Thus far, I’ve taken multiple looks at offensive projections and what they could signal for the Yankees in 2010. In some of those posts, I’ve briefly gone over the defensive projections for some players. I’d like to go more deeply into that today. To do so, I’ll be looking at these age adjusted UZR projections.
Leading off, I’ll start with the leadoff hitter: Derek Jeter. Last season was a defensive renaissance for the Captain. The process started in 2008 when Jeter saw his UZR/150 jump from -16.7 in 2007 to -0.7, so he was essentially average. In 2009, Jeter’s defense sky rocketed to an 8.4 UZR/150 mark, the first time Jeter was in the black in terms of UZR. My eyes, for one, seemed to back this up as Jeter’s range to his left seemed much, much better (though it looked like he still had trouble going to hsi right). No matter how we slice it, Jeter had a damn good fielding season in ’09. For 2010, this system projects Jeter to be at -2.0/150. That’d be a big hit from last season–a 10.4 run drop–but considering where Jeter’s been according to UZR, that’s not all that bad. I suspect Jeter’s defensive projection, despite the great fielding season in 2009, is lower because of two things. The first is Jeter’s age; he’s not getting younger and most shortstops don’t get better in the field with age. The second is the fact that it looks like Jeter’s 2009 season was the outlier in terms of defense. Hopefully, Jeter can repeat last year’s performance on the left side of the infield, but I won’t be shocked if he doesn’t.
Let’s stay on the left side of the infield and look at Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod’s fielding was up and down last year, but it was mostly down. His arm looked as strong as ever, but his range was severely decreased. Now that Rodriguez is farther removed from his hip surgery, I expect his range to get a bit better. I don’t think he’ll be in the black, but he won’t be as far in the red as he was last year (-11.7/150) and the projection agrees with me and sees Rodriguez posting a -5 UZR/150. With his offense, as long as he’s not Adam Dunn in the field, he’s a positive. A six run improvement, even if it is still on the wrong side of the number line, would be welcomed warmly.
In my humble opinion, there is no more puzzling player on defense than Robinson Cano. There are weeks when Cano looks like he’s the greatest second basemen to ever play the position. Then, the very next week, he’ll look completely lost at second. Robbie ended last year with a -5.2 UZR/150, his second straight year with a big negative number (-7.0 in ’08). He’s projected for -2.0/150 and that makes sense. The only consistent thing about Cano’s defense is inconsistency. Regardless, he has the offense to way out-hit a -2 UZR projection and I will not be surprised at all if Cano posts another 4.0-5.0 WAR season.
No one sparked a bigger debate about the merits/demerits of UZR in 2009 than first baseman Mark Teixeira. Despite showing what looked like great defense at first, Tex posted a UZR/150 of -4.1. It’s worth noting that UZR has its holes for every position, but it’s least effective and accurate when dealing with first basemen, so take that number with a grain of salt. The projection sees Mark improving to a 0 UZR/150. In the last four seasons, Tex’s UZR/150 numbers have been -1.8, -5.2, +9.3, and -4.1. Those numbers are all over the place, so I’d expect that 0 UZR/150 to come to pass as it’s right in the middle.
2010 should give the Yankees their strongest defensive outfield in a long, long time. Brett Gardner seemingly gets to everything, Curtis Granderson covers a lot of ground, and though he doesn’t make it look pretty, Nick Swisher’s got good range in right. Starting with Swisher, we see he’s projected for a +1 UZR/150, which is just around where he was last year (-1.2).
Either position, LF or CF, is projected to be a positive for Gardner. Interestingly enough, Gardner’s CF projection, +8, is higher than his LF projection of +2. Regardless, it looks like we’re heading into 2010 with Gardner as the starting left fielder. That projection, though, is way too bearish. It’s that way probably because of a small sample (17 games) and I expect Gardner to field much better than that in 2010.
Curtis Granderson is projected positively in center field as well, with a +1 UZR/150 prediction. That seems about right, considering that’s where he was last year (1.6) and where he was in ’08 (-9.3). It’s likely, though, that Granderson will outplay that projection because he won’t be relied upon to cover much ground, since he won’t have Magglio Ordonez (-5.8 UZR/150) or Carlos Guillen (-12.7 UZR/150) flanking him.
Bench outfielder Randy Winn should get his fair amount of time in the field as well; in right and left (+11 and +7 respectively), he projects positively.
The Yankees should have a solid defense in 2010 and paired with a strong pitching staff, the Yankees should do pretty well in the run prevention category.
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