Let’s take a look at the Yankees-Angels matchup from a defensive standpoint. I’ve compiled data regarding outfield arm runs (ARM), double play runs for infielders (DPR), range runs (RngR), error runs (ErrR), ultimate zone rating (UZR), and ultimate zone rating per 150 defensive game (UZR/150). Each figure represents runs above or below (-) average. For a more detailed definition of each value, feel free to check out FanGraphs, which provided the data.
Now, onto the actual breakdown:
For the Yankees, it’s not a particularly encouraging comparison. I’ll go through each analytical unit — ARM, DPR, RngR, and ErrR — one by one, as these elements, in tandem, constitute the UZR numbers.
ARM – The Yankees’ outfield consists of Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, and Melky Cabrera, with sparing production from Brett Gardner (who is not featured in the table above but is a very good defender). Of Damon, Swisher and Melky, only Melky has had a decent year with his arm (-0.9 is essentially average). Damon and Swisher, together, are -8.8 runs below average, arm-wise. Both have trouble holding runners and throwing out runners (Swisher’s negative number can be attributed to mental lapses, as well as general arm strength). The Angels, who like to run, will certainly take advantage of this weakness during the ALCS.
For the Yankee offense, it will be a different story on the base paths. Juan Rivera’s arm has been good this season whereas Abreu’s is the best in the league for his position (it’s his only redeeming defensive quality). The Yankees will have trouble advancing on the two corner Angels, but they should take what they can against Torii Hunter’s noodle-like limb.
DPR – Double play runs are an interesting measure. According to FanGraphs, DPR signifies the “number of runs above or below average a fielder is, based on the number double plays versus the number forces at second they get, as compared to an average fielder at that position, given the speed and location of the ball and the handedness of the batter.” In this regard, the Yankees are basically average (the negatives figures aren’t far from 0.0) while the Angels are (slightly) above average.
The most likely double play duo for the Yanks — Jeter and Cano — is a statistical wash given Jeter’s DPR score and Cano’s DPR score, whereas Kendrick and Aybar are an impressive double play combination (5.9 runs above average). To counter, Joe Girardi could employ a few more hit and runs and perhaps the added speed on the bench in the form of Guzman and Gardner will work towards disrupting what is a very solid defensive infield.
RngR – This is where it gets especially ugly for the Yankee defense. The team doesn’t have much range outside of Jeter, Swisher (very good range), and Melky (Gardner injects some in LF when he replaces Damon in the later innings). In fact, A-Rod, Teixeira, Damon, and Cano are rated as poor defenders, range-wise. For LA, with regards to ground covered, outside of Bobby Abreu, who is just an awful defender, the Angels are either average fielders or above average fielders (Rivera, Morales, Figgins). Squeezing liners through this bunch will be a tough task, indeed.
ErrR – Collectively, the Yankees are pretty good at converting outs and not committing errors. For the most part, they’re average or, in Derek Jeter’s case, above average. The same can be said for the Angels, who have Bobby Abreu at one end of the ErrR spectrum (-2.9) and Erick Aybar at the other end (5.5). The rest of the players are average in this particular area.
UZR and UZR/150 – UZR and UZR/150 are basically built upon the smaller defensive units discussed above. None of the Yankees have above average ratings outside of Jeter and Cabrera (Swisher is average) while Hunter and Abreu are the only noticeable weak spots for Mike Scioscia’s Halo-wearing crew. Bottom line—compared to the Yankees, the Angels are a very good defensive team. Their range at 3B, 1B and LF is extremely effective and their corner outfielders have very good arms. These are the distinct defensive differences that will separate the two groups throughout the ALCS.
The best way for the Yankees to beat the defensive prowess exhibited by LA is to hit the ball out of the park where the Angels can’t catch it. The Yankees have the ability to do that, though it’s easier said than done. Or, maybe they could direct every ball they hit at Bobby Abreu. That would probably lead to about 20 runs scored.
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