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August 5, 2007 at 8:58 am ET
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Jorge Posada: 2007 American League Most Valuable Fluke

Posada is enjoying his fluke season.Since 1900, only three players have reached base in more than 60 consecutive games. If you started taking educated guesses, you’d probably come up with two of these men, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, in relatively short order. After all, DiMaggio has the longest hit streak in baseball history, while Williams has the game’s highest career on-base percentage. But if you tried to come up with the third hitter (who actually pulled this off last season), it would probably take a month of Sundays. Why? Because Orlando Cabrera reaching base via hit, walk, or hit by pitch in 63 consecutive games – more than Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, or Wade Boggs ever did – is a fluke.

Every so often a player puts together a truly memorable fluke season, whether it was Norm Cash hitting .361 in 1961, Brandy Anderson juicing, I mean, hitting 50 home runs in 1996, or Orlando Cabrera reaching base in 63 consecutive games. No offense to O.C., who is a fine player and above-average hitter, but his career on-base percentage is .320, and last season it was a less-than-spectacular .335 OBP — good for 131st…in the American League. That he somehow managed to safely reach base for two straight months defies all logic. It’s simply a fluke.

And so is Jorge Posada hitting .340.

The Yankees catcher is putting together a remarkable 2007, and doing it with uncanny consistency. In each of the first four months of the season, he hit 3 home runs and had 15 RBIs. And he did it like a real man – without batting gloves. Sure, his BA has fluctuated from month to month – .311 in April, .394 In May, .287 In June, and .360 in July – but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. A career .276 hitter, Posada is batting 64 points above his career average right now. If this were still May, it wouldn’t be noteworthy. But it’s early August, the season is almost two-thirds complete, and Jorge Posada has a legitimate chance to win the American League batting title.

He’s having a classic fluke season.

If you look closely at Posada’s statistics, a few things stick out – signs that may portend a precipitous dip in his average over the last two months of the season. The most glaring number is his batting average on balls in play (or BABIP). In the last three years, Posada’s BABIP has been .312, .294., and .302. This year? .406. So basically every time he hits the ball in fair territory, he’s channeling the ghost of Ted Williams.

Posada is almost 36, an age when most field generals are dropping off quickly at the plate (if not behind it), so what can account for his sudden surge in average? Is he exhibiting better plate discipline? No, his walk to strikeout ratio, 0.63, is in line with his career average, 0.66. Is he hitting more flyballs? No, his groundball to flyball ratio, 1.21, is a tick off his career average (1.20). So what IS he doing differently? If I had to guess, nothing. He’s simply getting luckier this year than he has in the past, because balls he’s putting in play are finding grass instead of fielders’ gloves.

Posada’s not hitting more home runs than usual. And he’s not hitting more flyballs. And he’s not striking out less. He, is, however, hitting more doubles this year than he has in the past. To date, he’s hit 31 two-baggers, which is good for fifth in the American League. Since he’s not exactly known for his speed, you’d have to assume that his doubles are the result of good placement, i.e., he’s finding the gaps, both in left and right center fields. The question is, will he continue to do that? And can he actually win the American League batting title? Right now he’s fourth in the league, only a few clicks behind Magglio Ordonez (.348), Ichiro Suzuki, and Placido Polanco. Can he hang with those three through the dog days of summer?

Well, if Orlando Cabrera can reach base in 63 consecutive games (and still finish the year with a .335 on-base percentage), then why CAN’T Posada keep finding the holes? Right now, he’s in line for one of the all-time great fluke seasons.

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9 Responses to “Jorge Posada: 2007 American League Most Valuable Fluke”
  1. Weekly J says:

    I dunno, Posada is one of the great offensive catchers in history. His OPS+ and RC/27 right now is only a little bit higher than two previous seasons (2000 and 2003). By the end of the season, I’m sure his line will look fairly similar to both of those years, though with fewer homer than 2003.

    It’s certainly not a fluke on the level of Brady Anderson.

  2. yup says:

    isn’t there a ton of luck involved when almost ANYONE hits .340? batting average is highly volatile statistic that is heavily dependent on luck. we know this. there aren’t many “true” .340 hitters out there.

    but how about looking up his line drive percentage? oh, it’s tied for 6th out all major league hitters? interesting.

    so, we have a historically great hitting catcher having a great season? is his batting average somewhat “lucky”? of course. but it does a great disservice to Posada’s talent level to throw him in a list with Brady Anderson or Orlando Cabrera.

    Hall of Fame level talented players sometimes do great things. that’s not the same thing as mediocre players doing great things.

  3. Yup,

    Since Posada has never hit higher than .287 for a full season, I’d say that hitting .340 is quite a fluke. Ranking one fluke versus another is somewhat difficult, but Cabrera is a .282 career hitter, Posada a .276 career hitter. If Cabrera were hitting .350 this year, wouldn’t ya call that a fluke? I imagine you would.

  4. yup says:

    i think we are just disagreeing on the definition of “fluke”. yes, Posada’s BA is out of line with his career averages. that is a “fluke” i guess. so, yes, you are right.

    but when you throw in Brady Anderson, you muddy the definition.

    Anderson’s season was a “fluke” b/c Anderson was a mediocre player.

    that is not the same as Posada having a great season, b/c he is a great player.

    the reason he is “finding the gaps” more often is b/c he is hitting more line drives. there are more hard hit balls to the OF that have the chance to become doubles.

    i agree, his BA does look “flukey”, but it’s not necessarily a mirage either. the underlying LD% shows he is simply hitting lots of balls hard.

    your argument would carry more weight if you were arguing he was getting more SINGLES, not doubles.

  5. Yup,

    Posada’s LD % is 5th in the league, at 23.3 percent. Shannon Stewart’s LD % is 6th in the league, at 22.8. And yet Posada is hitting .403 (now) on balls in play and Stewart is “only” hitting .319. Posada’s overall average is .340, Stewart’s .300.

    That’s a big disparity in BA and BABIP for guys who hit a similar percentage of line drives. I guess Stewart is hitting his line drives in the wrong places.

  6. Weekly J says:

    It’s still asinine to compare Posada’s season to Brady Anderson’s. A great player having a career year, aided to a degree by luck, is way different than a mediocre player having a once in a lifetime lightning strike season. If Posada were hitting 20 points lower he would still be one of the most valuable players in the AL.

  7. Weekly J,

    It doesn’t matter whether you think a guy is great or mediocre to start with. It’s how much his performance in one season deviates from past performance. If Jorge Posada ends up hitting .340 for the season – 64 points higher than his career average – and wins a batting title, then it’ll be one of the all-time memorable fluke seasons. Anderson and Nash and Cabrera are simply incidental elements of the overall story. I wasn’t comparing their respective resumes, only the fact that all these gentlemen would come up in a conversation about all-time fluke seasons.

  8. John Renneke says:

    It’s comparable to Javy Lopez’s huge jump from .233 and 11 homers in 2002 to .328 and 43 homers in 2003. Now four years later he’s looking for a job. It’ll be interesting to see how Posada follows this up in the next couple years.

  9. Richie ny says:

    This might be anoverly simplistic statement. His son who’s been threw a hell of alot since being born is finally healthy. Thats gotta take alot of wieght offhis shoulders. Its not the only reason but im suree its a contributing factor.

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