Jorge Posada has long been the underappreciated Yankee. He's a borderline Hall of Famer who has been given the Yankees nothing but stellar offense at a premium defense-first position. His patient style has defined the Yankees' offense since he came up -- even if he did hit too far down in the order -- and his durability has been a key part of the team's success. Now the Yankees and their fans must ponder life without him; at 36, he will be making his first career trip to the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
Catchers who post an OPS+ of 124 while shouldering the workload placed upon him by Joe Torre do not grow on trees. Compare Posada to Ivan Rodriguez, a surefire Hall of Famer if drug-use allegations are cast aside, and Posada comes across surprisingly well. Rodriguez's OPS+ is 111, and, although his defense is unquestionably better, his durability doesn't compare. Posada has never played fewer than 137 games since becoming a regular. The second half of Rodriguez's career includes seasons with totals of 91, 111 and 108.
None of this means Posada should start looking at pictures for his Hall of Fame plaque. He probably needs a strong finish to his career since most of his value lies in untraditional metrics. His defense has never been something to write home about. But make no mistake, his absence -- whether it be for two weeks or two months or the rest of the season -- puts a crimp in the Yankees' playoff hopes.
Even with the expected dropoff from last season's career year, Posada still figured to be a major cog in the Yankees' lineup. And that lineup hasn't looked so hot this season. Johnny Damon isn't the player the Yankees signed, and, despite his masquerading as an asset during the past 10 days or so, will not be a plus left fielder when the season is over. Derek Jeter's on-base percentage is .308. He has two walks in 87 plate appearances. Bobby Abreu's OBP is .330. Alex Rodriguez has fewer home runs (four) than Melky Cabrera (five). Hideki Matsui has been a pleasant surprise, but Robinson Cano has not. Jason Giambi has been simply unpleasant, even with his Paul Byrd-induced power surge Friday.
Posada wasn't doing that well either (.330 OBP), but with his batting eye, an on-base percentage of .360 seems like the bare minimum of expectations. Compare that with the .279 career on-base percentage of Jose Molina. The best of Molina and the worst of Posada would still add up to a major dropoff.
At least Molina is good at defense. For all the talk of the value Posada brings to the team with his "veteran leadership" and the "handling of the staff," the difference outside of hitting will be a net gain for the Yankees. Posada has always been prone to the passed ball, and Molina is a career American Leaguer -- except for 10 games with the Cubs in 1999 -- that knows the hitters well enough to call a good game. Those out there bemoaning the loss of Posada should stick to the facts. His bat will be missed. His glove will not. It wasn't while he served as the designated hitter.
As for the rest of the team, it is 13-13 despite playing 17 of its last 19 on the road. Ian Kennedy has given the team next to nothing, and Phil Hughes has provided only slightly more. With a boost from all the underachievers in the lineup -- that's everyone except Cabrera and Matsui -- this team should be able to play better than .500 ball. After one more game in Cleveland, the Yankees get a true homestand unaffected by the Pope. Detroit, Cleveland and Seattle come to town for a total of nine games. The team's performance over the next few games won't make or break its season, but it will provide a hint as to what can be expected as life without Posada begins.