The Yankees of recent years have been a terrible defensive team. During the eras of players like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi, Yankee pitchers have suffered tremendously from their ineptitude. The Yankee’s team defense effiency ratio (the percent of balls in play converted into outs) in 2008 was .6932, or fifth-worst in the majors and second worst in the American League.
How will it look this year? The Yankees have subtracted Bobby Abreu, have a competitive situation in center field, and have replaced Jason Giambi with Mark Teixeira. All numbers below are runs above or below average according to UZR (Ultimate Zone rating) and Fangraphs.
- Bobby Abreu: -26 runs
- Jason Giambi: -2.5 runs
- Melky Cabrera: 0 runs
And the new guys:
- Nick Swisher, CF: -10.5 runs
- Nick Swisher, RF career: +14.2 runs (limited playing time in RF in 2008)
- Xavier Nady, RF: +1.2 runs
- Mark Teixeira: +10 runs
- Brett Gardner, OF: +33 runs (extremely small sample, let’s just call it +15)
Switching Giambi with Teixeira yields the Yankees an automatic 12.5 run gain. What about the outfield, versus a Melky-Abreu CF-RF combination?
- Melky CF, Abreu RF: -26.2 runs
- Swisher CF, Nady RF: +16 runs
- Gardner CF, Swisher RF: +55.2 runs
- Gardner CF, Nady RF: +42 runs
- Melky CF, Swisher RF: +40.2 runs
- Melky CF, Nady RF: +27.2 runs
There are a few problems with these numbers. UZR does not take into account the throwing out of base runners in its calculation. That said, range has always been demonstrated to be much more important. Looking at these numbers, it seems like it might not be the best idea to put Swisher in center field. Once the free agent markets starts to settle down, it seems to make sense to trade one of Nady or Swisher – but you knew that already.
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