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Jorge and the Hall

Rebecca over at This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes asked me if I thought Posada was a good Cooperstown candidate. A discussion ensued, where we both thought that if Posada's career ended today, he would be a borderline candidate.

We decided the discussion was worth writing about (all statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference).

Click Read more to find out how Jorge and Yogi stack up against each other...

We started by looking at games caught; in Yogi's day, as you probably know, the season was shorter- 154 games as opposed to the 162 today. Taking this into consideration, we find that for the seven years between Berra's age 25-31, he caught 130 games or more each seasons, nearly 85% or more.

Jorge has played in 130 games every year since he was 28 (8 season), so we can look at their regular season offensive statistics without (totally) comparing apples and oranges.

We used OPS+, which is OBP+SLG adjusted for league average and ballpark factors. Again, we find numbers that are strikingly similar:
Berra: 135, 130, 137, 140, 137, 120, 142
Posada: 139, 117, 121, 144, 131, 109, 122, 154

While Berra was more consistent, Posada's best seasons peaked higher than Yogi.

From there, we moved on to one of the "clutch" factors, ie, postseason play. Given that Berra and Posada have both played in a similar number of postseasons (a lot!) it's worth a look, albeit with the caveat that Berra only played in the World Series, while Posada's played in LDS, LCS and World Series.

Unlike Berra, Posada's never won a World Series MVP (it's hard to, with Jeter and Rivera in the same line up): over 96 games, Posada is .236/.352/.379, well below his regular-season standards.
Berra, on the other hand, posted a .274/.359/.452 line over 75 games, close to his career standard of .285/.348/.482.

The one offensive area in which Berra soundly excels over Posada is in strikeouts; Berra's career high over a season is 38, while Posada has struck out 29 times in two different months (June of 2002 and 2003). However, this isn't to say Berra didn't find other ways to make outs; merely that he was more of a contact hitter. Berra averaged 54 walks a year while Jorge averages 87.

In terms of defense Berra threw out 141 of 295 base-stealers--just under half. Jorge, on the other hand, has caught 337 of 1139, just over a third. Base stealing has apparently become much more common now than it was in the 1940s and 1950s; both player's contemporaries have similar steal attempts. It's a shame we don't have the stats from early in Yogi's career when he was likely tested more often and established himself (the records from before 1956 are incomplete. Either way we have to give him the defensive nod. Yogi also averaged fewer than 10 wild pitches a year; Jorge has averaged 34- with a bigger glove. Defense goes to Yogi hands down.

It is also worth a note that Berra was a 15 time all-star, while Posada has played most of his career in the same league as Pudge Rodriguez. The writers have never taken to Posada the way they took to Yogi- Jorge has fewer funny stories and many more strikeouts. While that might not matter long term, I think it's an indicator that Jorge will have a hard time mustering HoF support- the writers will be inclined to drop him in the Bernie/Paulie Very Good category.

The last thing we loooked at was Yogi's Hall of Fame induction.
Yogi Berra was elected in the 1972 class, with 85% of the vote, on his second ballot. Major Caveat: In 1971, the first year of Berra's eligibility, he lead the vote with 67% (you need 75% for induction).

Rebecca and I both agree--Jorge is in. Offensively, Posada has higher peaks, and the higher career OBP also stands out (he's got a better eye), while defensively and in the playoffs, Berra gets the nod.

However, both have played in a similar number of games and made the postseason a similar number of years. Posada's abilities have often been overshadowed by the other stars on the team--Jeter, especially, and Rivera (not to mention Alex Rodriguez, etc)--who many of us assume are first ballot HoFers.

Someone who compares as closely to Berra as Posada, should be in, regardless of the talent surrounding him. We'll see if the writers figure that out.