Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It Does Matter

Don't tell me that A.J. Burnett doesn't prefer Jose Molina.

And more importantly, don't tell me it doesn't matter who catches him.

Some think that a pitcher's ERA with certain catchers is a overrated stat. Wrong. It isn't. It matters. Just like any working relationship, it matters how well you work with someone. Kismet matters.

And A.J. Burnett has kismet with Molina.

Going into last night's game, (before Burnett threw 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 11) batters were batting .204 off of Burnett when Molina caught him. They are batting .270 off him when Posada caught him. Batters had a .653 OPS off Burnett with Molina catching; .775 with Posada.

The last time Posada caught Burnett, he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings. Since then with Molina catching his last 4 games, Burnett has a 3.52 ERA. And that includes one rough inning where he gave up 6 runs in Seattle. Throw that inning out (I know, you can't, but for argument's sake) and
Burnett has given up 4 runs in 24.2 innings.

Or to put this in another way, the last 3 times Burnett has pitched to Posada, his ERA is a touch under 9.oo.

Joe Girardi would have you believe that if Molina catches Burnett instead of Posada, it is just "...simply will be a result of the way he's rotated his catchers." when Burnett pitches, and that there is nothing to the story that there are working issues between Posada and Burnett. "I think people are trying to make this a bigger story than it needs to be," Girardi says. Riiiiight. No, Girardi knows that Burnett is happier when Molina is behind the plate and Girardi's job is to make Burnett happy.

Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues feels that the stats are overblown and that there's nothing to worry about. Well, as Bill Parcells says, you are what you're record says you are. And Burnett has been caught by Posada for 16 games, and 9 by Molina. With Posada, Burnett has a 102 sOPS+, with Molina his sOPS+ is 93.

Now why would Girardi, or anyone, argue with those numbers going into the playoffs?

Simply put, the Yankees desperately need A.J. at his best. The Yankees need a reliable two going into the playoffs. And in your heart of hearts, if you were the manager of the Yankees and needed a win against the Angels or Red Sox, who would you put behind the plate to catch Burnett; the guy who caught him to a 9.00 ERA in his last 3 starts, or the guy who caught him to a 3.52 ERA in his last 4?

Heck, even if Burnett just thinks he is better with Molina behind the plate, even if the pitch calls would be exactly the same as Posada would call, why not let him throw to Molina? If he's more thinks he's better, and for whatever reason performs better, why not make him comfortable?

Posada can DH if he has to. Burnett is more reliable with Molina behind the plate. The numbers don't lie.


Travis said...

Too, true there have been numerous pitchers who have ahd their own personal catcher. Like you said if the pitcher believes it makes him better, then just cater to that belief.

blmeanie said...

I like your research and stats to support the argument. I agree, go with whomever makes the pitcher more comfortable or best results.

I don't know if you meant this quote as a slight :

"if you were the manager of the Yankees and needed a win against the Angels or Red Sox, who would you put behind the plate to catch Burnett"

but if I were a fan of the Tigers/Twins I'd be pretty upset right now... :)