For the purposes of this article, we’ll need to agree on something. It’s not exactly controversial, but asking for agreement on anything baseball related is probably asking a bit too much. This something s the old truism that “a penny saved is a penny earned,” but with a baseball twist: a run prevented is a run scored. Indeed, half of the game is dedicated to preventing runs from crossing the plate. Despite our troubles with accurately quantifying the defensive skill and impact of individual players, we all know that those things are tremendously important on both the individual and team levels.
Run prevention is a task shared by a team’s pitching staff and its defensive player. An imbalance in one of these areas can lead to a lot of runs. But, of course, this is baseball; you can hardly have anything wholly complete or perfect. Having a roster that allows you to excel in just one of those areas can be a defensive blessing. Let’s take a look at the Yankee and see where their run prevention strength lies.
The Yankee outfield has the potential to be one of the best in baseball. Brett Gardner is a brilliant left fielder and Ichiro Suzuki, despite advanced age, is still solid in the other outfield corner. The defensive metrics hate Curtis Granderson, but I think they overstate things just a bit; he’s not a complete lost cause out there. I can’t help but wonder, though, if the team would be better served by swapping Gardner and Granderson. Giving Granderson less ground to over may help to mask his occasional poor reads and could take advantage of Brett Gardner’s great range. With that alignment, the Yankees would be well set in one part of the field. Even without it, two out of three spots isn’t too bad. But can we say that about the infield? Unless we’re being generous, probably not.
Starting with the positives, the right side of the infield is just fine; Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano are among the finest fielders at their positions. The left side of the infield, though, is not nearly as solid. Kevin Youkilis, despite his skill across the diamond, is probably an average third baseman at the absolute best. It’s much more likely that he winds up well below that. Additionally, though he’s not as bad at third as some make him out to be, Alex Rodriguez isn’t going to be mistaken for Adrian Beltre any time soon. For better or worse, Derek Jeter is a reliable fielder. He’ll more than likely convert the balls he gets to into outs. The (well documented and well publicized) problem is that Jeter doesn’t get to as many grounders as we’d like. Catching defense may be an issue, too. Francisco Cervelli‘s throwing arm is errant and he’s nto exactly a brick wall behind the plate. And regardless of his reputation, I wasn’t horribly impressed with Crhis Stewart’s defense, so I’m not entirely optimistic about the Yankee catching situation (is anyone?).
Perhaps that was a lot of word to say something pretty simple: the Yankees probably won’t be great on defense. They won’t be miserable, either, though; hell, Gardner, Tex, and Cano alone can tip that balance. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Yankees are lost from a run prevention standpoint. Luckily–well, purposely–the Yankees have a solid pitching staff. CC Sabathia is CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda is #HIROK. Andy Pettitte is Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes is a fine fourth starter. The fifth starter’s spot may be a question mark, but four out of five ain’t bad, and that’s not even including the bullpen. Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte to an extent, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Joba Chamberlain all have the ability to ether get strikeouts, induce weak contact, or both. Those things obviously help defenses immensely, especially the former. Given their home park and their general defensive construction, it makes sense for the Yankees to employ high strikeout pitchers. They may not have all the pieces, but who does? The Yankees won’t be the top defensive team in the league, but their pitching should help them complete the run prevention puzzle.
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