Friday night's start by Joba Chamberlain illustrated an issue that's been simmering around the minds of Yankee fans this season. How much is Jorge Posada helping his pitchers reach the most success? Clearly Chamberlain and Posada disagreed on how to attack Mets hitters, and the running dispute didn't help as Chamberlain had neither command nor confidence while running up 100 pitches in just four innings.
Blaming that on Posada, though, ignores the fact that Chamberlain couldn't throw strikes no matter what pitch he threw. And any attempt to blame the struggles of pitchers on their catchers ignores other factors that could help explain why they are struggling to get the job done.
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times suggests Posada is the problem this season. He points out that starters have a 6.31 ERA (5.47 when you exclude Chien-Ming Wang) throwing to him while they have a 3.81 ERA throwing to the other three catchers the team has used. That screams problem, but it doesn't look at other factors that could be contributing to the struggles.
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Factors like Yankee Stadium, for example. As an overall staff, they've walked 136 batters in 32 home games compared to just 114 in 31 games on the road. Is that catchers calling the wrong pitchers, or pitchers afraid of throwing strikes because they'll get knocked into next week? Blaming the stadium doesn't explain why A.J. Burnett has pitched better at home, though, which means there needs to be even more investigation.
Quoting the ERA stat also doesn't do much to control for the opposing lineups Posada has faced, either, nor does Kepner or anyone else explain why his catcher ERA is well out of whack with the rest of his career. There's also the issue of small sample sizes, not the least of which is that injuries have kept Posada from building much rapport with Burnett, Chamberlain or CC Sabathia over the last two seasons.
Posada may not be a great defensive catcher, and he may be contributing to problems with the starters but he looks more like a convenient target than an appropriate one at this point in time. There are a lot of numbers floating around, and all they do is show that Yankee starters are struggling of late without providing a smoking gun as the reason why they're struggling.