It’s incredible to think about how little we actually know about baseball. Bloggers and analysts and reporters and fans all aspire to learn everything they can about the game and yet, we still look downright clueless at times. Just this past season, PECOTA predicted the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals would finish 72-90 before the season. FanGraphs pegged them for a whopping 79 wins. Even though publicly available projection systems are getting better all the time, a 23-win discrepancy between PECOTA and reality goes to show just how much we stand to learn.
Last season, 25 pitchers needed Tommy John surgery. Among those arms were 20 million dollar man Homer Bailey, ace pitcher Yu Darvish and Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland. Luckily, TJ surgery has proven to be a fairly reliable resolution to the ever-increasing elbow injuries that are plaguing the MLB. As to what causes these injuries, there are theories! From high pitch counts to dangerous sliders taxing the arm, there are plenty of possibilities regarding the cause of ligament tears, but the reality is that UCL injuries remain a mystery.
Baseball has other great mysteries that go back decades as well. Do you know where the seventh inning stretch came from? While historians have provided us with different stories of its origin, even the Baseball Almanac owns that the theories behind the peculiar tradition remain ‘more of an urban legend’ than anything concrete. One of the great baseball mysteries is the Indians’ missing 1948 American League pennant. In September of 1949, after being eliminated from World Series contention, the team owner Bill Veeck held a funeral for the team’s championship aspirations that year. During the funeral, the pennant was actually buried, and the physical pennant has been lost ever since.
There are a great number of mysteries surrounding the sport, and you may have your own favorite. But today, I want to introduce you to a new sort of mystery: The mystery of Jorge Posada and the FanGraphs Search Bar.
If you head on over to www.FanGraphs.com, as many of you have assuredly done before, you’ll notice the ever-present Player & Blog Search bar affixed just under the FanGraphs logo in the top left corner. If you hover over the bar, you will see the names of ten Major League players, accompanied by ten Minor League players. This list of players is driven by the most commonly searched players at that time. Here is an example:
At the time of this screenshot, Asdrubal Cabrera had just joined the Mets. Neil Walker had just been traded to the Mets. Chris Davis was just reported to be searching for a $200 million, eight year contract. Jason Heyward was a free agent being bid on by the Cubs and Cardinals. Adam Lind was a day removed from being traded to the Mariners. Vincent Velasquez had been traded to the Phillies, Ken Giles was the return in the same deal. I don’t really know why Bradin Hagens cracked the top 10, but he’s not why we’re here (he’s absent from this screenshot here), and while Pujols isn’t in the news at the moment, it’s not uncommon for a future Hall of Fame-caliber player to make the list.
So I turn your attention to Jorge Posada. He’s at the very top of the list. And he’s not currently in the news; he’s been out of the game for four years now.
Now, I mentioned just a moment ago that it’s not uncommon for great players like Albert Pujols to crack the top ten, and Jorge Posada was a great player. Normally you might be able to chalk this up to coincidence. But it’s not.
It’s been months since I first noticed the frequency with which Jorge’s name landed among the top ten searched players on FanGraphs. I wasn’t the only one to notice, however. In late September, during one of his weekly chats, Eno Sarris was hit with the following question:
Barry too has recognized this phenomena; Jorge Posada seems to always be on the minds of FanGraphs viewership.
Less than two months later, Jorge is brought up again in a FanGraphs chat as August Fagerstrom pulls this beauty out from the queue:
August is as curious as BK, Barry and I are about Jorge! But unfortunately, no one knows the answer. Not even the insiders at FanGraphs.com.
Jeff swears to uncover the secrets of Posada’s FanGraphs page, but to date, we have nothing on it.
Then at the beginning of December, we’re given something of an answer during a FanGraphs After Dark Chat:
So I decided to do a little digging. First, let’s take a look and see if Jorge Posada’s FanGraphs page is getting linked to in a lot of recent articles. For our purposes here, I used Moz.com.
The most recent article that Jorge Posada has been linked to is a Hardballtimes.com piece on catcher framing from August 10, 2015. That makes the most recent article four months old.
The second most recent article is from NationalReview.com, where the catcher is briefly mentioned as having insulted Pedro Martinez’ mother in 2003.
The third article is a bleacherreport.com piece from 2011, when Jorge was still active.
I don’t think we need to go any further back than that. It could be entirely possible that something fishy is going on with the catcher framing article linking up to Posada’s page. At the very least, the timing seems like a potential fit. However, I think we can safely say that Jorge’s popularity is not the result of excessive links from articles about him in the recent past.
I read a lot of Jeff Sullivan’s work. He’s one of my favorites, so I’m inclined to believe him here. If you are willing to make that assumption with me, then we have a greater than 1 in 10,000 chance that Jorge Posada searches his name on FanGraphs with obscene regularity. Eno Sarris joked earlier that Posada might have an entire staff of interns driving his player page. At some point, we may be forced to consider this possibility. Unfortunately, I do not have the necessary contacts to reach out to the former Yankee to ask him.
At this point, I’m running out of ideas. When is the last time FanGraphs wrote about Jorge, themselves? Let’s check his player page:
Posada was last mentioned in an article about Jason Kendall in July of 2012 and was last the subject of his own article in January, earlier that year. This isn’t helping. But something else here caught my eye: this FanGraphs page has been shared on Facebook twice, Twitter twice and by means of the ShareThis button…1,900 times! Holy crap. Could this be the answer? Unfortunately, I don’t have any way to verify this, but this certainly feels like a clue.
This leaves us with three potential avenues that I’m willing to consider: The catcher framing article from back in August, Jorge himself/a team of interns, or an excessive use of the ShareThis button. So now I am turning to you, reader. What do you think is driving the Jorge Posada player page in FanGraphs’ Search function?Next post: Reds Continue to Burn the Ships: Trade Todd Frazier to the White Sox
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