Last night, Jorge Posada went two for four in what could quite possibly be his last game as a Yankee, or perhaps the last game of his career. 2011 marks the end of a four-year $52MM contract he signed with the Yankees back in 2007, and with Jesus Montero now ready for the majors, chances are that New York won't bring Posada back. In any event, he had quite the impressive ALDS, reaching base 11 times in 19 plate appearances on six hits, four walks, a hit-by-pitch.
Posada is one of the few remaining "lifers" in baseball -- that is, he's spent his entire career as a member of the New York Yankees. And what a fine career it's been. In 16 seasons, he's played in a grand total of 1829 games; he's earned five All-Star nods, five Silver Sluggers, and finished in the top-ten in MVP voting twice -- finishing as high as third in 2003. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, who have been Posada's teammates for the last decade and a half, are highly celebrated, and for good reason -- both are essentially first-ballot Hall of Famers. But Posada has also put up fantastic numbers over his career, and should receive strong consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Typically, the catcher position is not one of offense. Consider this as a brief example: since 1901, there have been 826 qualified seasons in which a first baseman posted an adjusted OPS+ greater than 120; in comparison, there have been just 230 such seasons by a catcher. This is what makes Posada, a .273/.374/.474 (122 wRC+) hitter to date, special. His combination of excellent patience (13.1%) and power (.201 ISO) from behind the plate is incredibly rare. In fact, just three catchers in history (minimum 5000 plate appearances), have managed to post both an ISO above .200 and a walk rate above 10%: Johnny Bench, Mikey Tettleton, and Posada. Granted, he's benefited somewhat from playing a large portion of his career in the steroid era -- but the achievement is remarkable nonetheless.
Among catchers, Jorge ranks 15th all time in fWAR (47.6), and 12th all time in rWAR (45.1). He doesn't have a ton of peak value, never having come near replicating Bench's '72, Mike Piazza's '97, or even Joe Mauer's '08. But he does have enough peak value. From 1998 to 2007 in particular, he was consistently great, posting a .279/.382/.484 slash line over that period and racking up over 40 rWAR in value. During that period, he exceeded 3 rWAR eight times, and 5 rWAR three times.
In addition, Jorge's postseason record of achievement (.248/.358/.387), while not necessarily stellar, should only serve to bolster his case. Over his career, he's played in 125 postseason games and won four rings with the Yankees.
Peak-weighted WAR (or wWAR for short) -- the brainchild of BtB's own Adam Darowski, is perfectly illustrative of Posada's worthiness: back in March, Posada came out to 59.7 wWAR, having already met the threshold for inclusion in the Hall of wWAR. I think Adam put it best: You don't hear the phrase "underrated Yankee" too often, but with Posada it's true.