Pudge vs. Posada

While fisking someone else's all-'00s team yesterday, I goofed. As one commenter was only too happy to point out ...

    No Catchers played in the 2000s? Really? How can we be expected to take this seriously if something as egregious as leaving the most important position on the field off? C'mon Neyer, you are better than that.

I am? Oh, right: I am!
Rodriguez Posada Sometimes, anyway. My first fear was that Waters had listed a catcher and I'd just missed it. But, no: He must have simply forgotten, and then we piled my inattention atop his forgetfulness and ... well, there's your recipe for an embarrassing situation.

Let's talk catchers now, though. One commenter commented, "Pudge, no one even close."

Is that right, though? My gut reaction was that Pudge has had some pretty ineffective seasons in this decade, and someone else must be at least close to him.

Someone is. More than close.

Only 14 catchers in this decade have at least 3,000 plate appearances. Only six of those 14 have an OPS+ of 100 or better; that is, only six have been league-average (or better) hitters in the decade. Given the vagaries of evaluating a catcher's defensive contribution, I will argue that it's virtually impossible to consider someone the best catcher of the decade if he's not at least league-average with the stick (sorry, Brad Ausmus and Jason Kendall). Ivan Rodriguez makes the list of six ... but not prominently.

Considering playing time and what we do know about defense -- Pudge good, Piazza bad -- we can narrow our list of candidates to two, right? Martinez and Lopez simply don't have enough time. Posada's playing time trumps Piazza's; Pudge's hitting trumps Varitek's.

So it's Posada vs. Rodriguez in a fight to the finish. And while the finish won't be until October of 2009, I have a hard time believing that Pudge can do enough in the next four months -- or has done enough with his glove and arm over the last nine seasons -- to make up for that 16-point gap in OPS+.

Ivan Rodriguez is going into the Hall of Fame. Posada isn't, and shouldn't; he just happens to have played the lion's share of his fine career in a single decade.