strike out three times. But he served 13.2 innings behind the plate without an error and he looked more than serviceable there. Chances are he will be back at Scranton during the first half of 2009 but there will be questions about Posada well into spring training and, who knows, he could give Molina and new signing, Kevin Cash a run for a roster spot, if he has a good spring.

Chris Stewart (1 game). Posada and Molina were unavailable because of injury, Moeller had been placed on waivers and hadn’t yet cleared or being claimed and someone needed to catch. Journeyman, Chris Stewart, was making up the roster at Scranton and was called up for the day, making it three MLB clubs he has seen limited service on in 3 years. He got three at-bats and no-hits and a few days later he was gone. Next year, he looks likely to have a chance back at his first club, Chicago White Sox but for one day he was our only option.

Next year? Well, if injury doesn’t again rear its ugly head then it should be Posada – Molina, one-two but if Posada is ruled out or can’t manage too long behind the plate then Cervelli may get his chance. New signing, Kevin Cash, will only come into the mix, if they decide to carry three catchers. The optimist in me says look for Posada as catcher come opening day. 

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