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Should Jorge Posada be on the Yankees' postseason roster?
So the Yankees are the American League East champions, and in true storybook fashion, Jorge Posada delivered the game-winning hit.
As we now look forward to the Yankees' postseason, a story from their past comes to mind.
(Sorry. That's often the case here. I'm getting old, and my memory, knock on wood, is still all right.)
The 2001 Yankees went into the playoffs with choices to make about their roster, and none more stark than this one: Luis Sojo or Nick Johnson?
Sojo could play the middle infield a little; he had good hands, at the least. He really couldn't hit anymore. His regular-season OPS was ..404, with a .214 on-base percentage and .190 slugging percentage..
Johnson? He hadn't done much in a September callup, OPSing .621 (.308 OBP, .313 SLG) in 78 plate appearances, but in 459 plate appearances that year with Triple-A Columbus, he put up a .407 OBP higher than Sojo's major-league OPS - and .462 SLG.
Ultimately, however, the Yankees went with Sojo. Why? In this story, Joe Torre explained, "I couldn't think of a real good reason not to have Sojo on the roster," and the story adds that Torre told Sojo he was the team's "good-luck charm."
Sojo was about as likeable a player as I've ever met. Larry Rocca, Newsday's Yankees beat writer from July 1998 until April 2001, never wrote about Sojo without including the qualifier "beloved veteran," and when I succeeded Larry, I carried on that tradition.
And ultimately, you'd have to strain to say that the Yankees would've won the World Series if they picked Johnson over Sojo. They lost World Series Game 7 by a run, for crying out loud, and if you break down that game, you can't even point to a specific spot and say, "There. If Johnson had pinch hit there, the Yankees would've won the game." Remember, furthermore, that the the Yankees' first three losses in that series weren't even close.
Nevertheless, you could argue the Yankees' process was flawed - they chose sentiment over baseball probabilities - and that brings us back to the present with the Posada decision.
The Yankees have gone with 11 pitchers in each of the five postseason series that Joe Girardi has managed. There's no point speculating on that portion of the roster until we get a better gauge on Phil Hughes. But that leaves 14 spots for position players, and let's break that down:
Catchers (2): Russell Martin and Austin Romine. Francisco Cervelli's concussion means he probably won't be back for the entire postseason.
Infielders (5): Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira. Nunez pinch hits, pinch runs, hangs around in case of an injury to Jeter or A-Rod and can even play the outfield in an emergency.
Outfielders (4): Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher. Jones probably starts against lefties, with Gardner on the bench, and then Gardner can come in for defense and/or pinch-running.
That's 11, leaving us with three more spots and four more obvious candidates: Eric Chavez, Chris Dickerson, Jesus Montero and Posada.
Montero, in his small sample size, has looked as good as hoped, particularly against lefties. A lineup against someone like Texas' Derek Holland featuring him at DH and Jones at leftfield would look pretty strong.
Dickerson has become Swisher's late-inning caddy in rightfield; Girardi obviously likes putting Dickerson out there when the Yankees have a lead in the ninth. He's another pinch-running option, too, and Girardi is never shy about pinch-running.
That leaves Chavez and Posada, and the answer to that dilemma could be your DH against right-handers, no small thing.
Compare their season stats, and you see that Posada has the edge; in 301 plate appearances against righties, Posada has put up a very respectable .346 OBP and .464 SLG. Chavez, meanwhile, has a .326 OBP and .377 SLG in 144 plate appearances.
But you don't look just at that. Posada hasn't played regularly since early August because the Yankees determined at that juncture that he shouldn't be playing every day anymore. That's when Chavez started playing every day.
To flip it back around though, Chavez hasn't been very good in that span (a .266 OBP and .310 SLG in 94 plate appearances since August 7), and his positions can be filled from other places; Nunez can play third base, while Swisher and Posada, if on the roster, can play first.
Montero has displayed some pop against right-handers. Maybe he should just get the everyday DH job, or at least most of them? And in that case, who's a better pinch-hitting option if, say, Girardi wants to pinch-hit for Montero against a particuarly nasty righty reliever? Posada provided last night's showcase; overall, he has a .375 OBP and .250 SLG in 16 plate appearances. Chavez? A .333 OBP and .273 SLG in 12 plate appearances.
To summarize, it's a tougher call than I initially thought, because Chavez hasn't contributed much at all since his return from the disabled list. So do you let sentiment factor in, too? Sentiment plus slugging?
At this point, I'd go with Posada over Chavez, because, primarily, Posada looks better at the plate than Chavez does and also, yeah, Posada's long history with the franchise matters some. I would try DHing Montero against some righties in these last few games to see what that looks like, too, to therefore minimize the burden on either Posada or Chavez.
As they ask in The Onion's "American Voices" feature, What do you think?
--Have a great day.