I don’t know about you guys, but it sure seems like the Yanks have had more than their fair share of defensive miscues. It seems like every time they lose, there’s a key fielding blunder that extends a rally or costs them a key run. Since Fangraphs has some uber-cool defensive stats, I decided to take a look at them to figure out if the Yanks are just a flat-out bad defensive team or if they’ve just made some mistakes at the wrong time.
The two things I’m going to look at are UZR/150, which basically measures a defensive player’s range. Does he get to more or less of the balls hit into his area than the average player? This is translated into the UZR/150 stat which measures how many runs this player’s range would save or cost his team projected over 150 games. The other factor we’ll examine is ErrR, which judges the amount of errors the player commits on balls hit to his area as compared to other players at his position.
In terms of UZR/150, everything shakes out pretty much as you would expect. Indeed, the Yankees rank in the low average range, 10th of the 14 teams in the A.L. The Rays, as expected, rank first, projected to save 14.5 runs over the course of the season, while the Yanks defense would cost them 5.0 runs. The Red Sox, the team that does it the “right way” with fundamentals and hard-nosed, consistent defensive play? They rank 12th of 14. I guess that the right way to play baseball is to just let it drop in front of you while pretending to run hard after it, hmmmm? The Sox ARE, however slightly ahead of the Yankees in terms of ErrR (+0.6 to -0.1) so the Bombers have some work to do in that area, finishing ninth in the A.L. in that category.
So the Yanks aren’t the WORST fielding team in baseball but they’re low average all the way around. Is their D likely to improve over the course of the season? Let’s look at who the main culprits are, here. The lowest UZR’s on the team belong to Angel Berroa at 3b (a truly disgusting -102), Swisher at 1st (-86.5), Melky in left (-32.5), Cody Ransom at 3b (-18.7), Nady in right (-18), Damon in left (-16.7), A-Rod at 3b (-14.9), Jeter at SS (-7), & Pena at 3b (-4). Everyone else is less than a a-2 or a plus.
Of these guys, only Damon and Jeter are legitimate minuses going forward. Ransom, Pena, and Berroa will not be playing 3b for any extended time now that A-Rod is back and A-Rod is a traditionally average ranged 3b the last two years. Melky is actually a +23.5 in CF where he’s made the vast majority of his starts and CF is a much harder position to score well in. Swisher won’t play too many games backing up Tex at first and his sample size is so small.
The big plusses for the Yanks are Melky and BG in center (BG a +10), Ramiro at SS (+30 in small sample), as well as Swisher and Cano (both +7ish at their main positions). Swisher and Pena each taketh away as much as they giveth, however, leading the team with three errors each. Jeter, Cano, Ransom and Berroa all have 2 apiece. So the errors should drop as well if A-Rod rounds back into form and Pena performs up to his reputation.
In conclusion – much of the Yankees defensive woes have originated from the A-Rod injury, and they should progress to a middle of the pack team from hence forth. There are definite trouble areas with Damon in left, Jeter at short and the expected occasional loose play by Cano, but the 3b dilemma combined with extremely poor timing and bad luck have made for a particularly ugly beginning of the season in the field.
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