There were a couple of plays in the Yankees exhibition game yesterday against the Phillies where Worm Killer Wang could have been helped out by his fielders – but, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano muffed the plays and it turned out to cost Wang some runs.
Thinking about this led me to consider the Yankees defense this season, as a whole, and question whether or not they will be able to help a starting rotation filled guys who, for the most part, pitch to contact (as opposed to being high strikeout pitchers).
The Yankees infield, this season, defensively, does bring some cause for concern.
Jorge Posada has never been a great pitch-blocker. And, sometimes his mitt turns to stone and balls that should be caught go “Clang!” But, he’s not the worst of this infield unit. Alex Rodriguez, at third, has never been good with pop-ups, balls hit down the third base line, or on charging bunts/slow-rollers. Yet, the big concern for me, this year, on A-Rod is that he has shown signs (during spring training) of having his throwing woes (from 2006) return. If this happens, it will not be good news for Yankees pitchers. We all know about Derek Jeter at short – and his lack of range. Everyone, including Joe Girardi, agrees about Derek’s lack of range going to his left. The funny thing is that few realize that he has issues going to his right as well. Many see that Jeter “jump-pass” throw from the hole as a sign of skill. Actually, all it means is that he’s not able to get into the hole, field the ball, and plant his feet for a throw like most big league shortstops. Second base, and Robinson Cano, is vexing for me. Cano has a great arm and the quickest hands possible in the field. Robinson’s biggest problem in the field is when he falls into these lapses (for lack of a better word) where he just allows his glove-work slip. And, do we even need to discuss Jason Giambi, at first base, with the mitt?
The Yankees outfield, this season, defensively, is not as concerning as their infield – but, it does have its warts.
I’m assuming that Johnny Damon will get most of the time in left field – since Giambi playing first will allow Matsui to DH. Damon has great range for a left fielder. That’s a plus. And, in left, his wet-noodle arm is not as much of a liability as it was in center. Melky Cabrera is a tough call in center. Many have stats that say he’s not great in terms of range. And, yes, he does take some awkward routes on balls. Yet, while I think Melky is better suited for right field – where he would be a Gold Glover – I don’t think Cabrera will kill the Yankees in centerfield this year. Plus, Melky’s arm out of center is a true weapon. The real weak spot in the Yankees outfield is Bobby Abreu in right field. I laugh whenever I hear someone refer to him as being average to above-average out there. On August 27, 2007, I wrote: “Bobby Abreu plays the outfield like a pregnant camel trying to walk across a frozen lake.” And, I still stand by that – as it is true.
In summary, I can see Abreu, Jeter, and Giambi being defensive liabilities this season – because of them not reaching balls that other fielders would turn into outs. And, I could see a few situations this year where A-Rod, Cano and Posada have misplays that cost the Yankees pitchers some runs.
Of course, the trick with all of this is: Will it matter – as the bats of Abreu, Jeter, A-Rod, Cano, Posada and (possibly) Giambi will make up for whatever runs their fielding allows? During most games, in the regular season, this is probably the case. But, in games where the Yankees face good pitching, it might not always be the case.