From SABR member Neil Paine at NYTimes.com on May 19:
Star catchers like [Jorge] Posada usually hit the proverbial wall long before his current age.
Catcher, not surprisingly, is by far the most physically demanding of baseball’s positions, with its daily wear and tear. Because of this, catchers traditionally do not age well; even the best at the position will move to other, less challenging positions as they get older. (On Thursday night, Posada started at first base for the 16th time in his career and the first time since 2008.)
Johnny Bench, regarded by many to be the greatest backstop in baseball history, stopped catching regularly by age 33. Yogi Berra began seeing significant time in the outfield at the same age, and Ted Simmons and Darrell Porter stopped being full-time catchers by 34. Joe Torre never even caught a game in his 30s. Victor Martinez, who is 32, has primarily been a designated hitter for Detroit this season.
Posada is special because he was able to defy those odds for so long. In fact, he seemed to improve as a hitter with age: his O.P.S. through age 30 was .835, a fine contribution for a catcher, but from age 31 to 38 it was .872, an outstanding rate. As recently as last season, at age 38, Posada caught more than half of the Yankees’ games and posted an O.P.S. of .811, well above the .686 American League average for catchers.
Relative to the league average, Posada owns the best cumulative O.P.S. among catchers from age 31 to 38, and none of his contemporaries are even in the neighborhood. The closest catchers to Posada’s mark? Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi, both of whom retired more than 60 years ago.
Read the full article here: http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/keeping-score-posada-put-off-decline-for-years/
Originally published: May 20, 2011. Last Updated: May 20, 2011.