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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Dickey’

Jorge Posada’s retirement got me looking at the Yankees all-time catcher’s statistics. One thing that stands out in particular is Posada’s on base percentage, which is second only to Bill Dickey, which is 101 points above his career average. Also, each of these catchers played their entire career with the Yanks except a few at-bats for Berra with the Mets and Howard’s last two seasons were with Boston.

Accolades of Note:

All of them have their number retired with the Yankees.

Yogi Berra:  10 WS rings, 3 time MVP, HOF and did it all while standing 5’7” tall

Jorge Posada: 5 WS rings, 5 time All-Star

Bill Dickey: 7 WS rings, 11 time All-Star

Elston Howard: 1st African American player on NYY, 1963 MVP, 9 time All-Star, 4 WS rings

Thurman Munson: Captain, 2 WS rings, 1973 ROY, 1976 MVP

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ESPN New York released their “50 Greatest Yankees” list the other day. I can’t really argue too much with their list, although I probably would have swapped Thurman Munson (#12) and Bill Dickey (#10). Yes, I know Dickey is in the Hall of Fame and Munson isn’t. But it was Munson’s leadership, as much as anything else that returned the Yankees to their winning ways in the ’70s. And who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up if not for the plane crash?

Anyway, here’s their list. I’ve added in the dates they played for the Yanks, along with their position. An asterisk denotes a playing career interrupted by a military commitment; # denotes a Hall-of-Famer. Current players are in red type. Feel free to let us know how you feel about the list!

50. Mike Mussina (RHP, 2001-2008)

49. Bob Meusel (LF, 1920-1930)

48. Albert “Sparky” Lyle (LHP, 1972-1978)

47. Gil McDougald (IF, 1951-1960)

46. Jim “Catfish” Hunter (RHP, 1974-1978)#

45. David Cone (RHP, 1995-2000)

44. Roy White (LF, 1965-1979)

43. Hank Bauer (RF, 1948-1959)

42. Jack Chesbro (RHP, 1903-1909)#

41. Eddie Lopat (RHP, 1948-1955)

40. Rickey Henderson (1985-1989)#

39. Vic Raschi (RHP, 1946-1953)

38. Joe Gordon (2B, 1938-1946)*#

37. Tommy Henrich (RF, 1937-1950)*

36. Charlie “King Kong” Keller (LF, 1939-1949)*

35. Bobby Murcer (CF, 1969-1974, 1979-1983)

34. Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler (RHP, 1937-1947)

33. Willie Randolph (2B, 1976-1988)

32. Waite Hoyt (RHP, 1921-1929)#

31. Mel Stottlemyre (RHP, 1964-1974)

30. Paul O’Neill (RF, 1993-2001)

29. Graig Nettles (3B, 1973-1983)

28. Dave Winfield (OF, 1981-1990)#

27. Herb Pennock (LHP, 1923-1933)#

26. Allie “Superchief” Reynolds (RHP, 1947-1954)

25. Rich “Goose” Gossage (RHP, 1978-1983, 1989)#

24. Elston Howard (C, 1955-1967)

23. Earle Combs (CF, 1924-1935)#

22. Roger Maris (RF, 1960-1966)

21. Jorge Posada (C, 1995-present)

20. Phil Rizzuto (SS, 1941-1956)*#

19. Bernie Williams (CF, 1991-2006)

18. “Poosh ‘Em Up” Tony Lazzeri (2B, 1926-1937)#

17. Ron “Gator” Guidry (LHP, 1975-1988)

16. Andy Pettitte (LHP, 1995-2003, 2007-2010)

15. Reggie Jackson (RF, 1977-1981)#

14. Vernon “Lefty” Gomez (LHP, 1930-1942)#

13. Alex Rodriguez (3B, 2004-present)

12. Thurman Muson (C, 1969-1979)

11. Don Mattingly (1B, 1982-1995)

10. Bill Dickey (C, 1928-1946)#

9. Charles “Red” Ruffing (RHP, 1930-1942)#

8. Edward “Whitey” Ford (LHP, 1953-1967)*#

7. Derek Jeter (SS, 1995-present)

6. Lawrence “Yogi” Berra (C, 1946-1963)#

5. Mariano Rivera (RHP, 1995-present)

4. Mickey Mantle (CF, 1950-1968)#

3. “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio (CF, 1936-1951)*#

2. Lou “Iron Horse” Gehrig (1B, 1923-1939)#

1. George “Babe” Ruth (RF, 1920-1934)#

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121 games into the 2010 season, the Yankees have a record of 73-48. It’s the identical mark that the team had at this point in 2009, but anyone who’s watched this season is well aware that this year’s team seems to lack the same “clutch” ability displayed last year. It’s far more than that this year’s squad has far fewer walk-off wins than last year; this team has simply not hit as well when it counts the most: when men are on base. This year, the American League average with runners in scoring position is .259; the Yankees actually are better than that at .264. But last year the league hit .269 with RISP and the Yankees hit .272 as a team in the same situations. In this “Year of the Pitcher,” the Yankees decrease in “clutch” ability hasn’t been as dramatic as the overall league rate – but there is a statistical drop in production. One that is frustrating to fans and, I’m sure, to the players.

So why the drop, other than that the influx of young pitching over the past few seasons is finally starting to step up? At the other end of the spectrum are the older hitters in the league. Those players are watching their skills erode – in some cases slowly; in others, more dramatically. One of those players is undoubtedly Jorge Posada.

The 16-year veteran has been the Yankee’s primary catcher for the past 13 seasons. Ask anyone familiar with the game and they’ll tell you the same thing: 13 years behind the plate places an incredible toll on the human body. It’s the primary reason most catchers don’t enjoy long careers. Jorge has not only had a lengthy catching career, he is probably a Hall of Fame candidate. His 241 career home runs as a catcher places him 9th all-time and his 1,003 career RBI place him 12th. He has more home runs than HOF’ers Gabby Hartnett, Roy Campanella and Bill Dickey; he has more RBI than HOF’er Ernie Lombardi. But Posada is definitely on the back-end of what has definitely been a great career. The question is, has that career basically come to an end?

There are two troubling aspects to this phase of his career. First, Posada has spent considerable time on the disabled list the past three seasons. The dings and dents that he played through as a 30 year old are not so easy to dismiss when you’re a 36 year old catcher. Second is his decline in clutch situations, which brings me back to the points at the beginning of this article. Posada is essentially a fixture in the 6 spot in Joe Girardi’s standard line-up (this season, 92.5% of Posada’s plate appearances have come from the 6 hole). That is a key RBI spot, especially in the Yankee line-up. In fact, this season Posada has come to bat 97 times with men in scoring position, in 80 games played – better than once per game. So it’s rather disheartening that Posada has accumulated only 29 RBI in RISP situations.

Based on his career, it’s also well below what the team has come to expect from Posada in those situations. As figure 1 shows, Posada is well below his career pace in RISP situations, and his past three seasons are trending down.

Jorge Posada RISP
Year SO% BA OBP SLG OPS DP%
2008

0.176

0.250

0.392

0.425

0.817

0.020

2009

0.210

0.328

0.399

0.603

1.002

0.051

2010

0.268

0.195

0.299

0.390

0.689

0.021

3 yr avg

0.224

0.269

0.364

0.500

0.864

0.035

career avg

0.192

0.281

0.397

0.495

0.893

0.034

2010 LG AVG

0.171

0.259

0.343

0.398

0.742

0.029

Figure 1

Clearly, the trends are alarming. Posada is making less contact each season in these situations, as evidenced by the escalating strike-out rates (.176 in 2008, .210 last year and .268 this season). Sadly, opposing pitchers are probably licking their chops when they see Posada come to the plate, given that he is more likely to strike out than get a hit with men in scoring position. 2010 also marks the first time in his career that Posada’s RISP metrics are all worse than league average. And not a slightly worse than average, but by significant margins. Jorge was once one of the most feared clutch hitters in the game; now, any fear is more out of respect for the past than actual production.

So the question remains, is this the beginning of the end for Jorge Posada’s greatness? It most likely is. Catchers are not known for aging gracefully – when the end comes, it usually comes pretty quickly. The first tell-tale signs are readily apparent: the increasing injury frequency and being overmatched in situations Posada once owned – often by guys who were in junior high when Posada first assumed the regular catcher’s spot for the Yankees. I’m loathe to write off anyone as finished, but I think we fans (and certainly the Yankees as an organization) need to face the reality that Jorge Posada is no longer a viable 6 hole hitter (unfortunately, I don’t think the team has many other options for that line-up spot, either). I also think that with next season being the last on Posada’s contract, 2012 is likely to be a transition year as Yankee fans get accustomed to seeing Jesus Montero or Austin Romine assume the tools of ignorance on a full-time basis, with Posada relegated to being a third catcher and DH type of role.

Author’s note: All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com and all career rankings are courtesy of the Baseball Encyclopedia.

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Yesterday marked a memorable occasion for our beloved Yankees. In the 7th inning, both Juan Miranda and Colin Curtis took Angels reliever Scott Shields deep. How rare was it? It’s the first time since 1929 that two Yankee rookies went yard in the same inning. (Those two players? Bill Dickey and Sammy Byrd. Dickey went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Byrd became famous for ending his career by crashing into an outfield wall in the first ever night game.)

The Yankees expect Miranda to pop a few long balls; it is the principle reason he is with the major league squad. But for those who missed it, Curtis’ shot was a direct-from-Hollywood-screenplay type of home run. The only reason Curtis was in the game at all was due to the horrible umpiring: home plate ump Bill Emmerich tossed Brett Gardner, ostensibly for arguing balls and strikes. The only thing was, the count when Gardner was ejected was 0-2. So, not only was Curtis facing a veteran, former all-star pitcher with a 95+mph fastball; he inherited a no-ball, two-strike count. Just to make things more unlikely, Curtis had not gone yard since Spring Training. But like any Hollywood “B” script writer will tell you, the most unlikely scenario is exactly how it needs to play out for the hero and when Curtis’ laser cleared the right-field wall, it was…well, it was just the latest chapter in the Yankees best feel-good story in a long time.

Colin Curtis really deserves one of those “B” movies to be made about his life. When you really stop to think about it, his story is one of those that seem to come straight from a fairy-tale. It is one of those stories that when you tell your grandchildren about it, they’ll swear you’ve been spiking your prune juice – because it is just THAT unbelievable. To put it simply, Curtis stat line says he should be dead, not hitting improbable home runs at Yankee Stadium.

Curtis was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2000, at the age of 15. By the time treatment began, it had spread to the blood vessels and lymph nodes throughout his abdomen, making it a stage III cancer, the most advanced form. The five-year survival rate for that type of advanced stage cancer is only 48%. Curtis beat the cancer, returning in time to rejoin his high school sophomore team. He not only rejoined, he played well enough to earn a scholarship to Arizona State, where he wound up hitting .324. After his college career, Colin was selected in the fourth round (134th overall) by the Yankees in the 2006 amateur draft. He then made it to the major league spring training camp as a non-roster invitee this year; where he opened some eyes by hitting a walk-off home run in the Yankees first spring training game. And now he is on the major league roster, having appeared in 14 games so far and hitting what may be the Yankees most improbable home run of the season.

Quite frankly, this kid has beaten the odds at every level. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to want Colin Curtis to succeed. But if you’re a Yankees fan and don’t get a bit of a chill down your spine the next time Colin Curtis is announced, then perhaps you need a transfusion of humanity.

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Photo Courtesy of the NY Times

Joe Digangi passed away last year on July 14th. The name may ring a bell, or you may be asking yourself, who is that man? Joe Digangi was one of the last links to some of the Yankees greatest teams of all-time. He served as the New York Yankees bullpen catcher from 1933-1941. The man got to know the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey and so on. He knew everybody.

He warmed up some of the greatest pitchers in franchise history, including Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez and Herb Pennock. Joe was actually warming up the starting pitcher in the Yankee Stadium bullpen when Lou Gehrig delivered his famous “Luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech. I’m sure the man could go on for days, talking about some of the greatest sports figures to ever play the game.

“I was a lucky kid of 18 years old to be with such great ball players of my time.”

In his later years, he took the time to answer letters from fans. I wrote to him a couple of years ago, and he sent a couple of photos, signed a couple of index cards and wrote me this nice letter (pictured below). He didn’t have a job that was going to make him filthy rich, but as he said himself, he was a lucky guy. He had witnessed things that only others could dream of.

 

The New York Times published an article about him back in 2007. I strongly recommend that you give it a look.  (more…)

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With the Curtis Granderson deal becoming official, a new question arises about what number he will wear on the back of his uniform. He wore #28 with Detroit, and he had the same number throughout his college years. Obviously, he knows that number is taken by Joe Girardi…so the idea is that he will have to go out and find a new number. Unless, Girardi wants to give up the magic number on his back.

Curtis also wore No. 2 & 8 in his youth, and those are taken by Derek Jeter and Yogi Berra/Bill Dickey.

 Girardi stated after the World Series that he would like to wear #28 on his back next season, but that could change.

Supposedly, Granderson said he would not make a fuss about the situation during a conference call yesterday. It really isn’t a major issue, but you know how some people are. He’s just not the type of guy that would want to cause trouble, and I can see him as a great personality in the clubhouse and a fan favorite. (more…)

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